Lehighton urged to save century-old fair stand
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS John Drury of Jim Thorpe, who is active in rehabilitating old buildings, shows a picture of the old judging stand at the former Carbon County Fair in Lehighton to the Lehighton Borough Council. The stand still exists and Drury would like to see it restored.
John Drury of Jim Thorpe, who has been involved with rehabilitating old buildings for nearly 45 years, is urging Lehighton Borough Council to save a judging stand that is more than a century old. The weathered, wooden structure had been utilized at the old Carbon County Fair when it was held in Lehighton.
Drury also feels that a historical society should be formed in Lehighton.
Drury said he has been involved in giving new life to old buildings since 1969.
He said he feels the judging stand, a rarity, with reportedly only about two such buildings in existence, should not only be preserved but moved to the downtown section of the community. He suggested a site at First and North streets.
"If it's in town where people can see what's going on, and see the energy that's going on (restoring it) on First Street, it will be a benefit," he said.
The judging stand is currently stationed at the Community Grove in Lehighton. It has deteriorated because of its age, as well as being ignored since the fair was discontinued in the early 1990s.
Several months ago the council voted to have the stand dismantled unless someone came forward and agreed to remove it.
Drury said the stand, which was utilized at the fair for judging horse racing and beauty pageants, could be moved by constructing an interior support system, crating it, putting skids on the side of it, and moving it on a roll-back truck.
Restoration would take place over "a lengthy period of time, maybe two or three years," he said, adding that while restoration is happening a chain-link fence would be placed around it.
According to Drury, grant money that the Mauch Chunk Historical Society has obtained for historical restoration projects might be channeled to the Lehighton project.
He said local funds also would be raised in Lehighton, and the Jim Thorpe museum's nonprofit status would be utilized.
He explained that student volunteers could be used in the restoration project, and thought seniors might also become involved.
"I see the hi-rise as a gold mine for getting volunteer help," he remarked.
The council was told by Drury that he feels it is "important" for a historical society to be created.
Such a society could lease a store front and possibly could open an ice-cream parlor and/or coffee shop.
"It would be a social place for people to gather," envisions Drury.
Explaining his interest in the Lehighton judging stand, he said he enjoys doing any type of restoration project.
"I don't play golf. I don't drink. I don't play cards," he said. "This is my passion and that's why I do it."
Council President Grant Hunsicker was concerned whether the fair stand is still structurally sound.
"I climbed inside and it is structurally sound," assured Drury.
Another council member, Dale Traupman, asked if a cost estimate had been determined.
Drury said such an estimate is difficult to put together, but he feels it will cost about $3,000 to add supports and get it moved.
Mayor Donald Rehrig suggested that a layout be presented to the council of the steps for the restoration process.
Hunsicker said the borough presently has $3,000 in grant money it obtained for the restoration of the stand. Drury said the Mauch Chunk Historical Society has about $5,000, some of which could be allocated for the Lehighton project.
The council agreed to consider Drury's proposal and possibly discuss it again at it's next meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in the Lehighton Municipal Building.