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History of Freeland, Pa.
Birkbeck building

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Mining & Mechanical Institute in Birkbeck building This is the building on the northwest corner of Centre and Main Streets, originally referred to as  the Birkbeck block. For a few years an upper floor was the home of the Mining & Mechanical Institute (MMI). MMI was first opened in Drifton in 1879. After a devastating fire in 1888, the school reopened in temporary quarters in Freeland, first in the Passarella building and then in the Birkbeck Block on Centre and Main streets, shown here in a photo courtesy of the Standard Speaker. A new MMI building was completed in late 1902, so this photo predates MMI's moving into its new home on south Centre Street. The Birkbeck building is still there. It was built for Birkbeck's hardware store, and in the 1950s-1960s the first floor was the Western Auto Store. Photo courtesy of the Standard Speaker.

The Birkbeck building In 2007, with Tom Landers’ permission and assistance, I scanned this photo along with a group of others that were stored in the YMCA basement. Joe Flanagan tells me that most of these photos have now been given to the Freeland Historical Society. We enjoy these views of the Birkbeck building shown  at left and below courtesy of Tom Landers, Joe Flanagan and the Freeland Historical Society.

This photo had previously been published in the Freeland Suburban PennySaver in 1963, but the quality of the image was poor. Here is a fresh scan at a higher resolution.

I don't know what year this photo was taken or what the occasion was, but the building is really decked out with banners and flags. I'm guessing that it was taken in the first decade of the 20th century, perhaps around the time of the Pearl Jubilee or maybe even during that celebration, but I don't really know. Guesses are welcome!

The Birkbeck building, photo detail The Birkbeck building, photo detail The Birkbeck building, photo detail

Above, left to right: the first floor, the second floor, the second and third floors. The views of the upper floors shows that attorney Charles Orion Stroh had a second floor corner office, and at present I'm not sure what business(es) occupied the other space on that floor at the time of this photo. I can’t read the signs on the right-hand windows, but it looks like an insurance company, possibly the Prudential Insurance Company of America? I’ll try to confirm or correct that later. The third floor held Dr. Nixon Maley’s dental office and some club rooms; the Eagles met there.

Top of Birkbeck building
A different photo courtesy of Charlie Gallagher showed the lettering on the top front of the building: “Birkbeck 1883”. That is hidden by a banner in the photo scanned at the YMCA. Later that evidence of when and for whom the building was made was removed, and “K of C” was put there in its place, for Knights of Columbus. The rest of this photo and a similar view will be part of a Birkbeck building webpage (in progress).

The Birkbeck building, photo detail

William Birkbeck’s hardware store held pride of place on the first floor on the corner. In 1895 he advertised hardware, paints, oils, glass, plumbing, heating and ventilating, roofing and spouting, stoves, heaters and ranges. It looks like he had a very eye-catching window display! In this photo you can also see a couple of the buildings across Main Street.

The Birkbeck building, photo detail

Between stores on either side of the first floor is a large door leading to the stairs for the upper floors. More of the hardware store window display is shown, and a welcome banner for the Fraternal Order of Eagles hangs over the central doorway. Signs to the right of the central doorway advertise Dr. Maley’s office, possibly Philadelphia One Price Clothing (Samuel Senie, manager), and other tenants. For a time Michael Merkt had his confectionery here in a storefront of the first floor, including when the photo was taken.

The Birkbeck building, photo detail Bressler Bank Roll cigar tin Here we see Michael Merkt’s confectionery. The sign in the left-hand window advertises ice cream, which he made on the premises, along with a wide variety of candies. The banner across the front advertises Ice Cream & Soda Water. There is a “Welcome” banner over the door, and in front is parked his horse-drawn wagon, on the side of which is an advertisement (faint in this photo) for Bressler’s Bank Roll cigars. Notice that even the horse is dressed up for the occasion!

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