Spotlight: Three new displays at Lansford museum document bygone days
Century-old tools and molds from mining operations in Lansford are part of the museum’s collection. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
Museum volunteer Bruce Markovich explains coal mining tools and equipment.
A bag that would have been used for retail sales of Anthracite coal.
The museum includes artifacts from the area’s former movie theaters.
This uniform from a local fire company dates back to the 1910s.
Bruce Markovich talks about one of the museum’s new displays featuring the My Place restaurant.
The museum includes a vast collection of memorabilia showing the town’s anthracite mining heritage.
Artifacts from the My Place restaurant.
Real lanes and pins from one of four bowling alleys that once stood in Lansford.
Lansford Borough was once such a bustling hub for entertainment, with four bowling alleys and four movie theaters.
While the businesses over the years closed their doors, today’s residents can still learn about them at the Lansford Historical Society Museum.
The museum recently added three new permanent displays celebrating different bygone institutions in the coal town.
And with additional hours through the end of the year on Fridays as well as Thursdays, there are more opportunities for families to visit the extensive collection documenting the history of Lansford.
“There’s always something new. It’s always changing,” said Bruce Markovich, a museum volunteer.
The museum has displays documenting coal mining life, as well as the schools, churches and businesses that made up daily life in Lansford for over 100 years.
This year, they’ve put on display artifacts from the My Place restaurant, Johnny’s bowling alley and a mining blacksmith shop.
Markovich restores and builds many of the displays in his home, spending numerous hours stripping paint and restoring them to their original condition.
Much of the artifacts in the museum are donated by coal region residents. Mike Lukac and his wife, Sue, dropped by the museum recently to drop off some items they had been saving to donate. Lukac, who once taught a local history class at Panther Valley which encouraged students to preserve the history of the area, said the museum is doing a great job preserving Lansford’s history.
“Somebody has to do something like this because if you keep it at home, you’re going to sell the house someday and who knows what will happen,” he said.
Lansford residents once had more coal mining memorabilia than they knew what to do with, so naturally, they got rid of it. But as the items have become more scarce, the prices have gone up. Markovich recalled how he and his friends were paid to clean up thousands of coal bags before the mine’s bag mill was demolished.
“We used to burn them and cook hot dogs over them,” he said.
Each of the three new displays at the museum are made up of local artifacts, and celebrate well-known landmarks.
My Place, which is now Coal Miners Bar & Grill, was a favorite hangout among young residents of Lansford in the postwar years. When the new owners took over they donated three original stools that would have surrounded the counter at My Place. Markovich painstakingly restored them to their original finish.
“On a Friday night in Lansford, the three biggest places to be if you were a kid, would have been the high school, the palace and My Place — growing up in the ’40s through the ’50s,” Markovich said.
Next to the My Place display sits pins and an original piece of a lane from Johnny’s bowling alley, which was located on Center Street. The business closed in 1996 and eventually became a parking lot. But Markovich salvaged the wood from the lanes. Most of it was used to build the bar in the Palace Restaurant, built inside a former theater which was ultimately demolished last year.
“It was one of four bowling alleys in town. We had four movie theaters and four bowling alleys in town,” Markovich said.
The most visually striking of the new displays is centered around a massive photo of Lansford when it was home to the massive Number 6 Coal breaker.
The photo shows how the breaker dominated the skyline of the borough, standing 25 feet higher than St. Michael’s Church. A painting on display at the museum refers to the two buildings as the two cathedrals of Lansford.
In its heyday, the number 6 breaker processed enough coal each week to fill the Panther Valley stadium with a layer of coal 30 feet deep. It employed 785 people at one time, and cost the equivalent of $11 million in today’s dollars to build.
The photo originally hung in Edgemont Lodge when it served as a retreat for executives of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co. It was moved to the AMVETS lodge, and now it sits in the museum.
“There’s such a wealth of information on this picture,” Markovich said.
The display also includes a real 1870s work bench that would have been used to make molds to forge parts for coal cars. Like the stools from My Place, it too was once covered in layers of paint from over the years before Markovich revealed the original finish.
The displays show the society’s dedication to preserving the history of the borough.
The Lansford Historical Society Museum is open 6-8 p.m. Thursdays year-round. From now through the end of the year, they are also open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. as Fridays in Lansford.