As people wait for the Pike County Public Library's move to a newly constructed facility at East Harford and 4th Street in coming weeks, the question remains about what will be done with the library's present home in the Community House. For the last 89 years, the library has resided at 201 Broad Street, the original home of Gifford Pinchot, the founder and first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
In 1924 for a $5 deed, the Pinchot's family home was given with restrictions about what could be done with the building. To ensure the restrictions were followed, a board of trustees was established in 1924, explained local attorney and board President Arthur Ridley. The $5 deed, he said, was specific about what the Pinchot family wanted with the building. The restrictions were that the building is to be a public facility that would be accessible to all or become a public library. Additionally, it is to be a facility for public meetings, accessible at no cost and used for educational and public related services. The facility also has to provide free information along with allowing the public access to restrooms.
The Community House was the Pinchot's first home, before moving into Grey Towers, Ridley said. But for years, maintaining the upkeep of the building has been difficult for the board and there is still need for repair, he stated. The home, he added, "could wind up being an expensive proposition." At this time, the board isn't sure what will come of the building, but members want to ensure that there is some form of a funding mechanism to take care of the historic landmark, he said.
Today, with the tourists who are attracted to Grey Towers and the history associated with the Pinchot name, Ridley favors the Community House going to the U.S. Forest Service at Grey Towers. He said he favors the U.S. Forest Service because it will continue the legacy of Gifford Pinchot as it is important for Milford since the borough has been considered the birthplace of conservation.
Grey Towers, he said is like, "the diamond in the U.S. Forest Service," because conservationists from all over the world visit the facility. But, Grey Towers isn't the Community House although Ridley said it does fit in significantly because tourism is the area's major industry. He noted that the home could become a visitor's center and there is enough room for interpretative exhibits that could present more than just conservation exhibits, but also information relative to Milford and the surrounding areas. To add a twist to the tale, Ridley said to show the type of "visionaries the Pinchot's were," in the deed, it stated that public restrooms were to be provided. At this time, in Milford, there are no public restrooms. Ridley said it's, "kind of mundane, but it's important."
Page 2 of 2 - At this time, aside from possibly going to the U.S. Forest Service, the other primary idea for the Community House's future, is that it could go to the borough. Ridley said that at this time, "we are at a unique crossroads." He explained that the decisions that will be made now will have a, "significant impact on not only the town, but conservation and that particular legacy."
Former board president and current board member Randolph "Skip" Gregory, would like the Community House to go to the borough. He said the borough wouldn't have to pay rent, instead only have to maintain the property and people in the borough could use the facility. Events like art shows could take place at the home, "without an act of Congress," he stated. Politically, if the borough were to receive it, Gregory said townspeople can elect new councilmen if they aren't pleased with how they are handling issues. No matter who receives the Community House though, Gregory said he does not feel it will sit empty.
Gregory is a former Pike County Commissioner and former mayor of Milford Borough.
To resolve the problem, Gregory said the board of trustees could keep the house and the trustees can, "continue to operate it as they have for the last 78 years." Ultimately though, he said the board wants to do what's best for the community.