FOSTER TOWNSHIP — Architects from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission were at Eckley Miners’ Village in Luzerne County Wednesday, checking out the damage after a big fire there on Tuesday.
The question now is if the 160-year-old home that burned can be saved. There is certainly a lot of hope that the piece of our area’s mining past can be preserved.
George Gera returned to see the damage a day after flames tore through his birthplace and current home in the historic Eckley Miners’ Village outside Freeland. Gera, 86, lost nearly everything but at least much of the house still stands.
“I was hopeful they’d probably re-construct it. I’d like to live there again, that’s my hope.”
The state police fire marshal now says it was an electrical problem that started the fire. It’s where Gera lived but many more people are concerned what this fire will mean for the future of the house.
The state owns all the historic homes in Eckley. They help show the life of miners in villages like these decades ago.
“We’re in the evaluation process now. We’re trying to determine the structural stability of the building and what’s actually salvageable. And this is going to be a multi-week process so we may not know for a while,” said Bode Morin, site administrator.
The head of Eckley Miners’ Village met with Gera after talking with state architects earlier in the day.
Most of the damage is in the rear of the home where the miners made their own additions to company houses all those years ago. Much of their work is now gone.
“While the houses expressed the company, the out buildings were a direct expression of the people who lived here,” Morin said.
It is still early in the process of determining of can be done but the hope is to at least maintain the front of the house and at least keep the look and feel of the street of homes in Eckley.
“I love it here, I love it here. I was so upset when I heard yesterday that George’s house was on fire. I felt so sorry for George, he’s such a great guy,” said Eckley tour guide Jeanette Daniels.
Daniels has been a tour guide for 30 years. She hopes some of the house is saved but really wants Gera back on the porch during her tours.
“It makes it special when someone lives here, especially George because he knows everything from the beginning.”
It could take a month or so before it’s determined what can be done with the house at Eckley. But despite the fire, all events scheduled for the miners’ village are still on this summer.