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Artist donates prints to aid Jim Thorpe church

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    Artist David Price has donated 80 signed prints to help with preservation efforts for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published April 20. 2019 06:00AM

David Price is taking a stand.

The former 35-year resident of Jim Thorpe has donated 80 of his signed prints valued at $16,000 to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to help attain financial contributions in order to oppose Carbon County plans to construct an office and parking garage next to the historic building of worship. Donors giving $200 or more will receive a print titled “Christmas Eve on Race Street” that has been blessed and embossed with the sanctified 19th century Seal of St. Mark’s.

The estimated $14 million office and garage project is expected to require an excavation of 40 feet into Flagstaff Mountain, just yards away from the historical church described by Price as designer “Richard Upjohn’s country gothic masterpiece.”

“I am very disappointed in the county supervisors’ refusal to acknowledge the risks of excavating the rock that near to the church,” said Price, who lived in “spitting distance” from St. Mark’s and whose family heritage is rooted in the coal regions.

Price, who had been a member of the St. Mark’s choir for seven years, has spoken with architects who claim the structural integrity of the church, built in 1869, will be jeopardized when the rock is bored and removed from the site of the proposed garage. Vibrations in the bedrock layers from the excavation and the construction increase the possibility of damage to masonry, plaster and glass. Even if no structural compromise is evident after the construction of the garage, shifting of the church building can still become apparent over time.

“There’s potential danger to the church because excavation is not predictable for the stability of the rock under and around the church. There are other and more suitable places to build a parking garage for the local employees as to not put this extraordinary historical site at risk.”

St. Mark’s was built atop of the solid rock on Race Street, also know as Stone Row, and overlooks the town of Jim Thorpe and the Lehigh River. Price described the church as, “The most precious jewel in Northeast Pennsylvania.” Its features include Romanesque stairs to the entrance, a unique octagonal tower, Minton tile floors and Tiffany glass windows. There is also a Victorian wedding dress made in Paris on display and a plaque that marks the spot where a woman fainted purportedly at the exact time her husband was killed at Chancellorsville during the Civil War.

“The Tiffany windows alone are worth millions,” Price said. “The Masonic style columns carved from stone and, of course, the unique tower, which is showing signs of mortar cracking. To lose the church or to ask the administrators to endure major renovation costs would be shocking. St. Mark’s is a major tourist attraction of Carbon County that brings in much-needed revenue. It’s unbelievable that it exists at all and is appreciated each year by countless visitors to the town.”

The current resident of Bethlehem, a graduate with an art degree from the Pratt Institute in New York, created his etching of the church in 1990 as the centerpiece of a series he titled “Standing Stones.” His work was displayed exclusively for years at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in Jim Thorpe.

A number of his pieces previously hung in the Washington offices of former U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski.

In lieu of the recent fire that damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, Price believes it to be even more a priority that St. Mark’s be safeguarded from any potential harm. Contributions generated from his donated prints will go to Save Our Sanctuaries, a committee that has been established to bring public awareness to this issue and, if necessary, legal action against the county.

“This has become a highly politicized topic,” Price said. “It’s inconceivable that anyone would even think of jeopardizing such a remarkable piece of history.”

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