Bill Haberthur Chris Butera and Vivian McDowell

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Bill Haberthur joins Chris Butera, center, and Vivian McDowell in front of a poster chronicling the renovation of the Schoolhouse Arts and History Center in Bethel Park.

Each year, Pennsylvania State Society Daughters of the American Revolution presents awards for members’ efforts toward historic preservation.

Leaders of the DAR’s Bethel Fife and Drum Chapter decided to submit an entry based on the group’s support of ongoing renovations at The Schoolhouse Arts and History Center on South Park Road.

“We came in second in the state, which we were pleased with, because this was our first endeavor to do anything like this. Second place sounded pretty good,” said Chris Butera, historic preservation chairwoman for the chapter. “Then we moved on to the eastern division competition and came in first.”

And June 27, the National Society of the DAR’s Historic Preservation Committee awarded top honors in the United States to Bethel Fife and Drum.

The project that earned the honors for the chapter, which was founded in 1978, involved bringing in donations toward restoring of one of the classrooms in the century-plus-old building that originally housed Bethel High School.

“We’ve never had a home, a standard meeting place. I thought, can we pull this off? Can this chapter raise $10,000 to sponsor a classroom in the old schoolhouse and have a permanent meeting place?” Butera said. “And the chapter embraced it.”

Two years ago, she heard Bill Haberthur, secretary of Bethel Park Historical Society, speak at a Bethel Woman’s Club gathering about embarking on serious renovations to the building, which was constructed in 1905 with an addition in 1917. She promptly scheduled a Fife and Drum meeting there, with Haberthur addressing the membership.

“I didn’t want to miss out on a first-floor room,” she said. “In DAR, we have members of all ages, and some have mobility issues.”

Many of the members made donations toward a concrete accessibility ramp that eventually was built.

“They continue to be avid supporters in everything we do,” Haberthur said.

For example, Butera is leading a holiday ornament project to benefit the historical society. Veterans’ military photos will be placed on three-inch porcelain ornaments, which in turn are to be placed on the arts and history center’s Christmas tree until Dec. 21, when they are to be available for families to pick up and take home.

“The Bethel Park Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution dovetail so nicely to support the history of the community,” Haberthur said. “So it was an ideal fit.”

Fundraising toward the DAR sponsorship goal kicked off with two members contributing a total of $4,500 to the historical society, which owns the building, with the understanding the money would be credited to the chapter.

Meanwhile, Butera donated small pewter pins depicting a schoolhouse, presented to members who gave $50 or more. That raised another $3,275.

And most of the remainder came from a successful “Painting With a Twist” event, for which many members donated items for raffle baskets.

Work on the DAR classroom began in January 2018 and included:

  • Stripping tile to reveal 100-year-old maple floors, which were refinished;
  • Replacing the windows;
  • Updating wiring and installing replica schoolhouse lights;
  • Uncovering bulletin boards to reveal slate blackboards;
  • Installing drywall on the ceiling;
  • Patching and painting walls;
  • Custom crafting duplicate wood-trim moldings;
  • Installing replica ceiling fans.

The chapter also undertook refinishing and reupholstering 42 wooden chairs for members’ use, all of which has contributed to quite the turnaround since the historical society began discussing renovations two-and-a-half years ago.

“It’s amazing what’s been done in that short a period of time,” Vivian McDowell, chapter regent, said.

Women ages 18 and older who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible for DAR membership. For more information about the Bethel Fife and Drum Chapter, visit www.bethelfifeanddrum.org.

DAR award

Attending the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Historic Preservation Luncheon in Washington, D.C., were, from left: Bonnie Cornish, Bethel Fife and Drum Chapter historian; Lois Puglisi, chapter member; Virginia Trader, NSDAR historian general; Vivian McDowell, honorary regent of Bethel Fife and Drum; Ellen Hopkins, NSDAR vice chair of historic preservation; Tracy DeJonge, Pennsylvania State Society DAR chair of historic preservation.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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