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Ben Franklin statue takes center stage at ChambersFest

July 17, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Speaking from a balcony on the square in Chambersburg Friday afternoon, Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott presided over the Ray Depuy Memorial Gala Opening of ChambersFest.

The 16-day ChambersFest, now in its 18th year, commemorates the burning of Chambersburg by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and the spirit of the citizens who rebuilt the town.

During his speech, Elliott frequently "consulted" with the 8-foot-3-inch statue of Benjamin Franklin behind him. After spending 126 years atop the courthouse, the statue received 500 hours of restoration, and is completely covered with gold leaf, Elliott said.

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Created in 1865, the year after the town was burned, the statue now is housed inside the Heritage Center, and "he loves his new home, and he hopes you will visit him," Elliott said.

A duplicate tops the courthouse.

After proclaiming ChambersFest and the Heritage Center officially open, Elliott said that the Center is "a terrific addition to downtown Chambersburg and to Franklin County."

The opening ceremonies were named for local businessman Ray Depuy, who died last year, said Melissa Knepper, program and event direction with the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Knepper said Depuy, owner of the Art Center on Main Street, "gave his heart and soul to ChambersFest and to the community." The opening of ChambersFest was his pet project, and he "always made sure we used the wording 'gala opening,'" she said. Naming the ceremony for him is "a good way to keep him with us."

Ken Ditzler, marketing manager of F&M Trust, said the bank commissioned Civil War artist Ron Lesser of Long Island, N.Y., to paint "The Burning of Chambersburg" to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the event. Chambersburg was the only town north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be burned.

The painting will be displayed at the Heritage Center through the end of the month, Ditzler said. Four hundred prints have been made, and will be on sale at F&M offices and at the Heritage Center. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to the Heritage Center.

Bill Snell, president and CEO of F&M Trust, unveiled the painting during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, many people crossed the street to see the new Heritage Center. Half of the building is new; the other half was built in 1915 as the Valley National Bank and has been restored. Visitors may view displays of the area's frontier heritage, architecture, transportation and early inhabitants. The original bank vault houses a display of "prominent and interesting personalities in the history of Chambersburg and Franklin County," including Nellie Fox, Sarah Wilson, Augustus Wolf and Moorehead Kennedy.

Two films will premiere at the center on July 31 - a five-minute video on the transportation of the area, including old Lincoln Highway footage, and an 11-minute film titled, "Our Heritage: An American Story."

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