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11/19/2019

State Historic Preservation Office Recognizes Preservation Efforts across the State with Community Initiative Awards

Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) has announced its Community Initiative Awards for 2019. Recipients include a heavyweight champion's former retreat, a drive-in theater, a restored hospital that now houses township offices, and a historic theater restored to a modern performance space.

The Community Initiative Awards recognize the hard work and dedication of outstanding organizations, municipalities, agencies and individuals whose work embodies the theme of Pennsylvania's statewide historic preservation plan. The plan, titled "#Preservationhappenshere - Community Connections: Planning for Preservation in Pennsylvania," provides a framework of activities and goals that will help Pennsylvanians better understand historic preservation and its benefits, appreciate their own histories and shared histories as told through historic places, and balance history and economic development to manage change within their communities.

PA SHPO, a bureau within the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, selected this year's Community Initiative Award winners from social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn that use the #PreservationHappensHere hashtag and from submitted entries. This year, more than 50 candidates were considered for the award.

The #PreservationHappensHere social media campaign was held earlier this year to bring attention to the many preservation activities happening every day across Pennsylvania. These activities, which may not be thought of as historic preservation, deserve to be identified, shared and celebrated.

This year's recipients have demonstrated the value of preserving iconic places and community landmarks through their ownership and stewardship. Events honoring the winners are expected to be held at each location in May 2020 to celebrate National Historic Preservation Month.

Fighter's Heaven (Schuylkill County): The training camp in Deer Lake is where heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali prepared for some of his most famous fights and hosted world-renowned fighters, artists and entertainers. The complex was in disrepair when the new owner bought it in June 2016. It took three years to stabilize the buildings, which include the gym, a mosque, the mess hall and Ali's cabin. Earlier this year, Fighter's Heaven opened to the public as a museum about the iconic boxer's life, career and time in Pennsylvania.

Mahoning Drive-In Theater (Carbon County): Opened in 1949, it is a modern drive-in cinema that had been in operation for more than 50 years. In 2012 the film industry began transitioning to digital production, so in order to show current movies, the owners would have needed to replace the original 1940s projectors and CinemaScope screen – the largest in Pennsylvania – with expensive new equipment. In 2014 the theater's longtime projectionist and two partners purchased the drive-in, which is one of only 26 left in Pennsylvania, and opted to maintain it as an "operating museum" of classic American 35mm films. Today, visitors can experience the 1950s-era drive-in through Mahoning's original entrance building, signage, screen and projectors.

Lazaretto (Delaware County): Significant as the first quarantine hospital in the Western Hemisphere, the Philadelphia Lazaretto was established in 1799 and was operated by the Pennsylvania Board of Health until 1893. It then became home to the Orchard Club and later Chambers Field in World War II. In 2005 Tinicum Township purchased the property to save it from demolition, and in 2007 began working with the Lazaretto Preservation Association of Tinicum Township (LPATT) to find a new use for it. After 14 years of planning and construction, the Lazaretto opened in 2019 as the new home for the Tinicum Township offices and a museum about the Lazaretto and its role in U.S. history.

Roxian Theater (Allegheny County): Opened in 1929, it served the McKees Rocks area as a vaudeville stage, movie theater, concert venue and banquet hall before closing in 2003. In 2004 the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (CDC) was founded with goals to revitalize the former 1,500-seat theater as a regional performance destination and a catalyst for a proposed arts and entertainment district. The CDC purchased the property in 2011 and continued construction work begun in 2007 to restore the façade, return the entrance to its original footprint, preserve the surviving interior features, and upgrade seating and systems for use as a contemporary concert venue. The restored Roxian reopened in May 2019.

PA SHPO coordinates state and federal historic preservation programs including the National Register of Historic Places, state and federal tax credits, and review of state and federal projects for their impact on historic resources.

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Find out more about the commission online at www.phmc.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639

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