Port Matilda man pledges $20,000 donation to help save Garman Theatre

Art Curtze has seen one donation create a snowball effect, yielding an outpouring of support for a cause.

He is hoping to do that for the Garman Theatre.

Curtze, of Port Matilda, has pledged $20,000 toward the cause of saving the Garman, and an additional $30,000 if it’s possible to save the facade of the Hotel Do De. He has never lived in Bellefonte, but he always had an affinity for saving historical landmarks.

“I very strongly feel that landmarks that are still in salvageable condition should be saved,” he said. “If you don’t do it, what of historic Bellefonte do you have left?”

The Garman has been ruled structurally sound after a September fire that gutted the Do De and damaged the theater. But State College developer Ara Kervandjian has proposed a borough-supported plan to knock down both buildings and create one new structure for workforce housing.

A hearing June 20 could decide the fate of the Garman.

In the meantime, the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association is attempting to drum up support for the effort to save the building and will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Courthouse Annex to explain its position. The group will not officially accept any monetary donations unless it is awarded the building.

President Keith Koch said a major selling point will be a covenant attached to the building that says it should never be demolished if it is structurally sound.

Koch said that donations from Curtze and others will go a long way toward helping to restore the landmark if it is awarded to the group.

“There are a number of people who seem to be quite interested in it, and I think it would help revitalize downtown Bellefonte,” he said.

Curtze added that with landmarks like the Bush House being lost, there needs to be more efforts to help preserve what is left of Bellefonte’s history.

He spent a portion of his childhood in Europe and said Europeans are more concerned with maintaining a link with cultural roots.

“Every time I go there, I stand in front of those buildings and look at them and shake my head,” he said.

Kervandjian has said he will not make additional comment about any other plans for the Garman until after the hearing has been resolved.