Project not for the birds...or is it?


WAYNESBURG – George “Bly” Blystone of Waynesburg has seen many birdhouses built over the years while serving as operator and partner of the Jacobs Birdhouse Company.

And though he has enjoyed designing and constructing the numerous birdhouses in the past, he admits he is excited about a new birdhouse project in which the design won't exactly be new.

Recently, Bly has been working with students from the drafting and building construction occupations departments at the Greene County Vocational-Technical School to design and construct a new Jacobs birdhouse. Bly said the new birdhouse will resemble the style of the first Purple Martin birdhouses from Jacobs Birdhouse Company, which were created in 1896. The first model, called the Aeroclub, was constructed by the company's founder, J. Warren Jacobs.

The idea to construct the new 16-room Purple Martin birdhouse was first conceived more than a year ago, when Bly first talked to Nick Kovacic, a drafting instructor at the vo-tech, about working with vo-tech students to design the house.

After the three students designed the blueprints of the house, each of the students, Jesse Sutton, Jessica Ledgerton, and Wynter Glover, received certificates from Jacobs Birdhouse Company to be used for their portfolios.

Once the blueprints were completed, it was decided that two students, juniors Lucas Abbadini and Christina Trump, would actually construct the house in the school's building construction occupations department.

Bly provided materials and specific measurements for the house, which is being fabricated with three-quarter-inch thick plywood, and the roof will be constructed out of plywood and tin.

The new birdhouse will be able to be raised up and down the pole, and will be accessible for people to check the nests and babies inside the house, and the roof will stay at the top of the pole. This, Bly explained, will make the house compatible with all Purple Martin landlords.

When the house is completed, Bly will take the house to the Purple Martin Conservancy at Edinboro for certification. He hopes to be able to transport the birdhouse to the conservancy by this coming spring.

John Lavrey, building construction occupations instructor at the vo-tech school, said Abbadini and Trump were dedicated to the project.

“They worked on that birdhouse for close to a year, and they were extremely focused on doing the best they could on that project,” Lavrey said.

Bly credits the students and faculty for their efforts in designing and constructing the birdhouse.

“All of the students worked very steady, very diligently, on this project,” Bly said. “It is wonderful to see that the birdhouse will be a throwback to the first models created by J. Warren Jacobs.”

Jacobs was born in Waynesburg in 1868. His father Henry was a blacksmith who set up a shop at the end of South Washington Street in Waynesburg. Bly said Jacobs developed a taste for painting when he was a young boy, and learned woodcraft and cabinetry from his father. Eventually, he began building birdhouses.

Jacobs organized the Jacobs Birdhouse Company in 1908 and built a manufacturing plant in his father's shop. His shop sold over 100 birdhouses in 1910 and shipped 366 Purple Martin birdhouses all over the world in 1914, a record year. Customers who purchased birdhouses included Henry Ford, Thomas A. Edison, and William Rockefeller.

Blystone said Jacobs and his wife, Emma, raised 12 children, most of whom helped with the business at one point or another. After Jacobs passed away in 1947, his family continued to operate the company. It is still in operation today, more than 120 years after the company first opened. Today, the company is owned by D. Kent Fonner, a grandson of J. Warren Jacobs.

For more information on Jacobs Birdhouse Company, contact Bly at 724-627-7632 or visit the company online at

Story by Steve Barrett