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History of both complexes

Published September 28. 2012 05:02PM

401 Hazle Street (Tamaqua Shoe and Boot Factory Building):

The Tamaqua Shoe Factory was begun in 1874 near the intersection of Broad and Center Streets. During its first year, the business was so successful, that the owners decided to quickly relocate and expand. A site for a new factory was located several blocks east, on present day Hazle Street where a new building would be constructed. Hazle Street was originally known as the Lansford Road since it was the main highway out of town in the direction of Lansford. Much of the east end of town had not yet been constructed and was mostly swamp land. The new shoe factory, constructed in 1875, was a three-story brick and stone building at a cost of $12,000. For unknown reasons, two years after being relocated to Hazle Street, the shoe factory was idled in 1876 and the factory remained vacant for the next 11 years.

In 1888, the factory building was purchased and reopened by local businessman Henry A. Weldy under the new name of Tamaqua Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company; employing 45 workers and managed by his son Clarence Weldy. Sometime after 1900, the shoe and boot factory had gone out of business, and the building became the home to the Eureka Automatic Electric Signal Company, which made signals, bells and other items for trolley car companies. In 1914, the building changed hands once again and was purchased by Solomon Billman and Clayton Stegmaier as a home for their B & S Dairy. They produced and bottled milk and other dairy products on Hazle Street. Sometime between 1923 and 1946, B & S Dairy expanded with large additions to the building on the side and rear along Cottage Avenue. During the 50s and 60s, the side and rear additions were home to the East Penn Transportation Company, who serviced and parked their fleet of buses there. The main Shoe and Boot Factory building on Hazle Street sat vacant for a number of years before being purchased and operated as part of the Aiken's Building Supplies in the 1970s and 80s. Aiken also purchased the side and rear additions to the building. After Aiken Building Supplies closed, the complex sat vacant for many years before being purchased and redeveloped for affordable housing.

420 East Broad Street(Liberty Hall):

Historic "Liberty Hall", located near the railroad crossing on East Broad Street in Tamaqua, was constructed around World War I. It was likely named Liberty Hall because of the wave or patriotism which swept the nation during the war. The structure does not appear on the 1915 Sanborn Insurance Maps of Tamaqua, but is there in 1920. It is believed to have been built and opened by 1916.

Liberty Hall was a popular indoor sports and entertainment complex of Tamaqua. It became a popular venue for all types of sporting and entertainment events, including boxing matches, wrestling, basketball games, roller skating, dances, firemen's events, musical concerts and theatrical productions. There are newspaper accounts of events hosted there as early as 1916.

The main entrance to Liberty Hall was through an enclosed wood frame stairwell attached to the east end of the brick building which still stands today. At the top of the stairwell on the second floor was a ticket window to purchase tickets for events. After you purchased your tickets, you stepped to the right and entered the main floor of Liberty Hall. It was a grand hall where events of all types were held. At the east end of the hall, was a large stage surrounded with beautiful wood trim. The floor was made of all hardwoods, which was great for dancing or roller skating. The hall was also surrounded by windows that permitted daylight from all directions. Up above the grand hall was a large balcony with railing on the third level, which overlooked the main floor of the hall below. The balcony level extended all the way around three sides of the hall below and offered great views of whatever event was being featured there. Up above the main floor and the balcony was an ornate, arched and pressed ceiling. The ground floor housed a car dealership named Liberty Garage.

For unknown reasons, Liberty Hall closed as an entertainment complex in the early 40s. Ownership of the property changed and soon afterward, the building was converted for use as a sewing factory for Sprite Manufacturing through the 40s and 50s. Later it served as a lumber yard for Aiken's Building Supplies into the 1970s, then a car museum for John Morgan's antique automobiles in the 1980s, a fitness center located on the ground floor sometime in the 1990s and finally an archery range and gun shooting range was added above the fitness center in the early 2000s.

Today, the exterior of Liberty Hall has been beautifully restored similar to what it looked like around World War I. The interior of the building has been totally renovated to provide housing for many families. Liberty Hall is once again alive and a vibrant part of the Tamaqua community.

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