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of Freeland, Pa.
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From Peter Timony’s son Daniel Timony’s obituary (January 21, 1956): “… His father was active in business enterprises in the North Side town over 50 years ago, and also had mercantile and real estate interests in this city and McAdoo during the same period. The elder Timony built Timony Hall which was the home of Freeland Penn State League basketball prior to the World War One. It later became the Timony theatre and is now the Rialto theatre. …” [The Rialto Theater is shown at top left.]
The building of Timony Hall
This is a picture of the decorations for a Tigers Club Ball at Timony Hall in 1915. Near the end of his life Peter Timony (1838-1911) had a dance hall built on South street near Centre street (it would later become the Rialto theater). In the Panorama book Freeland, Charles Stumpf wrote (p. 20-21): “Pete Timony died on December 9, 1911. A native of Ireland he came to the U.S. at an early age and went to work in the mines where he lost a leg in an accident. Timony purchased the site of a former shoemaker shop and candy store at 815 South Street and built what was to become known as Timony Hall. It served the community in various capacities. When Mr. Timony died at the age of 73, plans were announced by his heirs for the erection of a new larger amusement hall, also to bear his name.” The dance hall opened in 1912, and 9 years later it was renovated by his heirs to become a theater. Thank you to John “Zeke” Zurko for these three images of cards and programs distributed on the opening night of the original dance hall. The building was still brand new and the management wouldn’t allow the Tigers to decorate the interior for the dance.
An article in the Freeland Tribune from April 20, 1896 includes this: “A brick storeroom and dwelling will be erected by Peter Timony to take the place of the small frame building on the lot adjoining the Valley Hotel.” I’m not sure he ever built those. Here are Sanborn Fire Insurance map views from 1895, 1905 and 1912 showing the Timony site (it was 505-506 South street back then, later renumbered 815 South street). The large lot where Timony Hall would be built contained a house with a smaller, adjoining building on its left, and a small outbuilding on the east side of the same lot, behind the saloon (Valley Hotel) and dry goods store on the corner. It seems to me that the “former shoemaker shop and candy store” may have been in the house and adjoining building. On the 1912 map the house and the outbuilding are gone, replaced with the new, comparatively huge Timony building, labeled “Dance Hall, from plans”. On the 1923 map it was labeled “Movies.”
Charlie Stumpf added that “the second Timony Hall was built on South Street in 1920.” Peter Timony had the first Timony Hall built as a dance hall. He died in 1911. The building wasn’t on the 1905 map. The 1912 map labeled it “Dance Hall, from plans.” The grand opening ball at the Timony dance hall was held on November 15, 1912. Although Peter Timony might have seen his dance hall close to being finished before he died, sadly he did not live to see the opening ball. Nearly a decade later, the newspaper reporting shows that his heirs didn't build a new hall, they renovated the old one.
The 1921-1922 Freeland directory lists Timony Hall at 185 [typo for 815] South Street; the 1928-1929 directory lists Timony Theatre at 815 South Street, John J. McGarey, mgr.
When the hall was converted to a theater in 1921, one of the many changes made was that they had to lower the floor, about which Daniel Timony said “that the floor space in the dress circle will seat 700 people.” That may have ended up being 500, as Charlie Stumpf wrote. Extensive renovations were done again to the Timony playhouse when the Refowich brothers bought it in 1929-1930 and reopened it as The Strand theater. In 1933 a boxing match was held there, when in October 1933 Johnny Graycar of Eckley beat Johnny Tillman of Hazleton. Those matches were later moved to the Public Park pavilion, and in 1937 the theater was again reopened after renovation as The Rialto. An April 10, 1933 newspaper notice said that “Timony Hall, at Freeland, which has been used for dancing and basket ball games will be converted into a garage.” That does not seem to have happened, although perhaps new information will emerge to explain that notice. Thank you to Ed Merrick for his extensive research and for clippings, including these two.
Overview of Timony Hall’s use in the Penn State Basket Ball League games (from Ed Merrick)
Ed Merrick sent this email back when he was doing research for this and related stories:
In researching Timony Hall, I unearthed another fascinating story about the robust semi-professional sports scene in Northeastern Pennsylania at the time. Freeland fielded a powerhouse team in the Penn State Basket Ball League for the 1916-1917 season. The league was one of many sport franchise leagues in the state at the time. They were self-governing entities. What made Freeland stand out was that it didn't have the money to hire players statewide, as, for instance, the Wilkes-Barre Barons did, and so it had to go with strictly homegrown talent. I didn't find out who owned the Freeland franchise.
Freeland also had a hard time gaining entry because of the small size of Timony Hall, which would limit the take for the owners. In addition, the Freeland team had an extra advantage on its home court because a canvas cover was put down to protect the dance floor, and the canvas deadened the ball for dribbling, for which the Freeland team knew to adjust. Because of the hall's limited seating, fans would start lining up at the box office at 4 oclock for the game at 8:30. Some sort of cage was put up to separate the court from the fans.
One story tells of a semifinal game between Freeland and Wilkes-Barre at the W-B Armory. Additional cars had to be added for the train service from Freeland, and even then passengers were jammed in. Freeland lost 24-26, and the Barons went on to win the title against Providence. I have no idea where Providence was.
The rivalries were intense, and the refereeing came under great scrutiny. The outrage at the calls during one game induced the league to import a referee from Brooklyn for one game. The guy arrived a day early and listened anonymously at a bar the night before the game to the antagonism toward referees in general. During the game, when he called a foul on a Freeland player, the booing was so intense, that he increased the foul to two shots, and, listening to that reaction, pushed it up to three. (I have no idea what the rules were.) The Wilkes-Barre player made two of the three, and Freeland lost by two points.
I will include the league stories with the Timony stories, and you can extract what you wish for the Timony file. Maybe you can also use the league stories on your sports pages. They are incredible yarns about the incredible little burg we grew up in.
Thank you, Ed! Use links at top of page to visit related pages. Many thanks to Ed Merrick, Charlie Stumpf, John “Zeke” Zurko for research and images. Thank you to Penn State for Sanborn Fire Insurance maps.