It seems like only yesterday that Bob Lamb and Ken Lawrence drove me from APS headquarters in Patton Township (“State College”) Pa. to Bellefonte to see a derelict factory complex. On a later trip, Ken Martin took me up into the loft area of “Building 4.” We had to watch where we put our feet, because the flooring wasn’t very solid. But I saw the view out the open end of the loft and said, “Wow! This could really be something.”
It’s now 16 years later (left), and it really is something. In fact, when I went up to the second floor for the first time during the celebratory weekend, I was a little choked up.
Other articles, here at The Virtual Stamp Club and elsewhere, describe the new facility and the dedication events. Instead, here are some thoughts about the building and the event.
I like to think I was a key player, casting the deciding vote on the American Philatelic Society board in favor of purchasing the property. But in looking around that weekend, I saw so many other people whose claims are just as good, or better, than mine: Donors, members of the APRL and APS boards then and subsequently, the architects, local officials, and APS staffers, past and present. There were even some past opponents at the weekend celebration.
Roger Schnell was on the Board when the vote was taken; he voted against it. His comment as soon as the results were announced was, “Congratulations. You just bought yourselves a pile of bricks.” Yet as you enter the new facility, there’s the sign shown on the right: The Roger Schnell Main Entrance. Despite his misgivings, once the decision was final, Roger became a major donor for the complex’s renovation. There’s a lesson there that some mainstream national politicians haven’t learned. Every local official paid tribute to Ken Martin, now the APS Chief Operating Officer as an important part of the project. I think some philatelic leaders don’t appreciate Ken enough.
I was also glad to see Ken Lawrence acknowledged during Friday night’s dinner. He is somewhat a pariah now, after an ugly APS election in 2007 and the subsequent lawsuit, and his always sharp tongue — he can flay you with his pen — but Ken was a driving force behind the “Match Factory” project. APRL president Roger Brody praised Ken, while admitting that he is often “prickly.” (I think that is the word he used.) Kudoes to Roger for broaching the subject. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, nor was deciding whether to do so wasn’t easy, either.
I hope at some point a big piece of the American Philatelic Center is named for Bob Lamb (left). He also had the vision, plus (unlike Ken) the diplomatic skills to make it happen.
I was surprised that more wasn’t made of Dennis Gilson’s contribution to the project when he received his Luff Award for Service to the American Philatelic Society. In reading a list of his activities before Dennis signed the Luff scroll, Ken Martin first listed all his many activities on behalf of the APS, quite a few of which are continuing. Perhaps it’s because the American Philatelic Center actually belongs to the APRL, not the APS. Dennis was the first project manager, using his engineering background to get the work started. He retired from that post after the first two phases were completed and the two organizations had moved to the Center.
I was both pleased and surprised to see how closely the finished product (right) looks like the architectural renderings (left).
Talleyrand Park is beautiful and the weather Saturday — unseasonably warm and sunny — showed it off to best advantage. Several of the local officials at the dedication thanked the APRL and APS for sparking a renaissance both for the park as well as Bellefonte itself.
The project isn’t done: There are a few rooms or areas that needed to be finished, some details that need to be added. Given the nature of libraries, the APRL will probably need even more room at some point. (You can’t digitize everything: There are copyright issues and also “forward compatibility” issues. If you don’t understand the latter, let me know and I’ll send you a box of 5¼-inch floppy disks.)
I understand there’s some thought to buying out some of the other pieces of property adjacent to the present American Philatelic Center. G-d willing, I’ll be there for the dedication of the next completed phase.