Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: The History Center

jchc-exterior-emailMatson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer exploreJeffersonpa.com readers a look in Jefferson County’s past. Today The History Center is being showcased.

(Photo: The Jefferson County History Center is located one-half block east of the Jefferson County Courthouse.)

The following article was written by Carole A. Briggs, Curator, Jefferson County History Center:

WHAT’S IN A BUILDING?

When I was a National History Day coach, a team of students began their project by identifying a building and saying, ”We want to tell the story of the house my parents lived in when they were first married.” In their research, they discovered that the vice-president of the United States had dined there prior to the government’s decision to enter the First World War. Those young students learned a lot about American history as they prepared to tell the story of a house.

What can we learn about American history by studying the building the Jefferson County History Center lives in? People often ask us about the expansive Nathan Greene Edelblute Building, named for the person who built it. When the Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS) undertook its preservation and adaptation as the Jefferson County History Center in 2001, we were committed to preserving as much of its 19th century character as we could. And so when one proceeds through the History Century Shop into the rest of the building, the grand walnut staircase and frosted transom embellished with NGE are there to behold.

In the E. M. Parker Gallery on the first floor the wonderful arched windows look out onto the patio. Upstairs the full shutters for most windows remain as do five fireplaces and their mantels. Wide baseboards, elegant single and double doors, and some of the original lighting fixtures remain, too. Truly, the Nathan Greene Edelblute Building is one of the jewels of Brookville’s Historic District.

These architectural features confirm the wealth of the builder, but don’t tell us how he became wealthy or why he chose to live in Brookville. We do know that Nathan was ten in 1847 when his family left Blair County and arrived in Clarion County. They were on their way to Kansas, part of that group of “westward ho” Americans. He became a merchant at the age of 13 and when his family left for Kansas in 1855, he moved to Brookville.

He sold things. By 1874 he had a farm as well and was raising, selling, and racing trotters. When one of four deadly fires swept through Brookville’s Main Street area that year, Nathan took that opportunity to buy Fryer’s property (where the west part of the History Center stands.) He proceeded to build the large west retail store, the front east retail area, and the large apartment on the second floor where his family would live. These new parts surrounded the northeast quarter of the present building built in the 1840s or 1850s.

The Edelblutes raised their family there. The marriage of daughter Adda to Elmer Pearsall in 1890 took place in the parlor, and Nathan moved to Punxsutawney the next year. After Elmer left for reasons unknown, Adda remained in the family residence until her death in 1946.

The building housed a variety of businesses until 2000 when the Jefferson County Historical Society bought it.

And what does this building tell us about American history? Nathan Greene Edelblute was an enterprising young American who used his business acumen to take advantage of post-Civil War economic opportunities. This was a period of rapid economic growth and a period when people sought luxury goods. Edelblute capitalized on that good fortune.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

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Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.


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