Tamaqua began as a water-powered mill town, but by the middle of the nineteenth century was caught up in the coal boom. The village was laid out in 1829, and by the 1840s there was so much demand for space that the town moved the course of the Schuylkill River by filling its old channel with coal waste and building on the newly created ground. A catastrophic flood in 1850 returned the river to its historic course, wiping out much of the town center. That was followed by a greater disaster, the 1857 fire that left only a few buildings, among them the fireproof Anthracite Bank (1850) at 133 W. Broad Street. Building largely stopped at the end of the nineteenth century after the Molly Maguires unrest. Efforts to broaden the town economy began to pay off in the early twentieth century with foundries, cloth mills, and a gunpowder plant. In those years Tamaqua became the sinecure of Benjamin Rush Stevens, a late partner of Hewitt Brothers, who managed several projects in Tamaqua, including Peoples Trust Company (1924) at 100 E. Broad Street and the Masonic Temple (1928) at 139 W. Broad Street.
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