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Meeting highlights Chambersburg's possibilities

November 22, 1996

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Old Franklin County Jail should become the center for tourism in downtown Chambersburg, officials said at a town meeting Thursday.

The building at 175 E. King St., built in 1818, is one of only a few that survived the burning of Chambersburg during the Civil War.

Now shared by the county's two historical groups - Franklin County Heritage Inc. and Kittochtinny Historical Society - the old jail is a perfect launching pad for downtown tours, said Paul E. Cullinane, executive director of Downtown Chambersburg Inc.

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"We take history very seriously and it's going to be an important thread," in downtown revitalization, Cullinane said.

Downtown planners envision the jail as a place to tell the story of Chambersburg, including the town's role in the underground railroad and Lincoln Highway's heritage as one of the first east-west corridors in the state, he said.

Developing those exhibits is estimated to cost about $1.5 million, he said.

About 50 people who came to the town meeting Thursday at Central Presbyterian Church on the square said they are excited about the future of downtown.

"I'm just busting inside just thinking about what wonderful things can be done with our great town," said Shirley Paulis, a downtown property owner.

Will Pananes grew up downtown and now owns Olympia Candy Kitchen and Ice Cream Parlor on South Main Street.

"I can never remember greater opportunity for downtown, or greater challenges," Pananes said. "I don't know of any town that's got more going on."

A number of downtown projects have been developed in a master plan over the last two years.

Here are some of the ideas and where they stand:

  • A Victorian Village in the northwest corner of Memorial Square around Falling Spring Creek.

    Work on that will begin this spring, with the renovation of the former Culp's Warehouse. The architectural firm of Noelker and Hull will make the building its new home.

  • Development of a cultural center around the Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St.

    The Chambersburg Area Development Corp. has purchased the theater as well as some adjacent buildings. Seats are being added and a theater manager will be hired in the next few months, Cullinane said.

    The former Long Jewelers building nearby has been razed to provide more parking for the theater.

  • Transformation of the Washington House building on the corner of Second and King streets into a downtown inn.

    Someone is interested in buying the building, Cullinane said.

  • Development of the 1.6-mile railroad track that runs through Chambersburg into a hiking and biking trail. 

    Chambersburg Borough has formed a task force to work on that, he said.



The ideas came from Chambersburg's master plan, two years in the making, Cullinane said.

"If we can create interest and excitement in our town then we can solve those economic challenges we all worry about when we go home at night," Cullinane said.

Most of the work has been done with private funds, although Downtown Chambersburg Inc. has had support from borough and county officials.

The group has been operating on $30,000 a year. It is $3,000 short of its fund-raising goal for this year.

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