Historic Thomas Hughes house to be sold

February 25, 2014
The historic Thomas Hughes House in Jefferson is now for sale.

JEFFERSON – The 200-year-old home of one of Greene County’s early settlers, Thomas Hughes, is up for sale.

Greene County is now accepting private offers for the stone house in Jefferson, which it gained possession of in 2003 after the state completed a $700,000 restoration of the property.

Since the restoration was completed and up until March, the building was leased to Greene County Library System, which used it to house its offices and a small community reading center. The library system, however, closed the center, citing the need to focus resources on more fully developing its outreach programs.

The building has been vacant since then and the county has been unable to find a use for it. “We can’t come up with any use for it that justifies the expense,” county commissioner Charles Morris said. The costs of maintaining the building and heating it is “pricey,” he said.

Under the agreement in which the county accepted ownership of the building from the state, the county can sell the building.

However, all proceeds from the sale must be returned to the state, except the expenses incurred by the county to sell it, which include the costs of having the building appraised and advertising it for sale.

The property, which includes the two-story stone house and 2.26 acres of land, is included on the National Register of Historical Places and the new owner will have to abide by historic covenants. The covenants generally would require that any major changes proposed for the building be approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

County chief clerk Jeff Marshall said the county has received inquiries about purchasing the property from several people interested only in the lots and by representatives of Jefferson Borough, who might want to use it for a borough building.

To sell the building, however, the county is required by state law to have it appraised and offer it for sale, he said.

The county is accepting offers for the purchase of the property until March 3.

Hughes, born in 1749, was one of the early settlers of this area and a participant in many of the historic events of his day.

He was a part of a second wave of permanent settlers who came to the area in 1767 to build their homes along the creeks that flowed into the Monongahela River, according the G. Wayne Smith’s History of Greene County Pennsylvania.

Hughes founded the village of Jefferson in 1776. He was a farmer, miller, tanner and distiller. He also is credited with operating one of the first coal mines in the area along the creek banks below his house.

In the 1770s, according to accounts of his life, Hughes served in the Frontier Rangers, a militia that patrolled the area to prevent Indian attacks and that participated in a limited role in the American Revolution.

Hughes later also was active in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791- 1794, an insurrection that arose after the federal government imposed a tax on distilled liquors. The revolt ended after President George Washington ordered about 12,000 troops to Western Pennsylvania. Hughes was arrested for his part in the rebellion but was never brought to trial.

In his later life, Hughes was appointed a justice of the peace, a post he served until his death in 1823.

Members of Hughes’ family continued to live in the house. The building, however, was vacant for at least 35 years when the state acquired the property in the 1960s, with plans to restore it to what it had been when it was constructed.

Before the state began the restoration in December 2001, the house was in extremely poor condition. The building had no electrical wiring, plumbing or heating and, though the exterior stone had held up fairly well, interior walls were in poor condition and had to be replaced.

As part of the restoration, an addition was constructed on the building to house all the mechanical components, such as the furnace, as well as the building’s restrooms and an elevator to the second floor. Contracts for the restoration totaled $699,096. A ceremony was held to mark the completion of the project in September 2003.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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