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TAMAQUA: Borough is strengthening its historical identity

Published September 22. 2012 09:01AM

The highly visible restoration of a Tamaqua commercial-residential structure will honor the site's contributions to the legendary Molly Maguire story.

At the same time the project is expected to strengthen the visual identity of the Tamaqua National Historic District.

"It's going to go back to what it looked like," said James J. Ferenchick of Ferenchick Carpentry, the Orwigsburg contractor in charge of restoring the facade and two entrances at 132-134 E. Broad St.

The Queen Anne shingle-style building houses the Jewells Dental Office and apartments and is owned by Robert Jewells and family.

The location also hosts a Tamaqua Area Community Partnership historical marker designating the site's role as host to Carroll's Tavern, where members of an alleged secret society reportedly plotted the murder of Benjamin Yost, a Tamaqua policeman. The Yost murder is regarded as the beginning of the end of the Mollies.

Ferenchick, a contractor with 52 years of experience, has done new construction and restoration, and looks at the Jewells project as a special challenge and opportunity.

The work will include the removal of a commercial storefront and some later modifications in order to enhance the building's original, authentic feel. The current facade features highly imbricated, or overlapping, shingles and a shingled turret.

"It'll have red and green trim," says Ferenchick, adding that dentil moldings and window grids will reflect the 1877 era.

"We'll use Hardiboard siding because it's layered," said Ferenchick.

Fish-scale and diamond shingles on the curved section of the tower likely will be duplicated using a vinyl product.

Work will continue over the winter months with an unveiling sometime in spring.

Also working on the project are construction technicians Matt Moyer, Joseph Hartranft and Albert Shaw, all of Tamaqua.

Depending on personal perspective, the Mollies are seen as either villains or heroes.

The Mollies were Irish immigrants who some believe devised plans to protest harsh conditions in the mines and unfair labor practices of many of the region's large coal companies. Their efforts represent the seedling labor movement in America.

The Mollies sometimes asked members from one lodge to carry out violent assignments in another lodge's jurisdiction, the advantage being that Mollies from outside the area would not be recognized.

The plot to kill Yost was allegedly hatched at Carroll's Tavern per countless historical accounts.

According to a list of alleged Mollies from Pinkerton and Reading Railroad files, Carroll served as secretary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an organization which some feel the Mollies used as a cover for their activities.

Born about 1837 near Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Carroll was the son of Irish immigrants.

He married a niece of Margaret O'Donnell, matriarch of the extended Donegal-born family of Wiggans Patch. Carroll moved to Tamaqua in 1872 and opened a hotel, the Washington House.

He later took over Alexander Campbell's saloon when Campbell moved to Summit Hill.

Carroll was hanged at Pottsville on June 21, 1877, for his purported role in the Yost case.

The location at the corner of East Broad and South Pine Street also serves as Tour stop #7 of the Molly Maguire Auto Tour of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the Schuylkill River National Heritage Corridor.

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