Explore the past with new Bellefonte history tablets

EMMA GOSALVEZ/THE EXPRESS This tablet in front of the historic Gamble Mill was one of the first two tablets to be installed. The other is at Dunlop Street. The goal is to have all six installed by Bellefonte Victorian Christmas.

BELLEFONTE — Preserving history is a major goal in Bellefonte, and with new historical tablets being installed, the town will be one step closer.

More than a year ago, community members JoAnn Knupp and Susan Hoover began efforts to bring these historical markers to Bellefonte. Now, a few of the signs have already been installed, and a ceremony will be held Saturday during Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, to unveil their efforts.

Hoover said the tablets will help provide an educational perspective on the town, which will allow both visitors and residents to gain an appreciation for the town’s history.

“When the Leadership Centre County class had their history day, I got a review, and they said that the class is in love with Bellefonte and the history of the town.” Hoover said, “which is good, because I grew up here, and I didn’t think about the history of the town until I was maybe 40.”

The unveiling ceremony will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Care For People office, 121 N. Allegheny St., Bellefonte. The unveiling and preview of the first six signs will take place at 1 p.m., followed by discussion of the project’s history and future. Light refreshments will be included.

The first set of tablets are made possible through a $5,000 contribution from the Centre County Commissioners, with a little leftover funding to help with a couple more tablets. The total project is estimated to cost approximately $40,000, and Knupp and Hoover said they will be seeking grant money and community donations for the remainder.

The end goal is to have more than 50 of these historical tablets installed throughout downtown Bellefonte, Hoover said. To make the project less cost-prohibitive, the tablets will be installed in sets of five.

The first set of six tablets will depict the county courthouse, Dunlop Street, Gamble Mill, William Thomas House, James Harris House, and the former Bellefonte blacksmith shop. The tablets will depict historical places that go as far back as the mid-1700s.

The inspiration for the historical tablets came from similar tablets seen during a Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce trip to the historic town of Brookville, located 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Hoover said she knew right away that Bellefonte needed interpretive tablets as well.

Hoover, a history buff, devoted a lot of her time researching the information shown on the tablets. She said she consulted with a lot of experts in the area, including Sue Hannegan, assistant director for county planning and community development.

The tablets are meant to be interpretive. Viewers will see images of what the buildings looked like in the past, and then be in just the right spot to look up and see the building today.

For the tablets’ graphics, Tara Mazurczyk, the daughter of Scott Gardner, owner of local business reMarkables, hand-sketched scenes of Bellefonte’s past.

“I had seen some of her drawings and what she had done with old buildings, and I said, ‘Oh, that would be neat,'” Hoover said.

The tablets, made by a company in Quebec, are also vandal resistant to ensure they last a very long time, Knupp said. Bellefonte Borough will install the tablets at no additional cost.

Knupp and Hoover said they hope to lead historical tours incorporating the tablets, possibly in the spring. The next set of signs might be installed by then as well.

Knupp said she would like to see markers in front of historic homes in the future, if the owners agree to it. She said she will at least put one in front of her home, and she and Hoover will go forward from there.