Hughes House to be advertised for sale a second time

April 21, 2014

JEFFERSON – Greene County will be accepting offers again for the sale of the historic Thomas Hughes house in Jefferson, after the single offer it received during the first round of bidding was rejected because it failed to meet the property’s appraised value.

The county will begin advertising the sale of the 200-year-old building next week, county Commissioner Blair Zimmerman said. The county must place the building up for sale at least twice before other options can be considered, he said.

The county accepted ownership of the property in 2003 after the state completed a $700,000 restoration of the two-story stone building, constructed by Hughes one of the county’s early settlers.

Under the agreement in which the county gained ownership of the building, the county can sell the property. However, all proceeds must be returned to the state, except for expenses incurred by the county to sell the property, which include the costs of the appraised and advertising.

The county earlier received inquiries about purchasing the property from several people interested only in the lots and by representatives of Jefferson Borough, who wanted to use it for a borough building. The only bid received for the property, however, was from a private buyer.

Commissioner Archie Trader said he believes if no bids are received that meet the appraised value on the second round of bidding, the county will be able to discuss turning the building over to a nonprofit organization, contingent on the state’s approval.

The building has been vacant since March 2013, when Greene County Library System closed the community reading center it operated in the building since its restoration.

The county could not find a use for the building that justified its expense and decided to put the building up for sale. The county was paying for the costs of maintaining the building, including heating costs, which were expensive.

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.

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 and is credited with founding the village of Jefferson.

Hughes was a farmer, miller, tanner and distiller. In the 1770s, according to accounts, 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. 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 after his death. 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.

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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