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Palmerton Area Heritage Center: A small gem with a lot of historical value

  • One of the displays at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center is what's left of a wooden beam exposed during the restoration of the Little White Church which was fun for a squirrel.
    One of the displays at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center is what's left of a wooden beam exposed during the restoration of the Little White Church which was fun for a squirrel.
Published January 15. 2010 05:00PM

If you haven't visited the Palmerton Area Heritage Center at 410 Delaware Avenue in Palmerton, now would be the time.

The year, 2010, marks the 5th anniversary of this priceless gem of historical value.

The Center, which was formerly Tommie's, was founded to preserve the rich history of Palmerton, detailing its growth and the important part it played with the New Jersey Zinc Company and other paramount influences, in photographs and text cards with related items on display.

"It tells the story of Palmerton," says Betsy Burnhauser, secretary of the Palmerton Area Historical Society (PAHS.)

Throughout the last five years, in addition to the history of Palmerton, the Center has also featured specific displays to celebrate the town's rich heritage.

There have been displays celebrating its Slovak/Ukrainian, Portugesse, Polish, Mexican and Dutch ethnic backgrounds.

Another display featured the area churches, another on the New Jersey Zinc Company and one on "A History of Palmerton Sports."

It featured a retrospective of the works of local Palmerton etcher, Irving Jelly with more than 40 of his works and another on "Salute to Veterans" featuring a display of George Duell's collection of military memorabilia along with photos from area veterans.

The Center is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Lehigh Gap Historical and Preservation Society and Museum.

Many of the areas south of the Blue Mountain had no historical societies at the time. The mission area encompassed that region as well as areas north of the mountain.

The logo was designed by Kathy Long. It depicted a scene of the Lehigh Gap looking south. The newsletter was The Lehigh Gap Observer.

Over the years, historical societies were formed south of the mountain. The Board of Directors voted to adopt a new mission area to include only the Palmerton Area School District and the name changed in 2005 to the Palmerton Area Historical Society (PAHS.) The logo was changed by Workhouse Design of Lehighton of a scribe seated at a high desk with the motto of "Knee Deep in History," which was suggested by PAHS member, Mary Beth Beers. The new logo led to the new name of the newsletter, "The Scribe." Garry Mack has been the editor of the newsletter since 1991.

Samples of each are on display along with the gavel, official seal, a ledger of early checks received, the video and DVD of the History of Palmerton and samples of teeshirts, sweatshirts and articles with the Society's logos.

The Society currently maintains four sites: The Little White Church at 3rd and Columbia Ave. dating back to 1844; the Kibler one-room school at 6495 Pohopoco Dr. near Beltzville; the Palmerton Area Historical Society Archives at 443 Delaware Ave. on second floor of Borough Hall where donated items and records are kept; the Palmerton Area Heritage Center at 410 Delaware Ave.

Another of the displays features the Palmerton Bus Tours that was first initiated in 1998 during the Centennial Celebration of the founding of Palmerton, which the Society sponsored.

"The bus tour was so popular and in demand, we were asked to repeat it. We did in 2000 and we do it as an event for the S.S. Palmer High School class reunions," says Betsy.

Some of the other events the PAHS has sponsored: Heritage Day in Borough Park for 11 years with artisans demonstrating their skills, collectors sharing their treasures, music, entertainment and carriage and pony rides; a walking tour around the neighborhood; a vintage fashion show; antiques and collectibles auction at the community Center on Franklin Ave.; yard sale at the Little White Church; quilt raffle of a quilt made by Barbara Serfass, Marlene Bollinger, Nancy Serfass Costenbader which was won by Betty Steigerwalt;

Members of the Palmerton Area Historical Society invite all to come and take a walk through Palmerton's history. It has prepared displays of pictures and text earmarking all of these events for you.

The Center's hours are: Wednesdays, 1-4:30 p.m.;Thursdays,10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; Fridays, 12-6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or by appointment.

It also wants to invite you to participate in the year-long celebration. In January there is a poster contest at the Palmerton Area High School with a cash prize of $150. On Sunday, March 21 from 2-4 p.m. there will be a Founders Day Meet and Greet at the Center. Saturday, April 24 at 4:30 p.m. there will be a birthday dinner at the First UCC in Palmerton. On Sunday, May 23 at 2 p.m. there will be a "Walk Around the Block" with Betsy Burnhauser. In July there will be an open house at the Kibler School. On Sunday, Sept. 19 from 2-4 p.m. there will be an open house at the Society's archives in Palmerton Borough Hall. Sunday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. there will be an open house at the Little White Church with the emphasis on the cemetery. Sunday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., Betsy Burnhauser will give a power point presentation on the history of Palmerton with ethnic pastries, at the Knight's Gallery in the Palmerton Area Library. The year long celebration will end on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. with an ecumenical service at the Little White Church.

The PAHS meet the last Monday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Knight's Gallery of the Palmerton Area Library at 402 Delaware Ave., Palmerton.

"We have three kinds of programs: audience participation, presentations and field trips," says Betsy.

If you would like to make a donation, monetary or historical, contact 610-824-6954 or email Also, check out its website at

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