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Chester County Press

Avondale puts out a call for historical relics

03/07/2023 03:31PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Avondale mayor Susan Rzucidlo is asking area residents to submit historical relics for display.

She added that she hopes to set aside the walls, nooks, crannies and floors of the borough building on Pomeroy Avenue to show objects that give meaning to Avondale’s past.

That process is in fact already underway, she said. It will pick up steam when the weather warms as she and volunteers are more comfortable rooting through the borough’s unheated storage areas to find what else lies there.

“Once it gets warm, we’ll begin pulling things out,” she said.

Rzucidlo is enthusiastic about the project. She said that since she took her post as mayor in January 2022, she has become even more aware that Avondale has much to showcase historically. She’s eager to get that history accessible to the public.

“Avondale is more than just a place you drive through on the way to the beach,” she said.

Avondale has connections to the Underground Railroad, a longtime fire company, the roots of the mushroom industry and the Lenni Lenape Indigenous People, among other things, she said.

In his 130-page book “Images of America Avondale” local author Bob Cleveland also mentions blacksmith shops, lime kilns, an iron foundry, a lumber mill, a marble and granite company, meat markets, schools, churches and banks.

The walls of the Avondale’s Borough building hold a hint of what is to come: There are historical pictures of a past roller rink, of Philadelphia Electric headquarters with the name Avondale in lights, and a framed $20 bill issued by the Avondale Bank and signed by an officer named Pusey.

In the long run, Rzucidlo is confident that the locals will have plenty more to offer.

Historical collector and lecturer David Porter of Elkton, Maryland, who grew up in West Grove and worked as a surveyor, said he is interested in the Avondale project and is eager to help out.

Porter, 67, is a member of the Chester County Historical Society and president of the Tri-State Bottle and Digger Club. He lectures widely and is also instrumental in the development of the New London Presbyterian Church onsite museum. He was heavily involved in the historical display at the Red Rose Inn as well. He also has a museum in his house and said he has an immense collection of bottles.

Porter said historical displays don’t hang themselves. They take work, and their continued operation involves a process.

“It takes at least five or six people to work on a small museum,” he said.

The tasks are varied and among other things involve the following: Intake with identifications and receipts; record keeping; safe (and potentially expensive) display cases and frames -- and financing them; safety of the objects; set up and operation of a computer program for the project; and writing up descriptions and stories to be posted with the objects.

Personally, Porter said he loves collecting and studying history. When he was asked where he gets his historical relics and information, he said mostly word of mouth and online research. He added that people tell him, “We knew you were the person to contact.”

He praised social media and the rise of technology for making obtaining historical relics easier. Ever since communication went online, much more trading, buying and selling of objects is possible than at any time in the past.

When asked what his favorite object to find is, he said old registrations -- not just for hotels and events but for businesses and farms. 

“Those farmers used to list every single cow and chicken, and you can research the names of families as well,” he said.

Standing by as well to offer help when the final arrangements are cemented are the members of Boy Scout Troop 191 of Avondale.

Merely participating in almost any community project will earn the individual students school service points. More deeply rooted in the scouting mission, however, is working to enhance the community.

Scout troop committee chairman Jeffrey Chase wrote this:

“It’s definitely going to provide an opportunity for the scouts in our troop to get a deeper view into this community’s past. Not everyone realizes a tenet of scouting is community. Not just community service but citizenship and understanding that we live in a society with governing bodies, elected official and legislators, volunteer firefighters and EMTs.”

Rzucidlo said she’s interested in receiving almost anything: “. …an old postcard or an original mushroom helmet with a light on it.  Arrowheads that would be fantastic,” she said. 

She is also working to create a historical committee on the borough council that will take responsibility for the project’s continuity after the initial display is posted.

In the future she hopes to have the display open to the public concurrent with borough building hours and to offer special events, lectures or even scheduled open houses for outside groups.

The borough building is at 101 Pomeroy Ave. and is open Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.