His­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety en­joy­ing new digs

Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Jar­reau Free­man

jfree­man@mont­gomerynews.com When one takes the wind­ing stair­case WR WKH sHFRnG flRRU RI $OYHUWKRUSH 0DnRU there is a guar­an­tee you will be trans­ported back in time. Not be­cause you are in a his­tor­i­cal build­ing, but be­cause re­sources to the past are within reach once you en­ter the space of the Old vork Road His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Founded in 1936 in a room on the sec­ond flRRU RI WKH -Hnk­in­town Li­brary, the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety has es­tab­lished a col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs, prop­erty at­lases, ge­nealog­i­cal records, news­pa­pers, books, manuscripts, art­work and many other finGLnJs IRU FRP­mu­nity re­search that fo­cuses on Abing­ton, Chel­tenham, Lower Moreland and Up­per Moreland town­ships and Bryn Athyn, Hat­boro, Jenk­in­town and Rock­ledge bor­oughs.

In Fe­bru­ary, the so­ci­ety moved its head­quar­ters from the base­ment of the Jenk­in­town Li­brary — a lo­ca­tion it moved to in the early 1990s — to Alver­thorpe Manor, a build­ing it shares with the Abing­ton Town­ship Parks and Recre­ation Bureau, the Abing­ton Art Cen­ter and the Chabad Lubav­itch Jewish Cen­ter.

The move came af­ter the Jenk­in­town Li­brary Board de­cided to forgo the re­newal of the so­ci­ety’s lease, said his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety Pres­i­dent David Row­land dur­ing an in­ter­view at the manor March 13.

“The li­brary board felt the space was not suit­able to be rented,” he said. “We had a year to be out of the build­ing. They told us in Jan­uary 2012 and we had to be out by De­cem­ber.”

$ SRUWLRn RI WKH PDnRU’s sHFRnG flRRU, which the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety now oc­cu­pies, had been va­cant for about two years af­ter the former ten­ant, Set­tle­ment Mu­sic School, re­lo­cated to Wil­low Grove.

“:KHn wH fiUsW ORRNHG DW WKH sSDFH DW the be­gin­ning of last year, the price was not right, there were a lot of peo­ple in­ter­ested in the space and we were low in the peck­ing or­der,” Row­land said.

How­ever, af­ter some time passed, pre- vi­ous ap­pli­cants fell through and the rent was rene­go­ti­ated, he said.

“By WKH HnG RI WKH suPPHU, WKLnJs JRW fi­nal­ized so we could move in,” he said.

Although the rent is twice what the so­ci­ety was paying at the Jenk­in­town Li­brary, Row­land said the so­ci­ety looked at sev­eral sites in Jenk­in­town and Abing­ton be­fore ap­ply­ing for a lease with the town­ship, which owns the manor.

“[The manor] was the most sta­ble [lo­ca­tion] in terms of the land­lord,” he said. “We KDYH D fiYH-yHDU FRn­tract here. Most com­mer­cial leases are for a year, and given all the stuff we have and how KDUG LW Ls WR finG sSDFH, we couldn’t ex­pose the so­ci­ety to be­ing kicked around in com­mer­cial space. With a long lease here, and an au­to­matic re­newal un­less ei­ther party says no, hopefully we will be here for a while.”

Be­fore the so­ci­ety moved in, it was able to ren­o­vate the space af­ter rais­ing more than $64,000. Some of the funds went to re­pair­ing lights, rewiring the space for phone and com­puter use and in­stalling an air cool­ing sys­tem and car­pet­ing, as well as paint­ing. In ad­di­tion to re­pairs, the so­ci­ety pur­chased new bookFDsHs, fiOLnJ FDELnHWs DnG RWKHU suSSOLHs LW needed, Row­land said.

Now set­tled in the new space, which is about 1,000 square feet, the so­ci­ety is open to the pub­lic Mon­days from 7 to 9 p.m., Tues­days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wed­nes­days from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also, com­mu­nity mem­bers are wel­come to par­tic­i­pate in the spring lec­ture se­ries held on Wed­nes­day, April 10 and May 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the par­ish house of the Church of Our Sav­ior at Old vork and Homestead roads.

The his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety also serves as a repos­i­tory for old records, pho­to­graphs, year­books, maps or any­thing that peo­ple want to do­nate that doc­u­ments the past.

“I think any sort of his­tory gives peo­ple a sense of who they are and where they are,” Row­land said. “As peo­ple un­der­stand that, it strength­ens their bonds to the com­mu­nity in which they live.”

To learn more about the Old vork Road His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety visit www.oyrhs.org.

Mont­gomery Me­dia staff photo / SCOTT RO­MAN

Old York Road His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent David Row­land and his staff en­joy their new digs at Alver­thorpe Manor.

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