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History of Freeland, Pa.
Donop's Hall

What's on this page:
  • Freeland's first town hall / borough building - Ridge and Walnut streets
  • Freeland's second town hall / borough building - location unknown
  • Freeland's third town hall / borough building - Centre and Walnut streets
  • Freeland's fourth town hall / borough building - Fern street
On related pages:

In 1890s-early 1900s newspapers, many events were advertised and described taking place at Donop's Hall. Seemingly conflicting information from 1873 and 1895 maps seem to show the building in two different locations.

TOWN HALL #1: A town hall had been built or commissioned to be built by August and/or Margaretta Donop and was shown on the 1873 atlas map as being on the left side of Ridge street about 2/3 up the block from Front street. (Of course we don’t know if there was an actual building there when the map was made or whether it was just planned or under construction at the time.)

Town hall shown on 1873 Freehold map Munsell in 1880 reported that “The town hall, on Ridge street between Front and Walnut, was built by Mrs. Donop in 1875.” It’s shown on the 1873 map (cropped detail at left). In Charles Stumpf’s Freeland book, p. 7: “In 1874 … a town hall was erected on Ridge Street, between Front and Walnut.” He also describes on p. 7 the meeting about changing the name of Freehold that was held at that town hall in 1876. There is an 1883 article mentioning a literary and musical event at “Mrs. Donop’s Hall” (August Donop died in 1881.)

Vacant Donop’s Hall in 1895 There are newspaper articles about dances, political rallies and other large events at Donop’s Hall in the late 1880s and early 1990s. In 1895 the Council was negotiating with a Mr. Cowan to buy the now vacant Donop’s Hall and at first they wanted to store fire hoses in it. By the time of the 1895 Sanborn map there is an empty lot shown at the approximate position of the first town hall as shown on the 1873 map, and there is a large vacant building (not a home) standing on the corner across the street from the Bethel Baptist Church. That is the building that I believe was Donop’s Hall in the late 1880s - early 1890s.

Part of an 1906 clipping about Freeland's history Ed Merrick came to the rescue with a partial clipping from the Hazleton Sentinel dated August 20, 1906, a month before the Pearl Jubilee. Here is a piece of the article, which detailed some of the history of Freeland, including this: "The first town hall was built on the corner of Ridge and Walnut streets in 1875 by August Donop." Thank you to whoever wrote that article all those years ago, and thank you, Ed! Although it still doesn't completely confirm the date, the article was written when existence and location of the town hall was still within peoples' memory at that time.

Church directory, October 1892  Church directory, October 1892 A 10-3-1892 list of church services shows that two sets of services were taking place at the same time on Sunday at two locations on corners of Ridge and Walnut: for the Bethel Baptist congregation at their newly built church, and for the Zion Welsh Baptist congregation at “Donop’s Hall, Walnut and Ridge”, because their church on Fern street was still under construction. This vacant building across from Bethel Baptist Church was still on the Sanborn map for 1900, gone by 1905, still an empty lot in 1912, and then a double home was there on the 1923 map.

Former location of Donop’s Hall Here at right is my photo of the lot where this building had been located. I posted a question about this site to the Freeland facebook groups. Darlene Miller and Shawn Carr found and shared several late 1890s / early 1900s newspaper clippings referring to Donop’s Hall. Regarding what happened to the dwelling that was built on the site after the hall was torn down, Mark Whitmer commented: “Double two story house purchased by the church torn down late 60s with usable wood parted out.” Also, Ed Merrick kindly did more research in the newspaper archives and shared a number of clippings about the hall.

TOWN HALL / BOROUGH BUILDING #2: The first town hall was apparently replaced by a new one in 1884.

Charles Stumpf book, p. 7: “At the second meeting of the Council in 1876 steps were taken to provide for a town 'lock-up' for those who did not abide by the law. It was built at the intersection of Pine and Johnson streets and became known as 'Fort McNelis' in honor of its first occupant. The lock-up was used until 1884 when the Borough Building was erected containing a council room and jail.” It seems to have been an interim borough building used between 1884 and 1900 when the new one on Centre and Walnut came into use, but it doesn’t seem to have been on the site of the building on Ridge and Walnut because that labeled as a vacant building on the 1895 map. I guess it’s possible that town hall #2 could have been built on the site of Fort McNelis at Pine and Johnson? There’s nothing shown by 1895 there on the map, unless one of the small 2-story buildings on the SW or SE corners was the lockup that they stopped using after 1884. WHERE WAS THAT 1884 BOROUGH BUILDING that Charlie Stumpf referred to?

TOWN HALL / BOROUGH BUILDING #3: In Charles Stumpf Freeland book, p. 15: “Land for the Freeland Municipal Building was donated by the Freeland Chapter of the Knights of Labor. Construction began in August 1899. The first session of the Freeland Borough Council in the new council rooms was held on Monday, December 10, 1900.” That’s the familiar red brick Borough Building in use throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

TOWN HALL / BOROUGH BUILDING #4: The current borough building is on Fern street between South and Main streets, in the building that had been built some years ago by St. John Nepomucene Church for a community hall. A popular weekly bingo game was held there for some years. The building stands on what had been the site of the Freeland Brewery.

Two questions:

When was that building built at Ridge and Walnut streets?

Where was the 1884 new municipal building located?

Thank you to Ed Merrick, Darlene Miller, Shawn Carr, Mark Whitmer, Charlie Gallagher for help with thinking about this. Also to Ed Merrick for 1906 clipping, and of course to Charlie Stumpf for his research.

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