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Historical Society Awarded $100,000 Grant for Restoration Work on Centre Furnace Mansion

by on September 10, 2020 5:30 PM

The Centre County Historical Society has been awarded a $100,000 state grant to assist with critical restoration and repair work for Centre Furnace Mansion.

The grant was one of 52 statewide announced this week by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission from its Keystone Historic Preservation grant program.

Mary Sorensen, CCHS executive director, said the grant will support replacement and repair of the mansion's 33-year-old cedar roof and restoration of its attached porches.

“We are thrilled and thankful to the PHMC and the Commonwealth for this grant," Sorensen said. "It enables CCHS to move forward with critical repairs on the Centre Furnace Mansion to ensure its preservation, history and sense of place at the gateway of State College and Penn State."

Centre Furnace Mansion, 1001 E. College Ave. serves as a historic house museum and CCHS headquarters. It represents two key developmental milestones in the Centre Region's history: the 18th century origins of the iron making industry and the 19th century founding of Penn State.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion was formerly the residence of Centre Furnace ironmasters, including Moses Thompson, who in 1855 with his business partner donated 200 acres of adjacent land for what would become Penn State.

“This grant will help preserve what I consider the most historically significant structure in the county," CCHS President Bob Hazelton said in a  statement. "And it is not just a structure; it is a beautiful building in a beautiful setting. In these times of high rises and an ever- changing landscape just up the road in State College, the Mansion and the grounds anchor us as to where we came from and the beginnings of Penn State.”

The grant requires a $100,000 match. CCHS has already secured $31,000 with private donations and a $6,000 Tourism Grant from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau and Centre County commissioners.

Alan Popovich, of APArchitects and a CCHS Board of Governors member, is contributing his professional services to the project. Popovich has an extensive background in historic preservation and has worked on numerous historic sites in Centre County and elsewhere.

“Given these challenging times that all non-profits are being confronted with, we are very excited to have been selected for this preservation grant, and sincerely grateful to the PHMC and the Commonwealth for their recognition of the value and significance of the Centre Furnace Mansion as an historic and cultural landmark for the Centre Region,” Popovich said in a statement.

Roofing consultant William Marcum, vice president of Martech Associates, Inc., also brings decades of experience in working with roof projects on historic structures. He has provided his professional services to assess the mansion’s roof condition and prepare repair and replacement documents. 

Sorensen said the project's overall budget is $240,000 and work is expected to be completed in October 2022.

PHMC announced this week $2.6 million in Keystone Historic Preservation grants to projects in 24 counties. The program receives funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, which is supported annually from a portion of the state realty transfer tax revenue. Grants are provided "to support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and the revitalization of communities."

Waterline Repairs

Separate from the grant project, CCHS is seeking some additional community help in completing some emergency repairs that arose over the summer.

Nearly 300 feet of old water line outside of the mansion needed to be replaced after deteriorating and leaking thousands of gallons of water. CCHS started a GoFundMe campaign to help with the repair costs and community members rose to the challenge, surpassing the initial $12,000 goal.

The new waterline has been installed, but brick walkway replacement and lawn restoration are still needed. The scope and cost of the project has exceeded original estimates. Sorensen said excavators encountered a large amount of limestone that required extra time and equipment.

Walkway replacement is just getting underway, and CCHS has raised the GoFundMe goal to $19,000 to cover the total cost of all the repairs. To donate, go here.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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