MAKC House Projects

The MAKC recently acquired a house in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, for approximately $28,000, paid in full with funds donated for an education center and library.

Significant collections have already been donated to the conservancy, including an original postcard index created by the late Dale Ibberson; the Frank Mielcarek

Collection of slides, which were saved from a fire in which Frank passed away; a complete set of Pennsylvania topographic maps; more than 250 original cave maps from Pennsylvania cave mappers; two complete sets of the NSS News; and many other books and periodicals. The collection is being held by Paul Damon, Sr., our archivist until the library is prepared and ready to house the books. Two collections are promised once the library is ready: the collection of Ed Taylor and the collection of Jack Speece. So, this building will house a significant collection of speleological material and be available for use by researchers by appointment. The building will also serve as a meeting site for the MAKC and as a place to store the conservancy’s archives of records. All of the collections donated to us thus far have not been solicited; thus, once the building is ready we anticipate an additional increase in library items. We also intend, at some point, to consider housing artwork, such as the Mielcarek slides, and to make this available to researchers, especially those affiliated with the National Speleological Society who are compiling books and publications relating to caving history. The collection has many 1950s and 1960s era photos of caving in some of the most significant karst areas of West Virginia, such as the Swago area, early western Pennsylvania, and includes more than 150 slides showing the commercial development of Fayette County’s Laurel Caverns, one of the five longest mapped caves in Pennsylvania.

Given the cost of the purchase, the house has required some renovations, but volunteers have performed nearly all of the work done thus far during work weekends. All of the carpeting in the house has been removed; two glass block windows installed in the basement; a temporary garage door installed on an outbuilding; temporary paint covering insulbrick siding on two outbuildings has been applied, until siding can be purchased; a chimney removed; and two upstairs rooms stripped of wallpaper, patched and painted with primer.

The two rooms downstairs have nice hardwood floors that need a light sanding and then a few coats of polyurethane. The front room upstairs has plank flooring. There are two small places that could use some repair. The floor could then be sanded, stained or painted. The other large room upstairs still has linoleum on it. We will remove that once the room wall painting is complete.

The project is substantial and therefore is being broken into smaller phases.

Phase I
to be completed by year end 2009 includes (winterization):

• Window Replacement
• Blown in Cellulose Insulation
• Replace Bulkhead to Basement
• Seal Basement Wall Cracks and Paint with Masonry Paint
• Replace Front Door with New Insulated Steel Door

Phase II
to be completed by the
end of the first quarter 2010:

• Painting and paneling interior walls and ceilings
• Restoration of floors
• Finish bathrooms and replace old toilets
• Security System
• Bookcases
• Chairs and Library Table
• Map Cabinets
• Area Rugs

Phase III
to be completed by the
end of the second quarter 2010:

• Painting of the exterior of all three building on the property
• Rewiring the outbuilding (which will become the office when the main building is full).

Phase IV
as yet to be determined.

We hope to develop this house into a fine regional caving library. We paid for the acquisition (plus fees) with $30,000 donated by members Bob and Bev Danielson, of Cleveland Grotto. They issued the $30,000 in donations as a challenge grant. Thus far we have raised almost 50 percent of that goal (donors are listed on our website at We hope your support will help us, in part, to raise the remaining funds needed to open this library and education center and make our collection available to researchers.

By Sue Moore and Kim Metzgar