By Kaylee Lindenmuth
A Kutztown borough landmark, now owned by the Kutztown Area Historical Society, is celebrating its quasquicentennial, or 125 anniversary. On Sept. 16, the society held an event to celebrate.
The Public School Building, located at Normal Avenue and Whiteoak Street, was built in 1892 and served as a public school until the 1970s, when it was sold by the Kutztown Area School District to the historical society.
“It was the public school building in Kutztown; this is where all the kids came to school,” said Craig Koller, chairman of the historical society’s Ways and Means Committee. “When the elementary school and the high school were built, this was part of the high school. It was called the ‘annex’ and in 1977, with new fire code laws, both buildings were deemed unsafe or unfit to be used as schools.”
According to Koller, following the closure of the school, the historical society raised $8,000 in order to acquire and preserve the building.
“The historical society was formed to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976. When that was over, they found a new cause and that was this building. They got together, raised money to purchase it and to preserve and restore it, so that has been a big focus of the historical society since then,” Koller said.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we have some very dedicated volunteers, who give labor, time and money to help preserve this building, and it’s still a work-in-progress. It’s an old Victorian building, so there’s always something to do.”
According to Koller, the historical society continues to make improvements to the building, which is one of 135 properties and districts in Berks County listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as the society’s museum and headquarters. A brick walkway and memorial park was added to the outside of the building to commemorate the borough’s Sesquicentennial in 2015.
“Moving forward, there are still things the historical society would like to do. We’re always collecting local artifacts, to celebrate the history of the town… we have our holiday festival coming up on November 11, that’s our big fundraiser every year,” Koller said. “We have a big library that people use for research, we provide guidance to local entities… so we’re really a resource to a lot of government entities and private entities, we get private people all the time asking for information about their families and things like that.”
The society’s event featured a morning brunch, music performed by Kutztown Area High School students, free hot dogs provided by Mad Dog’s, cake and tours of the building.
Moving forward, the society looks to continue to pursue its mission of preserving local history and its 125-year-old building.
“If we don’t preserve our history, it’s going to be lost, and I think that would be a major disservice to the folks that follow us,” said Sheila Fulton, president of the Historical Society.