The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 10, 2012

Knights of Columbus chapter sells historic downtown site

Dave Sutor

— The Knights of Columbus Council 467 headquarters, with its Romanesque architecture and distinctive stonework, is one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in Johnstown.

Located at 229 Main St., the structure has been home to the Catholic fraternal service organization since the early 1900s. Countless individuals have gathered there for bowling games and pool tournaments, wedding receptions and memorial luncheons, Knights meetings and community service activities. It is one of the region’s oldest and most historically-significant places.

But, soon, it won’t belong to the Knights anymore.

The group recently sold the 15,748-square-foot structure to the Peer Empowerment Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with mental illnesses.

Financial difficulties, caused in part by a drop in membership from more than 500 to approximately 250 over the past few years, forced the sale.

“We have gotten far behind in our bills just like any other organization where membership has gotten older. It’s really tough to get the younger generation involved with it. ... We really got behind the eight ball. It was either this or file bankruptcy. The building really beat us up,” said Council 467 Grand Knight Dave Vitovich.

The building was constructed for William H. Rose, Johnstown’s first mayor after the 1889 Flood.

It remained a single-family dwelling until the local Knights acquired it. The Peer Empowerment Network wants to respect the building’s rich past.

“We want to preserve the history and integrity,” said network board President Tracy Selak.

“It is a landmark.”

Her group plans to use the structure as a place for recreational activities, such as bingo and bowling, along with meetings. The network had been looking for a new facility for a while, since its current headquarters, located on Vine Street, has only 600 square feet. “From our perspective, it met a great many of the needs we were looking for,” said Selak.

The $125,000 sale is expected to be completed in January.

The Knights chapter will use the money to settle its debts and then look for a new headquarters, preferably in downtown Johnstown.

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