Philipsburg Historical Foundation Dinner to Feature Program on American Pickers, Legacy of Walter Swoope

Walter Swoope stands in front of the Lorraine house on South Centre Street in Philipsburg, which he purchased in 1978 and lovingly restored in the 1980’s. The house will be one of those featured in a program on Walter’s legacy at the annual dinner of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation on Oct. 16. Photo by Emily Gette-Doyle.

PHILIPSBURG – The fall dinner of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation is set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, and it will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the American Pickers program done at the home of the late Walter M. Swoope Jr.

Additionally, it will look at Swoope’s legacy as a benefactor and booster of Philipsburg, especially in the many buildings he preserved and restored.

Speakers will be Attorney David Mason, who was instrumental in bringing the American Pickers show to Philipsburg, and Luther Gette, curator of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation.

The death on Jan. 30, 2018 of Walter M. Swoope Jr., a life-long resident and benefactor of Philipsburg, was a great shock to the community whose interests he fostered for his entire adult life.

While still a young man, he started his preservation and restoration career at his own family home at 213 S. Centre St., built by his grandfather in 1907.

He soon expanded his efforts to include the Lorraine house on South Centre Street, then the Finberg Building in the Front Street business district.

Later efforts included the Moshannon Building, opposite the Finberg Building, and the former Taylor’s Hotel.  Swoope was also instrumental in preservation of the Rowland Theatre, and of Philipsburg’s historic sites, notably the Simler House and the old Mud Church.

One problem that arose after Swoope’s passing was how to deal with his large collection of documents and artifacts, established over many years.

Mason, the estate representative, soon found himself going through an enormous amount of material, which he began to parcel out to Swoope’s family, to the Philipsburg Historical Foundation and to other interested groups.

It was Mason’s wife Susan, a great fan of the American Pickers show, who suggested that he contact the Pickers team.  It turned out that the Pickers were very interested in doing a program at Swoope’s home.

The show was filmed on Aug. 11, 2018, and aired later in the year.  Both events were hugely followed by folks in the area.

Now Mason is ready to do a “behind-the-scenes” report on the Pickers and their much-remarked appearance in Philipsburg.

He will share with members and guests of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation at its annual meeting and dinner, to be held at the Social Hall of Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Mason has “behind-the-scenes” photos to show and stories to tell, including one about the “dress code” on the show.  It seems that when Mason arrived for the filming at Swoope’s house, he brought along a freshly-ironed shirt, which he planned to wear in front of the cameras.

As he was donning the shirt, however, show host Mike Wolfe asked him what he was doing.  “Just putting on my shirt,” says Mason.  “No, no,” says Wolfe, “Stay in your T-shirt!”  So, Mason appeared on the program in his T-shirt, maintaining a suitably plebian air for the duration.

Following Mason’s presentation, Curator Luther Gette of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation will take up with a power-point presentation on the many buildings Swoope was instrumental in preserving.

Gette will also give an overview of Swoope’s family, both sides of which provided him with an inheritance he used very wisely in his preservation and restoration work.  “Walter was a good friend of mine,” he says.

“I had a chance to admire his work over the years, and to consult with him on many of his projects.  Walter and I were both night hawks, hating to get up in the morning, and these habits worked to our advantage.

“During the many years I lived in Madison, Wis., if I had a phone call late at night, I always picked up because I knew it was likely to be Walter.

“We would gab for hours about goings-on in Philipsburg, and Walter’s involvement in one project or another.”

“Walter’s sister Beth and his extended family were very interested in his work, and very supportive,” says Gette.  “We hope to have a number of them present as guests at the fall dinner.”

Tickets will be $25 for a nice buffet supper, and are available from PHF board members, or from paulspringer@gmail.com.  Or call Paul Springer at 814-577-1994.

Please purchase tickets in advance, before Oct. 2, as there will be no tickets available at the door.

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