When I read the article in the Mirror regarding the decision to possibility raze Highland Hall, I had to respond.
From my understanding, Ralph Albarano Jr. and RADD Development Co purchased Highland Hall 14 years ago. I am confident that Albarano knew that it held a special historic designation and its designation on the National Register of Historic Places (added 1978-#78002351). A historic designation is also cited on the title so the purchaser is informed of its historic nature and the obligations as owner.
When a property holds this type of significant historic registration, the property preservation, restoration and usage is guided by Hollidaysburg's historic ordinance, authored by Hollidaysburg Historic Society, and the U.S. Interior Department, administered by the National Parks Service, and is eligible for the Mills Act, which allows the owner a 50 percent reduction in property tax indefinitely for restoration and preservation of a historic designated property.
To be placed the National Register, properties are buildings or structures that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. Highland Hall's rich history and famous architect (Samuel Sloan), building design and culture fulfilled many of the requirements.
Because Albarano has sat on this property for 14 years, it is evident that this property was allowed to deteriorate without any attempt to secure the integrity of Highland Hall from theft and vandalism. The exterior needs work, of course, but I'm sure the interior from the ongoing weather element, lead paint and asbestos has had an affect on many architectural elements that are original to the building, which would require complete restoration which is not impossible to do.
This is a perfect time for everyone to be reminded of Highland Hall's rich culture and what it stood for in Hollidaysburg. Highland Hall should have full support from the Historical Society, the mayor, Borough Council, community and past residents to save this majestic building.
I am asking Albarano to do, as it states in his 2004 feasibility report, the right thing by preserving Highland Hall.
Whenever you purchase a historic property such as this magnitude with community and historical significance, it gives you the perfect opportunity fulfill your ownership obligation of preservation and to leave behind an incredible legacy and a wonderful gift.
In moving forward, a Highland Hall Preservation Foundation 501(c)(3) and a committee should be formed immediately to help with grant writing, fundraising and special events, in addition to opening dialogue for suggestions for its possible usage such as an educational, historical, architectural, music and cultural center along with attracting artists from the East Coast who would be interested in residential artist's loft rentals.
If this is done right, Highland Hall could bring in considerable funds to support Hollidaysburg's economy which would allow downtown Hollidaysburg to thrive again.
I am asking Albarano to reconsider preserving Highland Hall. We are reminded of the meaning of preservation each time we travel back to Italy to enjoy its beauty and splendor. Without preserving our past, we have lost our cultural future.
Linda A. Garner