John Hogg House

April 22, 1999|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Editor's note: This is the 114th in a series of articles about the architectural and historic treasures of Washington County.

The house at 17 W. Potomac St. in Williamsport looks tired.

[cont. from lifestyle]

It has six bays, arched-top two-over-two window sashes and peeling window frames.

A hipped roof between the first and second floors shelters the main entrance and the two windows beside it.

Built next to the right of way of the broad street, the house is sheathed in modern clapboard. A 20th-century western section of the building has been removed, revealing log construction.

This is a study in how our historic treasures are lost.

The house has been badly treated over time.

Tasteless renovations and heavy use have obscured its origins, leaving it worn, poorly used and looking run-down.

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, a stalwart member of the Williamsport community since 1791, was looking for extra parking for its facility at 25 W. Potomac St.


When this dilapidated property came on the market, it seemed the answer to the church's problem.

The house itself was undistinguished looking.

Two-over-two sashes became popular about 1870; the narrow oak flooring on the first floor and the square oak newel that dominates the stairs in the front hall indicated a similar date.

The church bought the property and planned to remove the house to build the parking lot.

Once the wing to the west was removed to reveal log construction, the church fathers looked again.

In 1788, John Hogg leased lots 207 and 208 of the original plat of Williamsport, which Otho Holland Williams had laid out just the year before.

Each lease was very careful to specify that "every year on the first day of May annually" John Hogg was to pay rent of "three bushels of good merchantable wheat or an equivalent for the same in Current Money."

The leases further state that Hogg, "Shall and will within the term of two years from the Date of these presents Enclose the said Lott of Ground with a good post and rail or pale fence and that the said John Hogg ... shall and will before this day of May one thousand seven hundred ninety two erect and build on the said Lott ... a house of Brick or Stone, frame or hewed Logs at the least twenty feet by twenty five feet in the base with a good chimney of Brick or Stone." The house, it would seem, is as old as the congregation that has purchased it.

If the terms of the lease were met, before May 1, 1792, a double parlor, side hall log house was built on lot 208 (now 17 Potomac St.) and a similar gable-end house was built on lot 207 just to the east. The second floor of 17 also had two rooms with a side hall and a closed stairs to the attic. A bulkhead entered the cellar from the street.

Stone foundations still standing in the basement indicated that there were fireplaces in both parlor rooms. These are gone, as is the wall between the two parlors. In the hall, the closed stringer staircase is broad, and the steps rise gently to a landing, then turn to the second floor. The balusters are gracefully turned, and the newel posts of the upper rail are turned with bun tops. The spandrel beneath the stairs has simple wood paneling. With the exception of the square newel post at the foot of the steps, this is the original 18th-century stairway that John Hogg built.

Not too long after it was built, the house at 17 Potomac was expanded to fill the gap between it and the house next door, which also belonged to Hogg. This section has two bays and no basement. Its first floor is a step down from the original section, and there is no gable wall. This addition is simply nailed into the other house. Only in the attic, where the roof rises above that of its neighbor, is that end wall filled in beneath the roof rafters. This strange piece of construction allows a look at the gable end of the adjacent house, a peek at 18th-century construction perfectly preserved. Part of a window with its ovolo trim can be seen, and pristine clapboards with neither paint nor weathered wear cover the gable with boards so wide that they have 15-inch exposure. The narrow bargeboard is cut to fit around nailers that once extended through it.

The rafters in the attic are peeled trees, flattened on the upper side. In the older section these rafters are roughly 2 feet apart, while in the newer part the distance between ranges from 3 feet to 3 feet 9 inches. A crooked tree was used for one of these and still has a decided bow in it. Also visible in the attic, under the wide pine floorboards, are the tops of beaded boards that form the wall between the two bedrooms of the older section. The wall itself has been covered and plastered, giving no hint of the board wall beneath.

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