EMMAUS HISTORICAL SOCIETY Members approve purchase of historic home
There was a sense of anticipation as Emmaus Historical Society President Patricia David Zentner called to order a special meeting of the group's membership Sept. 25 at St. John's Lutheran Church.
"As you know," Zentner said, "our present quarters at 563 Chestnut St. are not sufficient to display all the relics, artifacts and Emmaus heritage stored in every nook and cranny of our current building, and that the society's board has been actively searching for a new location.
"We are excited to inform you of a rare opportunity to purchase an historic Emmaus building at 218 Main St. for our new museum," Zentner said on behalf of the board.
Zentner introduced Bill Barto, the current owner of the home which dates to 1824, who provided a detailed history of the five families who lived in the building over the past two centuries, described its attributes and presented a slide show of the inside and outside of the structure.
Barto said he has "a strong attachment to the heritage of Emmaus, and I am so pleased this historic home will become the Emmaus Historical Society's new home."
Barto's mother and father purchased the home in 1962, but his father died before he could move into the residence. Barto's mother in 1962 opened Colonial Manor Gift Shop on the first floor of the residence and operated it for 23 years until 1986. The home became the Victorian Treasures Gift Shop, the operations center of the fledgling East Penn Bank, and the headquarters of a correspondence school until Barto began restoration efforts in 2007.
While the home had not been put on the market, the society's board identified it as a possible new home for the museum and society Vice President Andrew Kerstetter approached Barto with a tentative offer.
The offer includes $300,000 for the building and its property, and provides an easement for Barto to continue to rent a portion of the rear of the property as a parking lot which provides him with current income. The easement would last for 15 years, at which time the society would take over the parking parcel and pay an additional $45,000 to Barto or his estate.
Zentner asked Certified Public Accountant Martin Lang, of Allentown, who has been the society's financial advisor, to present his analysis of the society's ability to purchase the property.
Lang told the members the transaction was "very doable." The society has cash assets of $190,000, Lang reported. He suggested $40,000 of that be set aside for building expenses and $60,000 allotted for renovations to install restrooms and to make the property handicap accessible.
Lang said rental of the space vacated from the current museum at 563 Chestnut St. had the potential to offset a mortgage for the new property. Lang said membership dues provided total revenue last year of $40,000 for the society.
The property has frontage of 79 feet on Main Street and a depth of more than 300 feet to Railroad Street. Square footage estimates show the new property would provide about two-and-one-half times the display space available in the current location.
Emmaus Architect Alan Hawman provided the estimate of $60,000 required to get the new property ready for first-floor museum space. The second floor would provide office space and a board meeting room.
After questions from the floor, Zentner asked the 70-some members present to authorize the board to proceed with a purchase agreement with Barto.
There were only three dissenting votes from the members present. Discussion indicated those dissenting were unsure if the financial projections of income, expenses and the amount allotted for renovations would be sufficient.