Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lehighton's 1936 Borough Hall Cornerstone Time-Capsule

Lehighton was a thriving town.  Though it was at the height of the Great Depression, people in town had reason to be optimistic.  Lehighton was innovating itself: Dr. Lentz got his first X-ray machine installed in his office.

Contents of the 1936 time-capsule were first frozen for
eight months.  The freeze-dried process worked
exceedingly well.  However the items were still saturated
and needed drying.  Here the author hangs the documents
on June 16, 2017.

The Police Department modernized with a teletype machine, a .45-caliber machine gun, and bullet-proof glass windshield on its patrol-car.  This is in addition to the motor-cycle it purchased.

One newspaper article boasted that "Cupid laughed at the depression in Carbon County..." with 463 marriage licences issued in 1935.  1934 was equally a high year for weddings.  Both 1934 and 1935 beat out 1933 by 77.

Lehighton High's gymnastic team was on a streak as seven-time gymnastic champions.

(THIS POST IS A WORK IN PROGRESS - Please check back later in August for complete time-capsule contents and updated story content.  Thank you for your patience.)
Two seventy-year-plus traditions were in their infancy: The Senior Class attended the Mountain Lake House for its outing and 221 members of Lehigh Fire Co #1 held their annual August clambake at he Fair Grounds.

And with Lehighton new and modern Borough Hall, it seemed like nothing could hold our town down.

It all started when the building that housed the former Borough Chambers and Lehigh Fire Company #1 was deemed unsafe.  Built in 1893 and already showing signs of bulging walls by 1910, it was demolished by 1935 by a Works Progress Administration labor crew at a cost of $4,286.

By application to the Public Works Administration, another Depression-era recovery program, furnished 45% of the capital needed to build a new hall.  Ground was broken on March 4 and quickly ready for a dedication ceremony on Sunday May 10, 1936.

The program was extensive.  There was a concert by the Lehighton Band as well as the Boys’ Band followed by a prayer by Rev F. Theodore Miner.

Speakers were Chairman and Borough Solicitor George E. Gray, Historian and Superintendent of Schools Bert David, and Dr. Clarence Weiss, a direct descendent of Lehighton’s benefactor Jacob Weiss.  Chief Burgess (Mayor) William Zahn laid the cornerstone.
Which brings us back to today.

A few weeks after the dedication however things went sour for Mayor Zahn.  A farmer from Mahoning Valley, Wallace Drumheller, pinned Zahn's leg against a parked car and his as Drumheller swung his car into a parking spot in front of the new Borough Hall.  Many were said to gap as they drove by the modern new building.

Mayor Zahn's condition was serious.  He spent over two-weeks in the Palmerton Hospital.  An ambulance had to deliver Zahn home when he continued weeks of bed-rest.  Zahn was the owner of the Lehighton News Agency.
The American Legion announces Carbon County
Beauty Queens at festivities at Graver's Pool in the Summer of 1936.

After Lehighton's Sesquicentennial festivities had ended in July 2016, members of the committee sought to find the time-capsule apparently left behind by the Centennial Committee in 1966.

As a result of searching for it, Sesquicentennial Committee member Autumn Abelovsky and others accidentally discovered damage was occurring to the contents of the time-capsule in the Borough Hall cornerstone of 1936.  

(State Police from Hazleton were called in to use an ultra-sound and fiber-optic camera to determine if there indeed was a time-capsule in 1936 cornerstone.  Click here for times news story).  (Click here for a video of Lehighton Borough Manager Nicole Beckett removing the wet materials on YouTube.)

Due to the porous nature of the Foxchase marble and stone used to build the Borough Hall, the lead sealed tin box had corroded causing the contents to become saturated in water.

Preservation experts were consulted.  It was determined that the best course of action was to freeze the paper materials for eight months, thereby “freeze drying” the sopping wet documents and pictures.

On June 16, 2017 the contents were removed by Ron Rabenold and Autumn Abelovsky from the freezer and though substantially less saturated, were still dripping wet.  Paper items were placed on drying lines over the weekend and carefully inventoried and digitally scanned and photographed.

Among the treasures found: 1936 coins donated by various council members, a copy of the Lehighton Evening Leader and Lehighton Press, a Leni Lenapian from 1934, list of Lehighton’s Board of Health, a hand card of Lehighton Borough Council members, archives clarifying the spelling of Mahoning Valley famer Philip Ginder’s name.

There was also a nine-page document chronicling the efforts to construct the new building and a list of the Lehighton School faculty and staff.  There was an eight-page, hand-written list of all the members of the Lehigh Fire Co #1 and a synopsis of Lehighton’s post office by Postmaster Wilbur Warner which included a list of all Lehighton’s postmasters.

There was also a King James Bible and a 1936 State of Pennsylvania Borough Code book.  Neither of these books had any inscriptions or notes indicating any special significance.  

As a result, all the historical information was preserved.  The pictures were still intact while frozen.  But immediately deteriorated at room temperature.  Effort was given to scan them, but the damage was too quick and severe. 

But as luck would have it, an exact copy of the picture of the former hall was available through the Barry and Brad Haupt photo collection.  As for a photograph of the 1936 Councilman Edward Teets’ children, a digital copy was secured by a family member, although it is not the exact same photo, it shows the Teets children at roughly the same age.

The sheet of 1936 stamps are in perfect shape.  Water soaked the contents from the bottom up.  Luckily these were placed on the top.
Picture taken at the Lehighton Fair Grounds of the Lehigh Fire Co #1's Annual August Clambake with 221 firemen in
attendance.  Men in the center with aprons looked like they had a long day.  Ticket prices for the all you can eat and drink event were $3.00 in those days.  This annual event continues today at the Orioles Club and is still Lehigh Fire Co members only.  Though there is plenty of a variety of other foods and is still all you can eat, you are guaranteed only two dozen clams.
Today's ticket will cost you $30.

This picture from the Brad and Barry Haupt Photo Collection is near identical to the one placed in the cornerstone time-capsule of 1936.  See further below for the original.  Originally built in 1893 for Borough Chambers on the 2nd floor (and Knights of Malta on the 3rd floor) it had to be demolished in 1935.   

These are the temporary quarters of the Lehigh Fire Co #1's social quarters around 1936 while they awaited their new (and current) building.  The first building at this location was built in 1893.  By 1910 the walls were bulging and support beams deteriorated.  It is believed this location was in a garage to the rear of the current Fire House.
 23August 1938 Morning Call


(THIS POST IS A WORK IN PROGRESS - Please check back later in August for complete time-capsule contents and updated story content.  Thank you for your patience.)


Listed below are the scans and pictures of the 
rest of the 1936 time capsule:

Water-damaged photo of the 1893-1935 Lehighton Borough Hall and Lehigh Fire Co #1
on Third St, Lehighton.

Edward Teet's children sitting outside on a lawn - MaryAnn and William appear as ghosts.