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Marble Building to become Heritage Center

March 05, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The annex to the Marble Building will come down this week in the first phase of an 18-month plan to create an interactive heritage center and new commercial space.

The $2.8 million project includes renovating the Marble Building into the Chambersburg Heritage Center and demolishing the annex to make room for a three-story building that will duplicate what was there in the early 1900s, said Paul Cullinane, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., an affiliate of the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

He made the announcement Monday inside the vacant Marble Building on Memorial Square, crediting the Chamber and Chambersburg Area Development Committee for several years of hard work.

The first floor of the new building will be used for Chamber offices and the top floors will be leased for commercial office use, Cullinane said.

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He expects demolition of the annex, which was built in the mid- to late-1800s, to be complete by Thursday and construction to begin in October. Construction and renovations will move forward simultaneously and end in October 2003, he said.

The project was first envisioned more than four years ago, but objections by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Committee about the demolition held up the plans. Despite PHMC's concerns, the Federal Highway Authority released a $1 million grant for the project, which will be used on renovations to the two-story Marble Building, Cullinane said.

The Marble Building, which is named for its marble facade and interior, was built in 1915 and housed the Valley National Bank. In 1956, the bank decided to expand to the adjacent building along Lincoln Way East.

"They tore off the third floor and covered the first two floors with similar marble," Cullinane said.

When the bank moved out, Franklin County occupied it until seven years ago when it moved its offices to the old Sears building on Second Street.

A study by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in the mid-1990s determined the Marble Building would make an ideal location for a visitor and welcome center, so CADC bought both structures, Cullinane said.

Some of the support walls and foundation of the annex will be used for the new building, which will mimic the building's style prior to 1956.

"We will recreate the building with subtle changes to make it functional," Cullinane said.

In addition to the $1 million in federal funds, CADC will use $400,000 in private funds to renovate the Marble Building. An additional $300,000 to $500,000 will have to be raised to create the exhibits inside the heritage center, he said. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor has already awarded a $70,000 grant to develop a design for the center and do research, Cullinane said.

The new building will be paid for with $900,000 in private funds from CADC.

Cullinane pointed out there is a lot of work to be done within the Marble Building to restore it.

A dropped ceiling hides arched windows.

"The floor is marble but you can't tell because it's covered with glue" he said.

Displays will focus on Chambersburg's rich history, including its birth as a frontier town, its importance to the Civil War, including the 1864 burning of Chambersburg, its role in the Underground Railroad and its transition to a railroad town.

The center will have kiosks and displays of the history of Chambersburg and the surrounding area. It is part of a plan to market Chambersburg to heritage tourists, who account for more than 10 million visitors to Pennsylvania each year.

Chambersburg Mayor Tom Newcomer, said the heritage center will tie into other revitalization efforts.

"It's a great project and it's all working together," he said, referring to the other downtown projects, including Chambers Fort Park, which will include a tribute to area veterans and Benjamin Chambers, the founder of Chambersburg.

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