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Group gives $120,000 for Pa. library expansion

December 16, 2002|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL/Staff Correspondent

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Fendrick Library in Mercersburg, Pa., received the first donation to its building fund in a ceremony at the library Saturday. The Mercersburg Development Association contributed $120,000 toward the $500,000 construction project.

Irvin Cordell, secretary-treasurer of the Development Association, presented the check to Virginia Smith, president of the library board. She thanked him on behalf of the board of directors of the library and the people of the community.

"This is a very happy occasion; a wonderful, wonderful, gift," Smith said. "This is the first deposit in our building fund."

No date has been set for the start of construction.

Tom Steiger, Jr., vice-president of the library board, explained the need for the annex.

"We've been diligently filling this building with books and reference materials and items of historical interest to the community. We can't bear to part with anything; we need more space.

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"Publishers keep publishing books. People keep giving us historical items," Steiger said. "We have put as many shelves around the walls as we possibly can."

He said he has hundreds of the library's books stored in his barn.

Steiger unveiled plans showing a fire-proof, two-story addition to the rear of the library. The stone and stucco annex will resemble local buildings that were constructed in the 1840s and 1850s. The basement will be fully usable.

The addition will include a computer room, a reading room and more space for the children's section.

"Nothing is more important to the board than interesting children in reading," Steiger said.

Also planned is space for outdoor functions.

"Libraries are expensive to construct," Steiger said. "They have to be strong because they hold up a lot of weight. We will be soliciting donations from the community."

Henry Steiger, president of the Mercersburg Development Association, spoke about the association's history.

"The association formed in 1954 because there was a need in town to see that the Lowengart tannery remained," he said. "The tannery needed ground for water disposal."

A group of citizens purchased 37 acres of land near Mercersburg to accommodate the tannery. They sold 76 bonds in $500 increments.

Lowengart needed only 22 acres, and the rest was leased and sold over the years. Eventually, the borough of Mercersburg annexed the land, but cannot annex any more.

"The bonds are retired, all the property is liquidated, we have some money and we were wondering what to do with these funds," Steiger said. "We'd like to help the library get their fund drive started."

The stone building in which Fendrick library is housed was built shortly after the Revolutionary War by a soldier who had served under Gen. George Washington. It was a private residence for many years, and at one time was a bakery.

In the early 1960s, it was purchased by the Humphries family and restored in memory of their grandmother, Virginia Fendrick, a well-known local historian and

genealogist. Funding to turn it into a library was provided by the community and by Fendrick's descendants. Much of her research is housed in the library.

Music for Saturday's event was provided by an ensemble from Mercersburg Academy, Blue Chair.

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