Published Date Written by Jim Lewis
The McNair House is a mystery. The stately house that sits at the intersection of Emaus and Union streets – at the entrance to Middletown’s downtown business district – dates back to at least 1894, but its architectural style suggests it is older than that.
It was the home of Harold V. McNair, a long-time burgess of Middletown, back when burgesses, not mayors, represented boroughs. Recently, it was purchased by the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, which had planned to build a rather elaborate pavilion on property in front of the three-story house, part of the authority’s goal to transform the intersection into a new town square.
Plans seem to have changed, however. The pavilion has grown smaller, and now the McNair House could have a starring role in the authority’s downtown revitalization. Authority Chairman Matt Tunnell said the downtown improvements should focus on how to “visually ensure’’ that the McNair House has a presence in the renovated business district, and suggested the first floor could host a commercial or retail tenant.
It’s future is up for debate among borough officials. Councilor Scott Sites has suggested it be demolished to make way for parking, which could be at a premium once revitalization of the business district is completed. True, the borough may have the future good fortune of having to worry how so many visitors to Middletown will find a place to park their cars, but we believe that problem can be solved without tearing down such an old, quaint building. We’d like to see the McNair House saved and used as a commercial property.
With restoration of the Elks Building across the street, to be used as a brew pub and distillery, and the preservation of mansions and old commercial buildings on the rest of Union Street, it makes sense to save the McNair House and use it, not replace it with asphalt.