submitted by CAROL BEAR-HECKMAN
Preservation Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth’s only private statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people protect and preserve the historic places that matter to them, has selected the 1813 Joseph Steckel House, located at 101 S. Chestnut Street, Historic Bath, as the recipient of the 2016 Special Focus Award, “Grassroots Advocacy.”
Carol Bear-Heckman purchased the 1804 Daniel Steckel House in the Borough of Bath in 1977. She researched its history, drew its floor plans and submitted a nomination for the National Register. In 1982, the Daniel Steckel House was listed on the National Register.
In 1980, Carol started the Governor Wolf Historical Society’s Christmas House Tour. Every year it has opened to the public five or more historic homes with at least one each year located in Bath. The tour includes a pamphlet, which has a sketch of the home, its description and history. The 2016 tour will be the 36th year of the event.
Fascinated by the history of the borough, Carol then turned her attention to the rest of the historic town, founded in 1737. She spent a summer walking each street, documenting each structure and compiling a spreadsheet with over 400 buildings. She was a member of the Bath Historical Committee, spoke to Bath Council, toured the town with representatives from the Historical and Museum Commission from Harrisburg and gave a historic district power point presentation at a town meeting. After visiting Bath, Michel Lefevre noted that S. Chestnut St (one block) is one of the few blocks in Pennsylvania with every building dating between 1799 and 1899 with no intrusions. In 1998, the Bath Historic District was formed, along with a CLG and HARB. Carol, a founding HARB member, still sits on the HARB today.
In 1998, Darrin Heckman and Carol met and Darrin’s talents as a project engineer accelerated the historical efforts in Bath. They continued research, drew maps, collected information and photos from residents and together wrote the 128-page book Images of America: Bath and Its Neighbors.
In 2008, Christ Church decided to demolish the 1813 stone Joseph Steckel House for a parking lot. They had purchased it with that intention over 30 years prior. They enjoyed many years of rent, but had evicted the tenant due to too many needed repairs and now the building was declared uninhabitable. One roof hole had resulted in rotted wood beams and floor all the way to the basement. But because of the Bath Historic District and their location on S. Chestnut Street, they reconsidered and offered the building for sale. Darrin and Carol purchased the building and Darrin did the land development plans, the meetings with zoning, planning and council and the subdivision. Because of difficulty connecting to the storm sewer, they put in a state-of-the-art brick paver infiltration parking lot to be shared by the church and the Joseph Steckel House.
The encouragement, support and advice from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has been instrumental to their successes. Carol and Darrin still continue today to be advocates for Historic Bath. Carol has given ‘Historic Bath’ speeches to Lions, Northampton Community College, churches and historical societies. Carol is a member of Borough of Bath Council, HARB, Bath Business and Community Partnership, Bath Farmers’ Market Board, Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce Board and Governor Wolf Historical Society Board. Darrin is a member of the Bath Planning Commission, Christ Church Consistory, Christ Church Property Committee, Masonic Lodge #413 of Bath, and the Governor Wolf Historical Society Board. They have received the Nazareth-Bath Preservation Award, The Bath Restoration Award, and the Community Spirit Award. In addition to the Daniel Steckel house and the Joseph Steckel House, Carol and Darrin have purchased four other historic buildings on Chestnut Street in Bath and are busy restoring them. The focus today is to bring small businesses to the downtown area, and the Heckman’s have been instrumental in opening five new businesses on Chestnut Street, Historic Bath.