NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The members of the Newtown Historic Association on Sept. 10 surprised longtime members Dave and Mary Callahan by renaming its new research center at 100 Mercer Street in their honor.
The “Callahan Research Center,” located inside the former Newtown Ambulance Squad building, houses a treasure trove of Newtown history from its founding to the present time.
“This is a very special night. Not often do we get a chance to celebrate and to say thank you to some people who have done so much not only for the Newtown Historic Association, but for the whole community,” said NHA President Barry Fleck.
“We want to thank you for all the work you have done and the dedication. And on behalf of the board of directors, we are dedicating this building in your honor,” Fleck told the Callahans as applause filled the evening air.
Fleck then joined board member Paul Gouza in the unveiling of a new sign just above the entrance door to the center as more applause erupted.
Another much larger sign decorates the wall just inside the door to the research center. Both signs were created by borough artist Howard Geyer.
“You have been the driving force behind this. You and Mary have done so much. It’s really our honor to recognize you in this way,” Fleck told the Callahan’s.
Mayor Charles “Corky” Swartz then stepped forward to present a special proclamation designating Sept. 10, 2020 as a day to honor Dave and Mary Callahan with the dedication of the Callahan Research Center in their honor.
“The citizens of Newtown now have a permanent reminder of the dedication of Mary and Dave Callahan to the community and to the Newtown Historic Association,” said the Mayor.
For Dave Callahan, the research center has been his home away from home. Surrounded by historic maps, old photographs and other memorabilia, he has faithfully staffed the center most Tuesday and Thursday evenings for more than 40 years, tracing genealogies, organizing files and fielding questions about historic Newtown.
“I’m shocked. I don’t know what to say,” said Callahan, who humbly and quietly accepted the recognition. “I have given a lot to this organization and this makes me feel very appreciated,” he said.
The NHA recently acquired the building, renovated it and relocated its extensive collection of history from the second floor of the Court Inn to its new home on Mercer Street.
The Callahan Research Center houses an impressive collection of Newtown history, including deeds, wills, diaries, genealogies, photographs, directories, inventories and maps dealing with Newtown people, land, houses, farms, schools, service organizations, events and many other topics of interest.
“Dave has volunteered countless hours into getting the new Research Center up and running, in addition to helping to coordinate the renovations at the Court Inn, among many other things he does for the historic association and the community,” said Fleck.
“Dave’s involvement in the Newtown community has been quite extensive, and he has been presented with numerous awards over the years. He is the very embodiment of the term ‘volunteer’ in all aspects of the word.
“There is literally not an event that takes place in Newtown that does not in some way benefit from his knowledge, experience, selflessness and unending hard work,” said Fleck.
Several years ago, Callahan was recognized at the state level when he received the 2008 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center as a testament to his dedication and work.
At the Newtown Historic Association, Dave has been a member since 1968 and has served on the Board of Directors, and as an officer for more than three decades in various capacities, including research center volunteer, event and committee chair, fundraising organizer, community liaison, etc.
Most notably, he has served as president of the association on three different occasions from 1978-1982; 1992-2000; and again from 2004-2006.
“This wouldn’t be here if not for Dave and Mary,” said Gouza of the new research center. “For years, Dave and Mary have done so much for the association behind the scenes. This is so well deserved.”
After buying the Newtown Hardware House in 1985, Callahan quickly became a fixture in the community with his extensive knowledge of the business and his pleasant demeanor. He sold the store in 2012 and continued working part time there until his retirement.
In addition to his extensive knowledge of hardware, Callahan has a deep and abiding love and appreciation for the town’s past.
Through his involvement with the Newtown Historical Association, Callahan has spent untold hours contributing to the preservation of the town’s past. He has also written and contributed to several books that have benefited the NHA.
Callahan also has served on many philanthropic boards and organizations in Newtown, including the Community Welfare Council, which oversees Pickering Manor, the Historic Newtown Theatre and the Lighthouse Hill Cemetery.
He’s also a member of the Newtown Reliance Company for the Detecting and Apprehending of Horse Thieves and Other Villains. And he is a former board member of the Newtown Sewer Authority.
In addition, Dave served on the original Newtown Beerfest Committee and helped coordinate the event for many years in support of the Newtown Fire Association.
He also was instrumental in the design and procurement of the Santa House in the borough and still helps out with holiday activities in Newtown Borough – especially the star on the Christmas tree which he made.
He has also donated his time to the
Knights of Pythias; the Newtown Mercantile Group; the Newtown Borough Long Term Parking Committee; and the now defunct Newtown Corporation. He is also an Honorary Member of International Honor Society of Sigma Pi Kappa – Scholar, Protector of Cultural Resources.
“I’ve known Mary most of my life and Dave since he has come to town,” said Mayor Swartz. “It has been an honor to be able to work with them in this community and to witness the dedication they have to Newtown as well as the Newtown Historic Association. It takes special people to preserve all of the documents and things that the borough has accumulated over 350 years.”
The collections housed inside the Callahan Research Center are especially strong in the period 1725 to 1813, when the village served as the county seat. Edward Hicks, America’s foremost primitive painter, is also well represented.
According to Callahan, the collections are of particular value to persons interested in genealogical information of former Newtown residents, and the maps and deeds are of assistance to those studying land history or dating historic houses in the Newtown area. In 2001, the archives were supplemented by a donation of over 150 photographs from the estate of Norman Kitchin.
The Research Center was opened in 1982 and the core of the collection was a gift from Edward R. Barnsley, a long time Newtown resident, collector and preservationist.
The Research Center is open to the public without charge on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and by appointment.