A majestic two-story arch and other early architectural elements that could date back to 1875 are being uncovered as restoration and construction continues on Liberty Hall in Tamaqua.
The original date of the building has been the subject of confusion, owing to the fact that the site featured a wood frame, two-story office and front entrance that had been constructed in 1920.
Those elements have been removed by work crews over the past few weeks, uncovering a previously hidden proscenium-style arch that would have been the original visual trademark of the entertainment hall.
The main building and its original brick construction suggest an 1875-era structure, the building's construction date as identified in the list of resources of the Tamaqua National Historic District Registry, on file with the National Park Service.
From its start, Liberty Hall was a prominent industrial and commercial complex in a thriving community.
At the turn of the 20th century, the hall was one of Tamaqua's main commercial properties and home to social and sporting events such as dancing, theater, boxing, basketball and private parties. The place continued as a popular venue for Tamaqua society in the Roaring 20s, hosting sports, theater and New York orchestras, as identified among early records and written accounts.
On June 23, 1923, a theatrical play entitled The Waif of Sunshine Inn, written and directed by Tamaqua native Miss Ruth A. Steinert, debuted in Liberty Hall.
In the 1930s, it also functioned as a roller skating rink. Ball games were popular as well. The hall featured a balcony on three sides from which was suspended a basketball cage enclosed in fishnet type netting. The hall was recognized nationally for some of its offerings.
In 1936, pugilist Billy Speary fought his first amateur match at Liberty Hall. He went on to win 3 national boxing championships. On February 1, 1940, Speary returned to Tamaqua and fought the last bout of his amateur career inside Liberty Hall. He easily beat Canadian national champ Harvey LaCalle before an over-capacity house.
The lower level contained Liberty Garage, later called Peoples Garage. There, owner Jere Knepper sold DeSotos, Reo Flying Clouds, Reo Speed Wagons, Oldsmobiles, Viking Eight and other early models. The garage portion was large enough to hold 35 cars.
The site at one time housed Wink/Liberty Pontiac, according to reports. At one point, the site also hosted Sprite Manufacturing, a shirt factory.
On Oct. 22, 1959, Liberty Hall was acquired by J.E. Morgan Knitting Mills and continued to serve a variety of commercial and industrial uses in later years. Its newest capacity will turn the building, for the first time, into residential units
The ongoing project is part of a neighborhood redevelopment.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has approved $3.8 million for the adaptive reuse of the building. The development includes $2.3 million in equity investment in Federal Housing Tax Credits, approximately $481,000 from Historic Preservation Credits, $500,000 in PennHOMES funds, and the remainder in local equity.