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People buy pieces of Tamaqua church history

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    Labor Day shoppers look at the former St. Jerome’s Church in Tamaqua, where the parish held a two-hour tag sale at the church and adjacent school. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Trophies representing excellence in CYO basketball and MathCounts competition were left behind when Tamaqua St. Jerome’s School vacated its west Broad Street headquarters. The awards appeared to generate no interest at Monday’s sale. DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS

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    Folding chairs and assorted items in the old St. Jerome’s School gymnasium, Tamaqua, were up for grabs at a Labor Day tag sale held Monday.

Published September 03. 2018 02:27PM

A short-notice liquidation sale drew dozens to two endangered Tamaqua landmarks on Labor Day.

Historic St. Jerome’s Church, completed in 1859 and a hub of worship in eastern Schuylkill County for 160 years, hosted a tag sale to clean out the former church and its unused three-story school.

The church closed its doors earlier this year after a May merger with SS. Peter and Paul’s to become the new St. John’s XXIII Parish.

Similarly, the adjacent parish elementary school, St. Jerome’s Regional, closed its West Broad Street building in June after serving as an educational center since 1920. The school moved to nearby Hometown after a Diocese of Allentown purchase of the former Rush Elementary.

The developments have led to a need to empty the two dominating structures.

A third, the soon-to-be-vacant St. Jerome’s Parish Rectory, also is being addressed, workers said.

All three buildings adjoin and occupy a major plot of real estate on the main street in the community’s west end.

In an online church bulletin last week, the diocese indicated that remaining items from the church and school would be up for sale for two hours on Labor Day.

“Some of the many items available for sale: pews, vases, knickknacks, microscopes, teacher manuals, student textbooks, kids’ reading books, kids’ games, bookcases, desks, cabinets, etc.,” stated the bulletin, adding, “All items must be carried out and taken away on Monday. Cash only.”

Most items weren’t price-tagged but instead were sold off in “make an offer” liquidation style. Many items could be bought for a dollar or two.

Church pews, both large and small, were selling for $25.

The school’s massive slate blackboards, installed in 1919, also were up for grabs.

Inside the school gymnasium and kitchen, folding chairs, cookware and deep fryers were available.

Inside school hallways, two rows of trophies appeared to garner no interest. The trophies, both sports and scholastic, represent decades of the parochial school’s excellence in CYO basketball and MathCounts competition.

Some local residents negotiated for the purchase of historic stained glass windows. But not all of the windows were for sale.

“We can sell items that are nonreligious,” said worker Dale Bonenberger, a church employee. Bonenberger provided information and assistance to shoppers as he stood next to a large pile of religious artifacts, which, he said, would be headed to the new church on Pine Street.

According to church volunteers, religious items that aren’t intended for re-use at the new facility would be sent to the Diocese of Allentown where they’d possibly be sold at a future date, likely to other religious institutions.

Some of the religious statuary is intended for the new church while the remaining icons would go to the diocese, a volunteer said.

Still, the sale provided a rare chance to grab a piece of history.

“I’m buying the stained glass window that has a picture of a coal miner,” said Nathan Johns, who purchased other artifacts, as well. Johns and wife, the former Stephanie Gursky, own a large house several doors away in the history-rich neighborhood. They intend to keep the items local rather then see the artifacts leave town.

For many, the chance to purchase a part of one’s past was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

For instance, Walker Township resident Doug Springer was able to purchase the pew he always sat in during church service. Tamaqua resident Dan Reigel did the same.

Bonenberger said parties have expressed interest in eight large chandeliers which the church would prefer to sell as a set, if possible, since all of the fixtures match.

The future of the brick school building, former church and former rectory is uncertain.

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