Restored Stock House among historic preservation award winners

By - Last modified: September 25, 2013 at 10:27 AM

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Contributed photo: The Stock House at SteelStacks in Bethlehem will receive the industrial construction project award at a luncheon Friday at The Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown.
Contributed photo: The Stock House at SteelStacks in Bethlehem will receive the industrial construction project award at a luncheon Friday at The Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown.

A design team from USA Architects in Easton is among four Greater Lehigh Valley winners out of 21 annual statewide Preservation Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards.

The Stock House at SteelStacks in Bethlehem will receive the industrial construction project award at a luncheon Friday at The Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown.

According to Preservation Pennsylvania, over the past 10 years the Bethlehem Steel Complex, the largest brown field in the nation, has been transformed into a thriving cultural event space. The Stock House, the only remaining building from the original 1863 construction, now has been rehabilitated into a regional visitor center, and the restoration has transformed the end of era for Bethlehem into a celebration of art and music, enriching the quality of life in the region.

"It's the original building on the Bethlehem Steel campus that goes back to, I believe, 1865," Paul Swartz, senior partner at USA Architects, said this morning. "It stored a lot of the raw materials that were used in the blast furnaces. So, in order to restore it, the city of Bethlehem had the foresight that they wanted to do it in the true historic restoration."

According to Swartz, that meant it had to follow national guidelines for restoring historic structures.

"We literally gutted the entire structure, repointed and replaced a lot of the stone," Swartz said. "We took out all of the existing windows and replicated them as they were originally."

The project included a small addition to the back, which allows ArtsQuest access to the second level, where the organization that runs Musikfest now has office space. Also, the visitor center on the first floor is designed to be "a portal to the Lehigh Valley," where patrons can plan a self-guided tour, he said.

According to Swartz, the project cost about $5 million and took about a year to complete.

"We're getting the awards as the architects, but the city of Bethlehem gets the credit because they gave us the direction to really restore this building back to its original state," he said.

According to Preservation Pennsylvania, also in the Greater Lehigh Valley:

• The Ralph Modjeski Award for Excellence in Transportation Design, Preservation and Archaeology will go to Franklin Street Station in Reading. The station was dedicated in 1930, closed in 1981 and in 1999 the vacant and deteriorating building was listed in Pennsylvania At Risk. The Berks Area Regional Transit Authority acquired the property to adapt it for passenger buses and worked to restore many of its historic features. Now in use as a bus terminal, the rehabilitation demonstrates that it is possible to both improve and preserve transportation infrastructures.

• The Sustainability in Historic Preservation Award will go to the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton. In an effort to make the recently renovated courthouse more green and energy efficient, a window rehabilitation project achieved the goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the building while returning it to its 1860s appearance.

• An initiative award for community involvement will go to the Heritage Mural Education Project in Bangor for bringing new life to historical communities. In summer 2012, the borough of Bangor and the owner of the Bangor Trust Building partnered with local funding organizations to produce the first Heritage Mural, a collaborative effort with the local design committee, the lead artist and a curator from the Slate Belt Heritage Center.

The project goal was to bring the community of Bangor together, generating interest in the town's shared heritage and industrial legacy while encouraging the arts.

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