Local historians are making sure that the rich history of Lansford, the heart of the Panther Valley, is never lost.
For visitors, it's easy to see that the volunteers approach their mission with passion. And it's a passion reinforced on a deep, emotional level after the passing of cherished volunteer Stephen Brunda, a Lansford native.
Brunda, of Nesquehoning, passed away last October at age 74. He is remembered as a devoted civic volunteer in many different arenas, and the society was one of his foremost loves.
"It was a dream of his for the Lansford Historical Society to have a showplace," said Dale Freudenberger, society secretary.
That dream became a reality when the former Lansford Methodist Church building, 117-119 East Bertsch Street, was donated to the society, enabling the group to establish a local history museum on the building's second floor. The society graciously allows the first floor to be used as the home of the Panther Valley Public Library.
Since early 2010, the project located in the spacious second floor has showcased legends of Lansford. The town's character and heritage come to life in the form of colorful displays, artifacts and memorabilia. The exhibits speak to the glory days of the town named after geologist and mining expert Asa Lansford Foster, a Massachusetts native.
Lansford grew out of two mining hamlets with growth sparked by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. The tiny villages were known as Ashton and Storm Hill. Interestingly, it is said that a man named Peter Fisher built a house in the vicinity. The house blew over during a severe storm, hence the name Storm Hill. Over the years, Lansford's population grew and the town prospered.
In fact, the town can boast its share of heavy hitters, including big band leaders Tommy and Jimm Dorsey, who made their home in Lansford after leaving Shenandoah. A display inside the museum salutes the Dorsey connection
Another legend is cable television pioneer Robert Tarleton, who devised a system to deliver television signals to multiple locations using a system of wires. When a tower was placed atop Summit Hill and cables were draped down the mountainside, the innovation marked the birth of cable television.
Lansford's charm and appeal are easily spotted by those from other regions.
During a December museum open house, visitors stopped for more than a casual glance. Many stayed and studied the exhibits for hours.
Among the artifacts are bright red Lansford High School band uniforms donated by the Kressly family. Another display tells of the history of the Edward J. Thomas Mansion, which later served as St. Ann's Convent. Sadly, the large Victorian house was demolished by the church but not before Lansford historians salvaged stained glass windows, intricate wood carvings and other architectural elements, all of which are on display.
Lansford has a charm all its own, and museum visitors are quick to point out areas of interest.
"I'm fascinated by the churches," says Robin Telepchak, who grew up in Delaware County. Telepchak and husband Jim said they share a strong sense awareness about the ongoing need for preservation. The Telepchaks said they appreciate the work being done by the society, and can't get enough of the local history education one receives when stopping at the repository.
"When I walk into a place like this, I take a step back in time," says Robin. "This is how it was. There's so much heritage here."
Nearby, Al Zagofsky, publisher of Carbon County Magazine, was joined by wife Adele. The two have keen interest in culture, arts and sciences, and said they enjoyed walking around the facility and absorbing the wide variety of displays created by society President Bill Harleman, Freudenberger and others.
A surprise unfolded mid-afternoon when Lansford native Robert Sabol, 57, arrived with a treasure trove of newly discovered town memorabilia. Sabol came across an 1898 map of Lansford's Cortright Street neighborhood and knew it was too valuable to be thrown away.
"It was found in the rafters of a home on the 200 block of East Ridge Street," said Sabol. Also donated to the museum by Sabol were a 1916 U.S. Army Signal Book from his uncle, Joe Sabol, and an early school pencil tablet.
Sabol is attuned to history and has strong ties to his community.
"My father was George, Jr. He had Sabol's Service Station," says Sabol.
While much has been accomplished inside the museum, the society still has some important, basic needs, such as finding a permanent heating system for the second floor museum. But the good news is that Stephen Brunda's dream has come true for the town of Lansford.
The Lansford Historical Society Museum is now established and can provide a safe, secure home for Lansford-related items and memorabilia. The museum is open for special occasions and by appointment.
More information is available be calling Bill Harleman at (570) 617-4683 or Dale Freudenberger (570) 597-6722.