Cressona man renovates old home into 'Museum'
Nov 27, 2012 (Republican & Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
An abstract mural on a former three-story apartment building at 424 S. Centre St., Pottsville, with streaks of red on a sky blue background piques the curiosity of motorists and passersby.
A sign on the side of the building says "Age of Darkness."
A sign on the front of the building, "Pottsville Museum," may prompt some to look for the hours of operation.
There aren't any yet.
Marianne Robinson, 54, of Cressona, is the owner. David A. Johnson, 58, her live-in boyfriend, is the artist who has been renovating the building off and on for six years.
"Actually, it's open by appointment. I've been advertising with friends and people I know. I have a card. My number is 570-385-1836," Johnson said Nov. 14.
"Eventually, we'd like to have an open house for the general public," Robinson said.
Johnson said he hopes to have an open house the weekend of The Block of Art in 2013. The annual arts festival in downtown Pottsville is slated for the weekend of April 19, 20 and 21.
Donald J. Chescavage, city code enforcement officer, said last week he's been monitoring the renovation work Robinson and Johnson have been doing over the years. He credited them with saving the building.
It was damaged in a March 2001 fire at 430 S. Centre St., which housed a business, Pick-A-Pack, and a vacant apartment building at 428 S. Centre St. Those buildings were destroyed and, subsequently, demolished.
In April 2006, David Souchak sold the property to Robinson for $3,500, according to the online Schuylkill Parcel Locator, and that year, Johnson started renovation work.
Born in Saint Paul, Minn., Oct. 1, 1954, Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in art from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1978. Then in 1983, he earned a master's degree in art from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
"I decided I was an artist a long time ago; not a good economic decision. But this is what I do. And I tend to make pictures that talk a lot," Johnson said Nov. 15.
These days, Johnson works as a independent contractor, doing house painting and carpentry work.
He also collects antiques and has a collection for sale at The Pottsville Museum. They include a vintage Halloween costume of the John Travolta character Vincent "Vinnie" Barbarino from the 1970s ABC show "Welcome Back Kotter."
Other items for sale at The Pottsville Museum include 33 1/3 albums, religious paintings from various artists and some of Johnson's original paintings.
Meanwhile, Johnson said he's been working on the building bit by bit and has no time frame to complete the renovations.
"The renovation work is under his total direction, but we're doing the best we can to add what we can to the town," Robinson said.
But rooms on each of the three floors are open for tours, he said.
Before the message "Age of Darkness" was bolted to the south side of the building, another, "Peace is Possible" was there.
"They offered people a little bit of mystery. He likes that. Personally, I prefer 'Peace is Possible,' " Robinson said.
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