A Place in Time spotlights a significant cultural resource - a district, site, building, structure or object - entered in the National Register of Historic Places.

With nearly one hundred employees, the Pennsylvania Match Company of Bellefonte, Centre County, commenced production of its popular “single dip strike-anywhere” and “par­lor” matches in February 1900. The company had been organized the year before, at which time it began construction of brick build­ings designed by Bellefonte builder and architect Robert Cole (1850-1916), who was responsible for the construction or restyling of numerous buildings in the region. Samuel A. Donachy, a former su­perintendent of match companies
in York, York County, and Hanover, Adams County, relo­cated to Bellefonte to serve as superintendent. Skilled workers from the Hanover company, which had closed, also moved to the Centre County community and provided an experienced work force and expert management. Be­cause of the plant’s location in the Commonwealth’s vast lumber region, raw materials were easily obtained.

Before the company’s first full year of production, management realized that the operation was inadequate to meet de­mands, and expanded its capabilities by quickly erecting additional buildings on the site. During the firm’s first decade, it operated as a partnership, but in 1911 it was restructured as a corporation and rec­ognized as one of the eight largest match factories in the United States. At the time of its incorporation, the £inn listed assets in raw material alone at nearly five and a half million feet of match lumber.

The Pennsylvania Match Company re­mained successful under subsequent owners, eventually emerging as the Uni­versal Match Corporation, but the economic boom accompanying World War II proved to have the greatest positive im­pact. By January 1947, the facility employed four hundred workers.

But the boom quickly went bust.

Just five months later, on July 1, 1947, Bellefonte’s Universal Match Corporation ceased operations, citing plummeting de­mand for wood matches. Company officials explained that the decline was prompted by the increasing use of book matches, cigarette lighters, and kitchen stoves that no longer required manual lighting. The complex was purchased by a residential and light construc­tion retail business and was most recently used for the storage of building materials. Bellefonte Borough has recently acquired the historic property to ensure its preservation through adaptive re-use.

The Pennsylvania Match Com­pany is significant in the history of industry for its role in the pro­duction of a specialized forest product. The eighteen connected buildings and structures compose the only extant industrial com­plex in the community associated with the lumber industry.

 

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