A visit to Lawrence County is not complete without a drive through the North Hill, third largest historic district in Pennsylvania, where turn-of-the century Victorian mansions are found along Jefferson and Leasure Streets as well as Highland Avenue. Dedicated to the preservation of the past and present, three historic sites are unforgettable: the Greer Mansion, housing the Lawrence County Historical Society, Scottish Rite Cathedral and Hoyt Center for the Arts.
In 1938 Attorney Charles Young established the Lawrence County Historical Society to promote and encourage the study, preservation and publication of local history. Further enabling the preservation of Lawrence County’s history was the donation of the George Greer mansion by the Joseph Clavelli family in 1982. Each year an Ice Cream Social is held on Saturday during the New Castle Fireworks Festival featuring Arts on the Riverwalk. During the festival on July 10th & 11th they will co-sponsor tours of the historic North Hill.
Just down the street is the Scottish Rite Cathedral boasting a seating capacity of 2,800. Impassioned as a large meeting place for many to gather, it became the brainchild of John S. Wallace, a Masonic official. The cornerstone was laid in 1925 and in November 1926 the first function was heralded. In 2009 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Cathedral stage was one of the largest and most striking between New York and Chicago. Singers such as Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, and Anne Murray have graced the stage. It’s also the satellite home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with three yearly performances. Although it may not be the largest today, it is breathtaking in its own right.
The Cathedral also houses the John S. Wallace Memorial Library. The Library provides a collection of many items such as pictures, books and jewels that have been donated by members, relatives and other interested persons.
A cultural jewel in Lawrence County is the Hoyt Center for the Arts. May Emma Hoyt’s three story mansion known today as Hoyt East features galleries, classrooms, artist studios, collections, and administrative offices offering cultural programming year round. Hoyt West is the adjacent home where Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Crawford Hoyt, May Emma’s brother and sister in law, resided. Hoyt West was a private residence until 1982 and is currently home to the museums decorative arts collection and is an elegant setting for small events, rentals and tours. The Blair Sculpture Walkway, a glass enclosed gallery, was constructed in 1995 to join the two houses and increase exhibition space. Both houses were designed by noted architect Frank Foulke, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In the Lawrence County Resident and Visitors Guide there is a map featuring a walking tour of the Historic North Hill along with a QR Code to enhance the experience. Guides are available for free at our office 229 S. Jefferson St., New Castle, PA or the digital version online at VisitLawrenceCounty.com