Original part of Shamokin hospital dome is returned 40 years after dismantling

Published: 2/17/2017 11:01 AM
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THE NEWS-ITEM stephanie_b@newsitem.com

COAL TOWNSHIP —A spire that topped Shamokin State General Hospital when it was built in 1912 and was removed in 1977 is making its way back home.

The spire, resembling a chess pawn, was attached to the top of a glass dome above what would be today’s emergency room entrance until deterioration turned the beautiful copper into a worn-out green. The dome and spire were removed, and, until recently, the spire was thought to have disappeared into history, to be remembered only through photos.

It turns out, however, that its been sitting on a shelf at American Legion Post 73 in downtown Shamokin.

Roger Alleman, post adjutant, said he first spotted the spire at the legion around 1988 or 1989, but he didn’t have any idea what it was at the time. He and others asked all of the “old-timers,” but because the spire wasn’t a part of military history, no one had an answer.

And no one seems to know how the spire got to the legion quarters, on the second floor above the Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library, in the first place.

Alleman said the legion gave the hospital an iron lung and he thinks perhaps the spire was how the hospital repaid the gift years later.

Happy to have it

Members of the legion came together and thought it would be great for Geisinger to have the spire as part of Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital’s history. Hospital officials were more than happy to accept it.

“What makes Shamokin special is where it came from,” said Sam Balukoff, hospital administrator. “The reason this hospital is what it is, is because of its culture and because of where it came from.”

Balukoff had found one of the original ledgers from 1907 marking the history of the creation of the hospital, including the meeting minutes and when they determined where the hospital would be located, donated by state Sen. William C. McConnell.

The hospital was originally known as the State Hospital for Injured Persons of the Trevorton, Shamokin and Mount Carmel Coal Fields. It was established by an act of the General Assembly thanks in large part to McConnell fighting to have a hospital in the coal region, old stories show.

It was built with state money and funds collected from citizens of the Shamokin area, much of which came from coal miners who most greatly knew the need for a local hospital.

Showcasing the spire

There are two options the hospital has in mind to showcase the spire. The first would be in the healing garden outside of the main entrance, and the other would be inside the main entrance where it would be enclosed in a fiberglass case with a picture of the old hospital on top and a plaque recognizing the legion for holding onto it for all those years.

Balukoff said hospital officials originally debated whether to restore the spire to its original copper look or simply clean it up and display it as-is, and they decided on the latter.

“You have a lot of working individuals in this area and the way (the spire) looks here, I kind of like the idea of keeping it in working order,” he said. “I don’t think it represents the area if it was to be shined up.”

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