Merkt Market in
                the Birkbeck Block

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History of Freeland, Pa.

What's on this page:

  • Announcement of Freeland Historical Society Open House
  • More views of the Refowich theatre, from Ed Merrick
  • Railroads that served the Freeland area, from Charlie Gallagher

Freeland Historical Society Open House - Sept. 15, 2018 - 1:00-4:00 p.m.

FHS Girls Basketball team, 1919-1920 The Freeland Historical Society will host its first Open House on Saturday, September 15 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. The Society has been meeting monthly since its formation in 2007, and they’ve chosen their Open House date to celebrate Freeland’s incorporation as a borough on September 11, 1876. This is a free event! Stop by and see a display of some of the memorabilia that the Society has collected. There will be a small sale of duplicate yearbooks and other items. Please come and experience some of the Freeland area’s history. The Society’s headquarters is in the Seniors Building at the corner of Washington and Chestnut Streets.

This photo from the Society shows the Freeland High School Girls Basketball Team, seated on the grounds of DCM, with the old St. John's Reformed Church in the background (before the brick church was built).

Featured Photos

Please also visit the News & announcements page to see the list of recent updates to the site.

More views of the Refowich theatre, from Ed Merrick

After I posted this, Ed sent me a number of corrections/additions, marked with ***.

Refowich Theatre Ed Merrick sent this photo showing the building in its early years. Notice that there is no marquee over the entrance! In the early 1920s Candyland, an ice cream parlor managed by George Sax, was in the corner space later occupied by Lenny Steward's Florist Shop, as listed in the 1921 city directory. We see that they sold candy, ice cream and Hire's root beer (according to Wikipedia, first created in 1876). There's a Hire's poster on the side of the building, along with two others that are hard to read. There is a sign lettered on the windows above the candy shop, but I can't read it. The center upstairs windows are lettered for an what I think is the Metropolitan Life Insurance company (lettering still there in a later photo), and there is lettering on the right upstairs windows but I can't read it. George Wise apparently had a business on the ground floor on the other side of the theatre entry area, although in directories his harness business is listed at other addresses and not this one. Can anyone tell us what the sign says that is fastened to the telephone pole in front of the building? And look at how cool the entrance to the theatre was! Movie posters and photos of the stars in glass-covered displays on either side, and there's the ticket booth. Wow. And there's some patriotic bunting hanging over the entrance, so maybe this was taken around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

*** Ed writes that those steps to the right of the ticket booth "did not go into the theater but led upstairs to the offices and also the projection booth, into which Stanley Potoski allowed me once. The entrance to the theater was to the left of the steps and had double doors, which opened to a short hallway usually lined with posters of coming attractions and which ended at the back of the theater. The end of the hallway had a set of stanchions across which a velvet rope could be fastened to hold back a crowd waiting for the next showing, and to the right was the refreshment stand."

Here's what it says in city directories from the 1920s about this building, and it shows there there were a number of rooms upstairs that were rented out for office space:
Refowich Theatre Building (1921 city directory) and (1928 city dir.); Novelty Cloak & Suit Store, Samuel Presel & Samuel Steiner; Thomas H. Mays, Physician (1921 city directory); Rooms 6-7, James F. Gallagher, physician, and Patrick H. Dunphy, dentist; rooms 4-5, Thomas H. Mays, physician, Prudential Insurance Co., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (John J. Gallagher, asst. supt.); Refowich Theatre and Refowich Theatre Co., Inc. (theatre managed by Clyde D. Klinger, 1921 city dir.) (1921 city directory) and (1928 city dir.) Candyland, George Sax, mgr., Centre corner Main (1921 city directory) [Note: Patrick H. Dunphy, dentist, was listed in Birkbeck Bldg. across the street in 1921 dir., but in the Refowich building in the 1928-1929 directory.]

And here's an interesting piece of information: Charlie Stumpf reported that in the 1890s, I. Refowich Men's Clothing and Tailor was in this building, as was Jacob's & Barasch, clothiers.

Refowich Theatre Another photo from Ed Merrick. Pinocchio in Outer Space was made in 1965. Ed was taking a lot of photographs in downtown Freeland area in 1966, so this photo might be from 1965 or 1966. On the side of the building we see a poster for the movie Lord Jim, another 1965 film. Lenny Steward's Florist Shop occupied the corner part of the building and we see a lovely display in the window - I'm not sure what was on the other side of the theatre entrance, looks like a mannequin in the window and an "N" above the windows. In previous decades there were various businesses and offices upstairs as well, but I don't know about the 1960s. I don't see any signs in the upstairs windows, although I do see some icicles. Freeland winters! What a beautiful building this was, though. The many decorative details on the exterior are so interesting, very ornate for our town. We were lucky to have this wonderful theatre for such a long time, and it's very good that the building has been repurposed as seniors' apartments rather than left to deteriorate and then torn down.

