Wexford landmark to be moved to Washington County museum
September 4, 2014 12:00 AM
The Wexford station sits along the Harmony Trolley Line in this 1920s photo.
This is another view of the Wexford station on the Harmony Trolley Line circa 1920s.
Wexford station on the Harmony Trolley Line circa 1920s.
The station building was used as a post office from 1931 to 1964.
By Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In 1931, the wooden-frame Wexford Post Office Deli was hitched to draft horses by William P. Brooker and his family and pulled about a half-mile up Route 910 in Pine.
There’s now a plan to move the former trolley station again, but this time it will travel about 41 miles to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington County.
Scott R. Becker, museum executive director, said the former station will be dismantled and trucked to his site, which attracts about 30,000 visitors annually. The route isn’t yet mapped out, but at 16 feet wide by 41 feet long, the former station is probably too big to traverse Interstate 79, Mr. Becker said.
The relocation is embraced by 80-year-old Trudy Brooker Purvis, an agent for the heirs of William P. Brooker, her grandfather. She is following through on a plan struck two decades ago with the museum to donate the building, which had served as a trolley passenger and freight station on the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Railway, known as The Harmony Line.
“I see it as continuing our family’s legacy. I think it’s something my grandfather and my father [Mark Brooker] would have liked,” Mrs. Purvis said.
She and Mr. Becker need the public’s help to make it happen. The relocation, including construction of a foundation and renovation of the building, will cost $160,000.
They’re seeking financial contributions, which would be tax-deductible, to give the museum its first and only authentic trolley station. It would sit amid some 50 trolley cars, including one that used to pull into the Wexford trolley station.
Mr. Becker is confident the undertaking is realistic for the 60-year-old museum. He is using a $50,000 grant from the Washington County tourism and promotion agency for a strategic site plan that will design the property around the station. “There’s no doubt, this will be a crown jewel,” he said.
The Wexford Post Office Deli, a lunch spot and catering business, closed June 28. Owned by the Brooker family of Pine, the building was used from 1931 until 1964 as a post office. It later was an antique store, a craft store, then a delicatessen. It was operated most recently by a long-term tenant who no longer wanted the responsibility of competing for customers in a bustling business area, said Mrs. Purvis.
Museum officials, aware that few trolley stations remain, contacted Mrs. Purvis about 20 years ago to discuss acquiring the rectangular building. He called it “remarkably original,” with original windows, doors, eaves and wood paneling.
Mrs. Purvis recalled discussing the issue with her father’s siblings and it was agreed that once the building no longer generated income, it would be donated to the museum. Ownership will be transferred when the funds are raised to complete the relocation.
Mr. Becker is thrilled.
“This is so very exciting for us,” he said. “We envision using the building as an interpretive space and a classroom. We’ll install heating and air conditioning units in the basement so no one will notice the floor registers and we’ll be able to show people what it really was like to be inside a station, waiting for a trolley.”
Mr. Becker said he hopes visitors will learn that the building once served as a center of town: a place where passengers waited and where packages could be shipped and received.
Mrs. Purvis said her grandfather bought the station house when it was no longer to be used for the Harmony Line with the idea that he would secure a postal contract. When that contract ended, the space was used for private business.
The Wexford station was on the Harmony Line, according to a history compiled by Mr. Becker. At 600 square feet, it was larger than most stations and was on the inter-urban trolley line that provided service to Pittsburgh, the North Hills, Butler and New Castle.
Mr. Becker said the museum received its first streetcars in 1954 and opened on June 23, 1963, with about a half-mile of track, one building and a small power plant building.
Since then, three buildings have been built on two sites connected by a two-mile line. The fleet has grown to 50 cars, visitors continue to grow and volunteers number about 150.
Donations can be sent to: Save the Wexford Station, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, 1 Museum Road, Washington, PA 15301, or www.patrolley.org. A $100 donation entitles the donor to two adult admission tickets to the museum.
Corporate sponsorships also are being sought. Mr. Becker said the museum is offering a “Presenting Sponsorship” to underwrite the project. The sponsor would receive benefits such as recognition signs and a listing in media and public relations related to the project.
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