BY CHRISTINE LEE
POTTSVILLE — While a construction crew has started restoring the historic Frank D. Yuengling Home, the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts is continuing to seek donations to cover its costs.
Work began last week on the west side of the 107-year-old mansion on Mahantongo Street, the organization’s longtime headquarters, with Heim Construction of Orwigsburg handling the restoration.
It involves removing and replacing rotten exterior wood, taking out and putting in new rubber roofing, checking the building’s structure, installing new trimming and putting in a trim metal to protect it. The wood comes from MRD Lumber, Bethel, and AD Moyer, Kutztown.
“That is the worst side because it gets hammered with the weather,” said Jim Buhay, a project manager for Heim working on the mansion, said.
Scaffolding is up along the side of the building facing South 15th Street to fix the dry rot and parapet, with new rubber already installed. Emily Ehlinger Kraft, the organization’s executive director, said the rubber makes the roof more durable. The work is expected to last two weeks.
It is part of a multi-phase restoration project of the mansion. The building’s exterior will be worked on in four phases, while each area inside the four-floor mansion will be done in individual phases. Additional work is planned on the carriage house and replacing windows. Kraft said the contractor’s lowest estimated cost for the entire project is $145,000.
Other restoration work includes sandblasting the fire escape stairs on the second floor, making the mansion compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, fixing the plumbing, repairing the stucco and front door, and painting the outside of the mansion. Kraft said making the repairs is a balancing act between taking care of a historic property and running a functioning arts center.
“You want to honor the past and embrace the potential behind what this could be,” she said.
Constructed in 1913 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion was the private home of the Yuengling family from 1913 to 1978. It was donated that year to Schuylkill County Council for the Arts by the family and hosts lessons in music and art, yoga classes, the Seedlings Preschool, a yearly Christkindlemarkt, and has space for private events and rentals. Kraft said she hopes to make an announcement in March about classes and events this year at the mansion.
Last summer, it was announced the organization would receive $50,000 from an anonymous donor to cover the immediate repairs, which they hope to match through public donations. As of Thursday, $16,000 has been raised, Kraft said.
Donations are still being accepted online at schuylkillartscouncil.com, or by scanning a QR code online and in flyers.
She said she hopes to double the amount raised to match the anonymous donation to apply for planning and construction matching grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The planning grant will help the organization look at its building and assess where it goes in the future, while the construction one supports projects to restore, rehabilitate and preserve structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Kraft said from the time she first stepped foot on the mansion’s grounds in an acting workshop as a teenager in the 1990s, she has fallen in love with the mansion and wants to make sure it’s available for future generations.
“This place means so much to me,” she said, adding that Augusta Yuengling Leininger visited the mansion last fall and was impressed that the organization was taking care to preserve the program.
“I want to keep it so that it’s a beautiful living dedication to what the Yuengling family has provided to this area,” she said. “I want it to be a place they can be proud of.”
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