I see that in the 1920s Samuel Presel's & Samuel Steiner's Novelty Cloak and Suit Store was in the Refowich building. Maybe that was the source of the "N" above the windows on the business space to the right of the entrance in this photo from four decades later. In email with Charlie Gallagher, he suggested that maybe it could have been Lucy forte's Novelty Dress Store (531 Centre Street, next to the Refowich Theatre). It's also possible that the "N" was there for the earlier Novelty Cloak and Suit Store and then years later when Lucy Forte set up shop in that space, she selected a name for her shop that would use the "N" that was already on the windows, maybe even referencing the earlier Novelty name. ???

Refowich and Timony theatre ads Ed Merrick has these movie ads in a scrapbook! Thank goodness for people with scrapbook hobbies. Here we see ads from the Refowich and the Timony theatres for shows playing in Freeland in mid-December, 1929. Note that the top left ad says "all talking," as this was not long after sound was introduced into movies. Before that, they were all silent, with live music provided locally. Also note the "9 shopping days till Christmas" ad. The Timony was on South Street mid-block between Centre and Ridge. It would later become the Rialto Theatre, where my dad occasionally went to movies as a kid and where I did the same in the 1950s.

Refowich in 1939 or soon after Refowich in 1939 or soon after *** Ed says that the man in the photo at right was Irving Refowich and that these two photos were taken on  February 15, 1940. He wrote: "I don’t know if you will be able to read it from the photo, but the windows upstairs designate a Prudential office on the left and a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. office on the right. To the left  of the entrance downstairs is the Sugar Bowl, a soda fountain, candy, and sundries business, the name of whose owner I can’t remember. I think that might have been a hat shop to the right. The marquee reads: “To-nite $70 bonus” and the movie “Intermezzo.” The lobby cards on the left advertise a Charlie McCarthy movie and on the right the movie “Eternally Yours.” The hanging banners read “Cash BONUS every Thursday” and “Eternally Yours."

That's interesting about the Sugar Bowl, apparently the business that succeeded Candyland in that corner location.

Ed, thanks for these photos and information. More photos and information about the Ref and other theatres on the Entertainment page.

Railroads that serviced the Freeland area, by Charlie Gallagher

Charlie Gallagher has contributed a group of web pages about our local railroads, linked from the Transportation page.

Four railroads served the Freeland area in the late 1800s and for much of the 20th century. You can’t tell anymore, but at one time Freeland was a railroad town.

Until the 1970’s the railroad supplied Berger Lumber on Birkbeck Street.

LVRR SW9 locomotive on Carbon Street trestle

Lehigh Valley SW9 locomotive. Photograph courtesy Greg Gunshore.

Here is LV SW9 locomotive on the trestle that crossed Carbon Street in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The rail line made its way from the south end of town at the Freeland Freight Station (where the MMI Gymnasium is today), then Griffith’s Lumber, and ran north along Feussner Ford east of the Park and up to Ira Berger Lumber.

D. S. & S. #16 Drifton 1902

Photo courtesy of Charlie Gallagher, previously owned by great-grandfather Patrick J. Gallagher. DSandS-16-Drifton-1902w.jpg DS&S # 16, 2-8-0. One locomotive Class 10-28E (later Lehigh Valley #690). Baldwin Locomotive Works, Burnham, Williams & Company 1893.

Daniel Coxe and the D. S. & S. miniature locomotive #3

D. S. & S. Miniature Locomotive # 3 was the locomotive that Daniel Coxe was riding when he died is at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.

Please see Charlie's Railroads that served the Freeland area pages for much more.

Books on a shelf Newest updates to the site: Please visit the WHAT'S NEW! page for announcements and updates.

Gubi from St. Mary's
              Church Past Featured Photos: Here are links to three pages containing previously posted photos and information from the Featured Photos section of the home page: earliest postings, more recent ones, and the most recent ones. They are credited to the sources. Some of these have also been integrated into other parts of the site, while others are still waiting for that. Meanwhile, these past Featured Photos are always available via these links.

Merkt Market in
                the Birkbeck Block Note: Photo at top left of this page came from J. Zubach; identification from Gretchen Collins says that the business on the right in that photo was Merkt Confectionery, run by Charles and Lena Merkt. It was located in the Birkbeck Block on Centre and Main streets, and reputedly sold fabulous ice cream.

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Site contructed by C. Tancin, and last updated August 9, 2018.
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