Hellertown Historical Society Will Mark 40th Anniversary in 2021

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Holiday Open House

Atom Kallen

Norris & James sing at the Hellertown Historical Society’s 2016 Holiday Open House. The beloved event–long a staple of the Christmas season social calendar in Saucon Valley–was put on hold in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (FILE PHOTO)

Over the past 40 years, the Hellertown Historical Society has evolved from a small organization that preserves and shares Hellertown’s past into a place where people can also host or attend events, enjoy tours and learn from educational programming.

The historical society is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, but plans for the celebration have changed due to challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’ve always wanted to have a celebration for this, but when the pandemic started we just put everything on hold,” said Don Mills, newsletter editor and a historical society board director. “I guess until we really know what the future brings, we really can’t go forward.”

Stacie Torkos, president of the historical society, said that due to COVID-19 restrictions the organization won’t be able to host large events. Instead, they plan to share their own milestones and the borough’s history via social media and through their newsletter.

The community of Hellertown was settled in the 1740s. Hellertown was formally incorporated as a borough in 1872 and is today home to approximately 6,000 people.

Torkos said volunteers are sending out a letter about their annual membership campaign to members as well as people who have visited the society. They will suggest that in the spirit of their 40th anniversary, members consider donating $40 to the society in 2021.

Torkos said the historical society has not generated much revenue for itself during the pandemic, and the fact that large gatherings have been a no-go since March 2020 has been financially challenging.

Hellertown Heritage Day

Credit: Hellertown Historical Society

The Heller-Wagner Grist Mill on W. Walnut Street in Hellertown is a local landmark and one of the borough’s most iconic buildings. The restored grist mill houses a museum and event space known as the Tavern Room. The mill is maintained by volunteers from the Hellertown Historical Society, which has offices in the adjacent Miller’s House. (FILE PHOTO)

The rental of their Tavern Room to members of the public is their main source of income and in a normal year that room is booked every single weekend for events, Torkos said. But they’ve not had any rentals for almost a year.

“In a normal year like in 2019, every weekend was booked,” said Gilbert Stauffer, treasurer and a board member of the historical society. “Every single weekend. It’s very popular. It’s a big source of income.”

Mills said the historical society has also had a difficult time recruiting volunteers who are willing to lend a hand. He and other volunteers want to see more people get involved.

“The society needs a lot of help from volunteers and I like to try and do what I can,” he said. “Some things I can’t do or have the talent for, but things I can handle I’m happy to do.”

Post Office Hellertown

Contributed photo

Hellertown Postmaster Joe DiRusso (left) receives help from volunteer Bill Frey with hanging a 1906 post office sign above the customer service window at the post office on Delaware Avenue. The sign was loaned to the post office by the Hellertown Historical Society for display during the 50th anniversary of its move to its current building in 2019. (FILE PHOTO)

The Hellertown Historical Society has changed a lot in their 40-year history.

Stauffer said the installation and use of PastPerfect Software is the biggest change he’s seen in the 12 years he’s volunteered at the organization.

“What we’ve done is place thousands and thousands of Hellertown artifacts into PastPerfect,” he said. “If someone is doing research, all they need to do is call us and with a click of the mouse we can either pull up photos, photos of pictures or photos of various artifacts throughout the society.”

Mills said the addition of computers has helped Hellertown residents and others use the historical society’s archives to research their family’s history. For the longest time, everything was handwritten and there was no computer access for records and artifacts.

Torkos said 40 years ago, membership and community involvement in the organization was strong because most residents were born and raised in Hellertown. But over the past four decades, there has been an increase in the number of local residents who were born elsewhere.

She said the historical society has expanded to become a place that can connect with and invite people from all ages, backgrounds and interests to learn more about Hellertown’s unique history.

“It was figuring out over the past 40 years how to become more of a community center, to offer different things to different people because if you don’t have a connection to Hellertown, why do you want to support us?” Torkos said.

To learn more about the Hellertown Historical Society or become a supporter, visit HellertownHistoricalSociety.org. Follow the society on Facebook to receive updates.

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