The trolley station once stood as a community hub, and it was much more than just a place to board or alight from public transportation. Long before anyone envisioned text messaging, the trolley station served as a telegraph office. Shipping a package nearby or to another state? Haul it down to the trolley station to take advantage of rail connections far and wide.
Such a building stands intact in Wexford, a rural outpost between Pittsburgh and Butler until the burgeoning suburbs engulfed it. The station lasted from 1908 until the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler and New Castle Railway abandoned it in 1931.
Trudy Brooker Purvis, 80, remembers playing in and around the vacant building as a child before her father, William P. Brooker, the former station agent, purchased it and moved it, on logs pulled by draft horses for a half-mile, to the center of Wexford, where it was the post office until 1964. She recalls the frame structure as being painted red.
The summer before she went off to Indiana State Teachers College, Purvis worked there as a postal clerk. She remembers the post office receiving a package of eggs, which hatched. It was up to her to notify the recipient to hurry in for the package, which was cheeping.
During the intervening years, the building was also a paint store, an antique shop and, most recently, the Wexford Post Office Deli, which closed a few months ago, although the owners are continuing as a catering business. The property on which the former station stands has shrunk due to wider roads to carry increased traffic, but instead of being a target for demolition, a plan for the wooden station took shape.
“I approached the heirs about 20 years ago when my father’s generation was still alive,” Purvis said Wednesday. “I knew we were going to have to do something with that building. I called and asked about donating it to the trolley museum. I have never been down there. I just felt that would be the proper place for it to go.
“I wasn’t an executor for the Brooker heirs, but I couldn’t let this building be torn down.”
Scott Becker, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum executive director, called the Washington County site the “highest and best use” for the building. Central Wexford was not the station’s original location, but in Arden “we’re going to reinterpret it as a trolley station. People will be able to sit inside and wait for the trolley just like they once did.”
There’s an obstacle in the path of hauling pieces of the station to the trolley museum, and it’s the cost. The basement and foundation have been designed, but they need to be constructed. Jeff Pleta of Washington will take it apart and move it to the trolley museum’s east campus. The cost will be $75,000. “Jeff has been talking with Rick Insana from Insana’s Crane Service,” Becker said. Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning components will be placed in the basement so that only vents will be visible to visitors.
The Wexford Station’s destination will be next to the trolley display building, probably along the Trolley Street streetscape.
“The important thing is that the structure is authentic,” Becker said.
The total cost of these phases, and furnishing the building so the public can use it, will be $160,000. Anyone interested in contributing to the project can go to the museum’s website, www.patrolley.org, where “Save the Wexford Station” is posted. The museum also is accepting donations mailed to 1 Museum Road, Washington, PA 15301. Becker has more information at 724-228-9256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.