John White Sr., Irish by birth and Pennsylvanian by immigration, owned a tract of land in Yohogania County, Virginia, conveyed to him in 1789 by William Wallace. That tract of land which rests in what is now known as Chartiers Township, Pa. makes up portions of the Washington County fairgrounds.
The two-story sandstone house still greets visitors on that tract of land at the Fairgrounds entrance off Main Street extension. It was originally constructed in 1806 for John White Jr., who with his family operated a grist mill on Chartiers Creek.
The homestead, and accompanying buildings, which supported the production of "John White Super-Fine" flour, was kept in the White family until 1845 when it was sold to subsequent grist mill operators, Godfrey and Samuel Cook. The grist mill, which is depicted in a fantasized painting hanging in the John White House hallway, stood its ground until the early 1980’s when it was razed.
After passing through ownership by several others, the property was acquired by Washington County Agricultural Fair Association in 1916.
This same structure, with its 1860 brick addition, served for a time as fair offices. As recalled by a John White descendant and now California state resident, "I’m quite familiar with the old house because back in 1927, ’28 and ’29, I used to take my shetland pony, Jimmy, to the Fair. I would go down to the office in the stone house, and for $1.00, I was assigned a stall in one of the sheep pens, given a bale of hay, a pass in and out of the Fair and permission to enter in the judging." Reliving those memories, former local resident, Ray E. Plunkett, recalls, "It was really an exciting week for a lad of 10-12 in those days."
In 1991, Albert Miller, developer of Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life, became aware of the possibility of a restoration project on this property to be partially funded by a former fair board director’s estate. After he contacted Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation, movement was made with the Fair Board and county to seek additional funds and a long-range plan for its re-use as an agricultural exhibit space.
Former Fair board member Harry "Had" Hank, who on occasion was known to have "squatters rights" at the stone house, designated a generous portion of his estate for this project. In 1993, exterior restoration began with new shake shingle roof, appropriate period windows and extensive masonry repointing and repairing.
Each year since, the Landmarks Foundation has opened the building during Fair Week to greet visitors and acquire much-needed historical background information from those who stop in.
Illustrating its deep connection to farming in Washington County, the John White House (Center for Historic Preservation) hosted a display during the 1998 Fair Week called "Architecture of Agriculture." Funded in part by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the display was culled from photos taken during a countywide survey of historic strictures. Photos of local buildings describe their historic use as related to farming and farm life in Washington County.