Signs promote Windber’s coal, Hollywood ties
By JOHN WILFONG
THE TRIBUNE DEMOCRAT
   A town hero and a company that made the town will be commemorated today in Windber Borough when officials dedicate two historical markers.
   The Pennsylvania Heritage Markers, one for "Tarzan" film star John-fly Weissmuller and the other for the Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., officially will be unveiled this afternoon.
   The dedication will begin at 1 p.m. with the coal company’s marker. At 1:30 p.m., Weissmuller’s marker will be dedicated.
   The blue and gold marker for the coal company is on the corner of 15th Street and Graham Avenue across from the Arcadia Theatre. Weissmuller’s marker is at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue extension and Graham Avenue, across from the GTE Phone Services building.
   Officials hope the markers will put the Somerset County communi ty on the map as well as serve as a reminder of its prestigious past, said Christopher Barkley, Windber Coal Heritage Center manager.
   "It’s important because a lot ol miners sacrificed their lives in the mines, and there’s also many that are very proud of what they did," Barkley said in a telephone inter. view from his home.
   Amy Riggleman, the state historical and museum commission press secretary, earlier said the signs join 1,700 other markers across the state. There are 11 markers in Cambria County, 19 in Somerset County and 24 in Bedford County.
   "The state’s endorsement shows that the resources being recognized played a role in shaping Pennsyl. vanian history or left a Pennsylvanian imprint on the national history," she said earlier.
   The commission receives about 50 to 60 marker nominations each year and awards between 20 and 30 annually, she said.
   The marker for the coal company commemorates
   
the Wilmore Coal Building, built in 1914, which housed the town’s first large post office on the first floor and Berwind-White owned Wilmore Coal Land Holding Co. on the second floor.
   The building is the current home of the heritage center.
   The sign also marks the Arcadia Theatre, built in 1919, which was restored and opened Oct. 31, 1998.
   Also commemorated is Mine #40,built in 1905, which boasted the largest output of the Windber bituminous coal mines with a total tonnage of 22,301,540. The site is one of a handful of turn-of-the-century patch towns with its mine buildings, row houses and mine openings still intact. Barkley said.
   Berwind’s mining operations ceased in 1962, but the company still maintains offices in town and manages coal and land interests, he said.
   "Tarzan" legend and Olympic gold-medalist Weissmuiler is consid ered by some to be the greatest swimmer of the first half of the century. He held 67 world records, 52 national championships and won five Olympic gold medals from the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. He also starred 19 times as Tarzan and Jungle Jim on film and television. He also was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and Hollywood Stunt Man Hall of Fame.
   Barkley said the markers should help attract attention to the small borough, leading the way for future endeavors.
   "We’re trying to build up a couple of things," he said. "One is the Main Street program where we’re working on getting more businesses by open big the many vacant store fronts."
   He said such projects as an industrial park near Kuchera Industries and a McDonalds on the site of the former Reach-Sciotti Motors, will join the surge, along with the markers, to help push Windber into the next century.
Used with permission of The Tribune-Democrat
The Tribune-Democrat, August 13, 1999
John Wilfong is a feature writer for the The Tribune-Democrat.

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