Richard Burkert

Richard Burkert, president of Johnstown Area Heritage Association, stands inside the Peter L. and Eda Carpenter House, 312 Bliss St., on Saturday, June 8, 2019. The home, which was built in the 1920s, was part of the Architectural Tour of Southmont homes.

Kelly Degrange and her mother, Phyllis Steeves, were part of a group who took an Architectural Tour of Southmont Homes on Saturday.

About 70 people toured five luxurious homes built in the 1920s, a period of some prosperity for the Johnstown area.

“They’re just gorgeous,” Degrange said.

“They’ve been so well-kept.”

She said they took the tour because Steeves grew up on nearby Helen Street. 

The tour was sponsored by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association to commemorate the 100th anniversary of  Southmont’s incorporation.

“It gives a really graphic sense of just how really well things were going here in Johnstown,” said Richard Burkert, president of JAHA.

“They weren’t building houses much during the Depression because nobody had any money,” he said. “But for a period, there were some really masterful works that were constructed in this suburb of Johnstown.”

The group toured the Elmer H. Smith House, 600 Diamond Blvd.; the Harry and Sarah Swank House, 719 Diamond Blvd.; the Peter L. and Eda Carpenter House, 312 Bliss St.; the Fred N. and Elizabeth “Betty” Waterman House, 326 Gardner St.; and the Louis and Maude Schenkemeyer House, 210 State St.

The elegant homes were built by bankers and wealthy business owners such as Harry Swank, president of the Swank Hardware Co. and vice president of First National Bank; and Emler Smith, superintendent of William H. Smith & Sons Contractors.

Some of the homes included servant’s quarters and fireplaces in bedrooms.

“People had larger families and servants so they needed bigger houses,” Burkert said.

The current owners are “living in art,” he said. 

Degrange said she was surprised how well the old homes have been maintained. The current owners did well preserving the time period when remodeling, she observed.

“The owners tried to keep the character of the house,” she said.

The tour concluded with an outdoor reception at the Schenkemeyer House. Each paid $25 to take the tour, with proceeds to benefit JAHA.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.