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Major construction project slated for Old Main on The Lutheran Home at Topton campus

Major construction project slated for Old Main on The Lutheran Home at Topton campus (Image 1)

The iconic Old Main building on The Lutheran Home at Topton campus is slated for a major construction project.

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, owner/operator of The Lutheran Home at Topton senior living community, has announced it will begin an $8.2 million construction project this fall to renovate and refurbish the building, whose original construction began in 1897. The current work should be completed by late in 2017.

The project, says Mark Pile of Macungie, Diakon president/CEO, will involve renovation of the currently unused second floor of the building, installation of an elevator and completion of various exterior refurbishment efforts. “While the 32,000-square-foot building is structurally sound and its first floor is currently in use, Old Main needs extensive work to prevent further deterioration and make better use of this historic structure,” he says.

The project will involve creation of a “center for permanency” related to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care and the relocation of Diakon Ministry Support offices from the Medical Arts Building on the Luther Crest campus, Allentown, to the second floor of Old Main.

“The renovation of the second floor will provide much-needed space for the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care program, currently housed in cramped, energy-inefficient buildings on the Topton campus,” says Pile. The “center for permanency” will include space for training of adoption and foster care staff and support groups for parents as well as family-style areas helpful in the process of transitioning children and youths into foster and adoptive families. The project also will provide more-efficient storage of adoption and related records.

“Although we continue to focus on home- and community-based services as well as ‘virtual’ locations for staff, there are advantages to having a permanency-focused center, which will provide areas for family visitation, a kitchen for family meal preparation, a family resource center and, for staff and external groups, a moderate-scale conference and training area,” says Pile.

In addition, such steps as renovation or replacement of exterior porches, window replacements or refurbishment, installation of new heating and air-conditioning systems and upgrading of the electrical system will help to preserve the building’s underlying structure and ensure use of Old Main. Currently, the building’s first floor houses the Brandywine Community Library, the historic Putz train layout and some offices for The Lutheran Home at Topton senior living community and other Diakon staff members.

The work, says Pile, “will be done with care and respect for the building’s historical character and appearance.” Old Main is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Seed money for the overall renovation project came from a bequest of $7.2 million, received last year from the estate of Helen Nicholson Palmer of Wyomissing, who passed away in December 2012. Only a portion of the bequest is being used for the Old Main project, Pile notes, with additional funding coming from bank financing.

“In addition, we will be conducting a fundraising campaign, called the ‘Forever Campaign,’ to support the development of family-focused sections of the permanency center,” says Pile. “This is very appropriate as the foster care and adoption program directly carries on the ministry begun at Topton in the late 1800s.”

A portion of the campaign also will focus on long-term preservation of the historic building.

“Old Main has long been a symbol of the ministry that began here and many people are interested in helping us to preserve this building,” he says. “In fact, the renovation lays the groundwork for a potential project in the years ahead to display the history of orphanages in Pennsylvania with a particular focus on The Tressler Lutheran Home for Children and The Lutheran Home at Topton, the two children’s homes that form the roots of Diakon’s history.”

Additional funding would be needed for that effort, which could create museum-like displays focused on the history of children’s homes in the state, Pile adds.

To celebrate the start of the current project, a picnic-style celebration will be held at The Lutheran Home at Topton Sept. 24.

William Swanger, M.A., APR
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries
(717) 795-0308
E-mail: swangerb@diakon.org