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Plans intact for Chambersburg Heritage Center

March 10, 2003

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg's historic Marble Building remains boarded up, and the adjacent lot is vacant, showing no signs of life since the annex was ripped down a year ago.

Work is going on behind the scenes, however, and planners expect the Chambersburg Heritage Center will open next spring.

"In the last year we have finalized all of our designs," but environmental clearances have held up physical work, said David Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the project.

The delay has given planners time to refine the design and secure funding for the exhibits at the center.

The $2.5 million project includes renovating the Marble Building, which sits on the southeast corner of Memorial Square, into a heritage center and adding a new three-story annex that will house the Chamber and other commercial space.

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Officials envision the heritage center as the starting point for many visitors to Chambersburg, and will include a short video about Franklin County and several displays on the county's history, from its role in the Civil War and Underground Railroad to its architectural treasures.

Last month U.S. Congress appropriated $250,000 to use toward those exhibits, Sciamanna said.

Each display will have an accompanying driving tour with about a dozen stops. Those brochures are nearly complete, he said.

On the Civil War tour, visitors will be directed to Confederate graves in the Fairview Cemetery in Mercersburg, Pa. A stop on the Frontier History tour would be McCord's Fort, where Indians attacked in 1756 and killed or captured 27 settlers.

Sciamanna is hopeful work can begin later this spring, with the center ready to open in May 2004.

In the meantime, Sciamanna said he hopes grants from the state and county will come through to pay for the exhibits.

"What we can't afford to do we will phase in. But we will have the bulk of the exhibits and movie ready," he said.

The project was first envisioned more than five years ago, but objections from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Committee 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.

The Marble Building, which is named for its marble facade and interior, was built in 1915 and housed Valley National Bank. In 1956, the bank decided to expand to the adjacent building, tore off the third floor and covered the first two floors with similar marble.

They adapted it for office and storage. When the bank left, Franklin County occupied it until eight years ago.

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, and the Chambersburg Area Development Corp. bought it from F&M Trust. CADC will spend about $900,000 to construct the new building, which will be attached to the Marble Building.

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