What's Historic About Brookville, Pennsylvania?

The Unfinished Dream
By Heather Buck

It's big, yellow brick with a silver domed roof and it stands near the Brookville Memorial Park, can you guess what this local landmark is?

That question could be answered in several different ways. This building has many different names, including "The Park Auditorium" and "White Brook."

But the most common name locally is "The White Elephant" defined as "any object no longer desired by its owner but of possible value to others." This definition accurately describes the history of this famous building. The elaborate architectural style was based on an opera house in Pittsburgh giving it a distinct style all its own.

The original plan for what was then called the Park Auditorium were made in 1915. When it was designed the cost was expected to be about $8,000. A later expansion plan raised the estimate to $25,000. It was stated in a local newspaper that "even the best could not be too good for Brookville."

Many people today could also ask, what was that building intended to be used for? It had many uses. It was opened as the Jefferson County Fair Auditorium Building but has been used as an auditorium, cultural center, theater and even as a temporary courthouse. It was home to bazaars, minstrel shows, auctions, pageants, festivals, concerts, and musicals. It was hoped the building would attract public interest and make money for the town.

The local newspaper said, "No town our size and wealth in the state has done more for the community improvements than Brookville. No people with greater civic pride exist anywhere."

Another local resident added, "This Park Auditorium will stand as a symbol of the way Brookville does things."

The work did begin in 1915 until bad weather halted the work in December. In the spring the Study Club and Boy Scouts joined together to start a paper collecting campaign to raise money to finish the work. The work did begin again but the money ran out far quicker than the dreams.

After being used for a variety of purposes, including manufacturing radar tubes during World War II, the building fell into disuse until it was purchased by Harold and Donald Dinger who used it for their machine shop.

The "White Elephant" demonstrates the hopes and ambitions of our ancestors. It is a monument to a dream never finished.

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