Candace Dannaker | Bellefonte’s legacy at risk

November 2, 2013 

Candace Dannaker

In Bellefonte, fires have been frequent in the past decade.

Bellefonte has arrived at a crossroads. A decision has to be made whether to try and preserve at least one building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places that has been deemed structurally sound or to tear down all of these buildings and replace them with 21st century structures.

Fires are not new to Bellefonte or any other 200-year-old town in Pennsylvania.

The beautiful Brockerhoff House in Bellefonte is an example of a stone building that burned in the 1800s. Henry Brockerhoff hired Robert Cole to design the more beautiful structure that remains today.

Our homes and buildings that have survived over the years are the stories and history of the people who built them. If possible, we preserve them for that reason. If it is not possible, we build a new home or building that begins new stories of our lives.

During this journey of decision-making, there have been those who think it is time to write a new story and have been pursuing others who agree with them. Those who want to preserve one old story and are amenable to new stories have been doing everything in their power to save the Garman.

The argument for saving the Garman is that, because it is structurally sound, it should be saved and reused. Those who want to tear it down argue that the damage done and the mold make the building beyond repair.

Those who want to save the Garman have proposed reuse as an arts venue for education with classes, performance events and art presentations. They also propose that it be used as community gathering space. It would be financed by donations, grants and apartment rental.

At the very least, they say, if saved, it could be resold.

Those who argue against it cite the expensive building repair and maintenance costs. They also argue that Centre County already has sufficient arts venues and that the competition for grants and dollars already strains available resources.

The developer, Ara Kervandjian, has proposed that the money raised to save the Garman be added to his funding to preserve the facade. At issue is agreement by the donors of the funds on how the money should be used.

There is a seesaw of rational reasoning on both sides. Bellefonte Borough Council members will now make their decision. It will be a decision that will have lasting impact and will write their personal story in the history of Bellefonte.

My opinion is that the buildings and homes of Bellefonte have been deemed important enough to have most of the town placed on the National Register. That has become vital to the economic stability of this town.

These are precious resources. When possible, they must be saved. When lost, the structures that replace these buildings must meet the impressive standards of our past.

Henry Brockerhoff thought it was important; so should we. It is our legacy for the future.

Candace Dannaker is a former mayor of Bellefonte. Readers may write to her at dannaker13@aol.com.

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