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A Tamaqua legacy

  • A logo of "The Stitch" performing arts floor. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
    A logo of "The Stitch" performing arts floor. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
  • 07_news_stitch2.jpg
    Construction is underway to the performing arts floor inside the Tamaqua Community Art Center, which will be renamed "The Stich." TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
  • 08_news_stitch5.jpg
    This stitching machine is currently on display at the Tamaqua Community Art Center. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
Published April 18. 2017 12:20PM

performing arts floor in Tamaqua has been renamed in recognition of a late philanthropist’s industrial legacy.

Thanks to a donation from the John E. Morgan Foundation, the Tamaqua Community Art Center has re-christened it “The Stitch” performing arts floor.

The idea to rename the performing arts floor came from the circular waffle stitch that was patented by John E. Morgan, according to Micah Gursky, director of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership.

“Many Tamaquans today only know John Morgan for his unequaled philanthropic legacy that supports local education, health care and community efforts,” Gursky said. “There are new generations growing up in our community who may not know Morgan’s industrial legacy that started that single-knitted stitch.”

Gursky explained the story of John Morgan and the patented stitch that is known worldwide to this day for its use in thermal underwear.

“The tale is fascinating; a story of a small-town entrepreneur who took on “Big Garment” (in) a series of legal battles that pitted Morgan against the giants of the U.S. textile industry in a battle to defend his patent,” he said. “Through the years, many families depended on work at J.E. Morgan Knitting Mills, and people all over the world depended on the warmth of that waffle stitch.”

Which is why Gursky said the idea to name the stage in Morgan’s memory was a natural fit.

“The Art Center wanted to name the performance hall in Morgan’s honor, and believes “The Stitch” is a jazzy name that would start a conversation about not just Morgan’s philanthropy, but also his life’s work,” he said. “The name will also get people talking about what the art center’s performance space is all about.”

Gursky added, “The Stitch can be a metaphor for something small and purposeful; something that, in large numbers, creates, connects or even heals. And just as Morgan’s waffle stitch is known for its warmth and form, the performance hall is something small and purposeful that creates, connects and warms people.”

Gursky said he believes Tamaqua should embrace the stories of people such as Morgan, adding that they learned the power of this in the “Dear Tamaqua — In a New Light” project.

“The story of John Morgan’s persistence and entrepreneurial spirit, and the inventiveness of that knitted stitch is a story that should be shared,” he said. “Who knows. Perhaps there is an entrepreneur in Tamaqua who will be inspired by the story and become Tamaqua’s next great industrialist and philanthropist.”

He added, “Naming ‘The Stitch’ means we have a cool and meaningful name for a cool and meaningful venue. The naming opportunity is still available for the art center itself, but the performance hall will forever be known as ‘The Stitch.’ ”

Gursky said the project is already underway, and will include a new bathroom and new signs.

The contractor is MAS-TEK Builders of New Ringgold. Subcontractors are BG Electric of Barnesville, and Danny Reigel Plumbing & Heating and architect is Mark Conville, RA, both of Tamaqua.

The project is expected to be completed by the fall, said Gursky, who added funding for the project is provided through the John Morgan Foundation, though the total project cost is not yet known.

Leona Rega, Tamaqua Community Arts Center coordinator, said it’s all about hope for the future.

“It was the one thing we uncovered when we hosted Dear Tamaqua,” Rega said. “Our community could not verbalize their hopes for the future.”

In her role as coordinator, Rega said she can hear and see “the change in the perceptions of the people.”

“We are about making connections. Helping an area previously labeled as ‘the worst place to live,’ heal and redefine itself,” she said. “The manufacturing industry is what held Tamaqua together after a long recession in coal mining.”

Rega said she’s excited by the prospects.

“Bringing ‘The Stitch’ name and the history of John E. Morgan’s invention together, solidifies that the Tamaqua Community Art Center will continue opening new doors of opportunity, learning, personal connections and partnerships,” she said. “We believe the momentum of positive change is being felt and shared beyond our recognized vision.”

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