Like a sentinel, the old fair judging stand towers over the Lehighton Grove Playground on the corner of Iron and Eighth streets in Lehighton.
At one time the 20-foot tall stand was being allowed to waste away to ruin, as its old timbers broke down through decay.
Now the mighty structure is getting serious attention and is in its revival stage. It has a new domed silver roof topping it and is slated for more renovations. An octagonal-shaped cement pad has been poured where it will placed on for display. The pad follows the shape of the stand.
For years, the stand had been deteriorating at the Lehighton Grove, where it was moved from its former location along Seventh Street.
Lehighton Borough Council members voted this past April to repair the roof before the borough lost a grant. The judge's stand had formerly been used at the Carbon County Fair, when the fair was held in Lehighton.
The original Carbon County Fair began in 1858 as the Greater Lehighton Fair. The fair came to an end in 1992, when the Lehighton Area School District acquired the 45-acre parcel of land, between Grant Alley and Mahoning Street, from the Carbon County Agricultural Association to build a new school and sports complex.
Local historians say the judges stand was built in the early 1900s.
Scott Rehrig said that he had been the person to take the stand apart in the mid 1980s, and later he helped reassemble it and put plywood on the sides to protect it from further damage.
Grant Hunsicker, council president, said that Hinkle Roofing of Weatherly had done "a great job on the roof" for the $16,500 grant funds. The new roof includes a 20-year warranty.
Hunsicker shared his information about the judges stand with Richard Getz of Forest Inn Masonry last week during an inspection. Getz donated the cement for the octagon-shaped pad where the judges stand will rest once renovations are complete.
Initial plans were to restore the structure and move it to the downtown park, but council could not justify paying the $3,000 to move it.
When Hunsicker suggested that a committee of the council investigate the feasibility of repairing the stand, he and Councilman Scott Rehrig were appointed to the committee. Hunsicker said their goal was to keep the stand at the Community Grove.
Hunsicker said that the judging stand is one of only two of its kind in the nation and said that he felt that with that kind of rarity, preserving it as a part of the town's local history was important.
While the stand is in bad shape, Hunsicker said that the new roof will stop any future deterioration. Hunsicker said that the roof closely resembles the original roof of the judges stand.
"Our efforts have paid off," said Hunsicker. He said that more funds are needed to complete the restoration.
"We didn't have the money to use metal and copper," he said. "We used the next best thing. The costs would have been three times what we spent."
Hunsicker noted that plans include using thick beadboard to duplicate the original construction on the sides of the structure.
"I remember that it has two windows and five panel doors," said Hunsicker. The glass panes in the windows were two uppers and two lowers with a post in the center.
Hunsicker said that anyone who wants to help can send checks to: Judges Stand, Lehighton Borough, care of Lehighton treasurer, P.O. Box 29, Lehighton, Pa. 18235.
Hunsicker said that the donations will be used for materials as members of the Carbon Builders Association have pledged support in the way of labor. Lehighton Masonic Lodge has money budgeted and the committee has scheduled an appointment with Lowe's associates to seek their help.
Each year, Lowe's Heroes volunteer program helps to improve the communities where Lowe's customers and employees work and live. Together, each store team identifies a community improvement project that will make a difference in their community. While projects vary by location, Lowe's Heroes volunteers share a common goal to make their communities better places to live.
"Lowe's works hard to be a good neighbor, and Heroes projects are a win for everyone they just make us all feel good about our contributions to local communities," noted Kelly Collins, manager of the Lowe's store in Lehighton.
Collins has approved the Judges Stand Project. Collins noted that Lowe's will be donating materials and volunteers for the completion of the project.
Hunsicker said that the borough could not be more thrilled for the assistance and expertise for the restoration project.
"It is very exciting to combine efforts in restoring a piece of local history," said Hunsicker. "We are expecting Lowe's to come on site in the beginning of September."
Hunsicker said that in the future, the judge's stand could be used for judging parades from its permanent location.
"We see other communities preserving their history," said Hunsicker. "Here we have something that is unusual and I would like to see it saved for future generations."