Members of Girl Scouts Troop 40024 “don’t do projects very small,” said co-leader Rachelle Weiser. Their latest endeavor, which earned the girls a Silver Award, was a hefty renovation of one of the last active Little Houses in the United States.
The Bellefonte Borough is home to one of 11 active Little Houses in the country. Built in the 1930s, the houses aimed to teach girls about domestic life. The Bellefonte house — located at 115 E. Howard St. — now serves as a meeting place for Girl Scout troops in the Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Bald Eagle Area school districts. But a former carriage house that saw its last renovation in the 1960s, Weiser said it was in need of some updates.
After much deliberation, ninth grade scouts Abby Weiser, Kara Leonori, Megan Walters, Gabby Dietrich, Haley Herr and Libby Fike decided renovating the house would benefit troops and the local community as a whole.
“The Little House is one of the places girls are first introduced to girl scouting, learning valuable life and social skills, as well as being exposed to new adventures that may not normally be available to them,” Weiser said. “This is one of the reasons why Troop 40024 chose this project. They wanted the building to excite girls about being Girl Scouts through the preservation of the past as well as setting goals for the future and getting their name on the wall.”
Prior to the renovation, the interior walls were painted green and purple with hand prints for flare. Storage closets weren’t easy to navigate, and there was limited space to display projects, photos and awards.
“The project began in July of 2019 with a heavy clean out of old materials that were no longer needed,” Weiser said. “After that was all done, over the next two months, demolition, repair and plumbing began as well as painting — lots of painting.”
The girls worked to expand the storage room and bathroom — work that required the demolition of walls and new flooring. The girls also freshened up the kitchen, updated the classroom and living room and added an awards wall with space to hold ceremonies in the event of inclement weather.
“They put in over 100 hours just themselves,” Weiser said. “They learned how to do flooring, scrape carpet and learned about electric work throughout the project.”
To finish, the girls added “touches of Savannah” — the birthplace of the Girl Scouts — by incorporating iron accents into the decor and left one wall blank to showcase “outstanding leaders.”
The house, Weiser said, isn’t just used for meetings. The Girl Scouts will use the space to hold ceremonies, STEM programs, presentations, guest speakers and store camping and event supplies.
“It’s going to benefit more than just scouting,” Weiser said.” “We want the Girl Scouts to have a home that they can feel comfortable in and feel like they can accomplish anything.”
Without the help of the local businesses, community organizations and co-leader Deb Leonori, Weiser said the project wouldn’t have been such a success. The girls worked with Friends of the Bellefonte Little House, a nonprofit that helps manage the house, and the Centre County Library and Historical Museum to brainstorm what needed to be updated.
“In addition to providing young adults with the opportunity to manage this renovation project from start to finish, this renovation is an investment in the Little House, which is one of just a handful of Little Houses that still exist in the United States,” said Centre County Library and Historical Museum Administrative Director Robbin Degeratu. “By investing in this property, the Girl Scouts draw attention to the importance of preserving our shared heritage which includes buildings like the Little House, so that it can be enjoyed by community members for generations to come.”
To celebrate the project’s completion and its sponsors, an open house will be held at noon on Saturday at the Little House.