On Centre: Around Philipsburg | Professor to speak at church’s centennial

October 3, 2013 

Philipsburg is home to a wealth of lovely architecture. Buildings of all shapes and sizes, of all uses, of all backgrounds, wink at each other from corners and make friends sitting side by side.

The more than 200-year-old Simler House, one of the oldest examples of a two-story hewn log cabin in the country, sits barely a block from the Rowland Theatre and its 1917 movie palace grandeur. The Victorian gingerbread beauties on South Centre Street give way to the late-20th century geometry of Sts. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church just round the bend. The simplicity of the Union, or Old Mud, Church on Presqueisle is matched by the little red schoolhouse feeling of the borough building in the heart of town.

But on Oct. 10, one structure will take center stage. The Philipsburg Historical Foundation is inviting Eleanor Congdon, professor of medieval history at Youngstown State University in Ohio, to speak about St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The house of worship is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, built in September 1913 by local builder Benjamin Franklin Morgan, and designed by New York architects Henry Martyn Congdon and his son, Herbert Wheaton Congdon. The professor will have the unique opportunity to speak about her own medieval history specialty as it was interpreted in the Norman fortress-like aspect of her grandfather and great-grandfather’s design of the church. She is currently working on a book about their firm and working to have their churches placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We’re so fortunate to have (her) studying the architectural history of St. Paul’s,” said foundation President Emily Gette-Doyle. “Even before finding financial support for her project, she spent a week in Philipsburg right after Christmas of 2009, photographing and digitizing all of the church’s vestry and building committee minutes, plus their complete set of the architects’ linen drawings, the set that had been used by Mr. Morgan in construction. Since then, she has become a great friend of the congregation, visiting and speaking often, and even singing in the choir at Christmastime.”

Three dozen recently unearthed glass plate negatives Congdon discovered, photographs her grandfather took of the building when it was newly constructed, will be featured in the presentation.

Tickets for the dinner, which will be held in the church’s parish hall, are $25 and should be purchased by Oct. 5 by contacting Gette-Doyle at 342-3620 or at egettedoyle@msn.com.

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