Historical Society hands out Excellence in Historic Preservation awards

The Blair County Historical Society has recognized several individuals and businesses for their efforts to preserve history.

In addition to the award given to McAleer’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation went to Brian Long, who renovated the outside of the building where the former Broad Avenue Tea Room was located.

According to Joe DeFrancesco, the society’s executive director, Long’s work helps people understand what the area looked like in days gone by.

“Mr. Long completed the exterior renovation of the Broad Avenue Tea (Room) so that the community had a reminder of what Broad Avenue was like many decades ago,” he said, “where even the smallest of buildings had detail and charm, thus granting Broad Avenue and other streets their own identity.”

The tea room, as early as the 1920s, was an ice cream parlor, confectionery and sandwich shop, he said.

A similar award went to local funeral director Guido Santella and his family for restoring and maintaining their Victorian home in Altoona, which was built in 1883.

“Taking great concern to detail, the Santellas conducted research to find the right colors, wallpapers and wall-hangings,” DeFrancesco said.

He cited one example in which the family found simulated leather wallpaper and had it painted and glazed to resemble 1880s leather wallpaper.

A third award went to Penn State Altoona history professor Jared Frederick.

Frederick was honored for his book, “Altoona: Images of Modern America.”

“Jared’s love for everything Altoona and Blair County led him to researching material on Altoona from 1945 to 2015,” DeFrancesco said. “(His) book offers a detailed look into Altoona’s culture and life. ”

The book also describes other aspects of the city such as its industries, places of worship and the arts.

“Mr. Frederick offers a look back on Altoona, in hopes to inspire current generations to preserve Altoona’s heritage,” DeFrancesco said.

The first annual Excellence in Community Achievement award was presented to lifelong historian Cloyd Neely of Duncansville for his series of history books on the Duncansville area. Neely, who is 103, wrote a series of books about the borough, including “Duncansville Heritage, Vols. 1 and 2,” and “Fly Me to the Moon: A History of the Duncansville Airport.”

Another award was presented to Alan Maples for “exceptional efforts in promoting or maintaining our heritage,” according to the society. Maples is president of the Everett Railroad in Duncansville and was recognized by the society for leading “his team of railroad professionals and marketing experts to create the region’s newest steam tourist railroad,” DeFrancesco said.

“The Everett Railroad is not new to the area, but steam locomotive operations are,” he said. “Steam excursion trains are excellent for local tourism and the tourism economy. Restoring steam locomotives and vintage railroad equipment is no easy feat, and we commend Mr. Maples for helping to promote our region’s railroad heritage by providing an outlet for every (person) to experience riding the rails of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s secondary line through the Cove.”

Finally, the society also gave a Lifetime Achievement award to Mary Cramer of Duncansville, a long-time gardener, decorator and trustee for the society. She oversees a crew of volunteers on a weekly basis who do groundskeeping chores at Baker Mansion and is often helped by her husband, Bob.

“She is an extremely important asset for keeping the mansion looking great during all seasons,” DeFrancesco said. “She is extremely dedicated and loyal to the Baker site.”