On Wednesday, Penn State Hazleton held a ceremony dedicating a historical plaque in honor of the Markle family in the campus memorial garden. The tablet commemorates the history of the Markles in the Hazleton area and their contributions to the Penn State Hazleton campus. The tablet was donated by the descendants of Alvan Markle, nearly 40 of whom attended Wednesday's ceremony.
The campus was originally known as "Highacres," the estate of Alvan and Mary D. Markle, who purchased the property in 1915 from the Lehigh Coal & Land Company and commissioned architect John Russell Pope to design their 32-room home, which was built in 1924. The walls were constructed with fieldstone and concrete to protect the home from forest fires.
Today, the home serves as Schiavo Hall, Penn State Hazleton's administration building.
"The Markle family's contributions to Penn State Hazleton and this area are substantial," said Chancellor Gary Lawler. "We are grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge their role in helping to provide a permanent location for our campus and the development of our students ever since."
Alvan Markle's noteworthy achievements throughout the area are recorded on the plaque. He was instrumental in the installation of the nation's sixth electric power plant in Hazleton in 1883. In 1886, he became president of the Markle Banking & Trust Company, Hazleton's first bank. During his 43-year tenure, he assisted in providing funding for many worthy local enterprises. In 1892, before personal automobiles and public transportation, he used electric trolley service to connect more than 17 isolated coal-mining villages to Hazleton and created Hazle Park, a 40-acre wooded, public park featuring a lake and recreational facilities. He devised the protected-third-rail power supply system and built the Wilkes-Barre & Hazleton Railroad to connect the cities in 1903.
In 1910, he commissioned the construction of the Markle Banking & Trust Company building, Hazleton's most prominent structure and Penn State Hazleton's first home. The building, now a central part in the revitalization of downtown Hazleton, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1913, he organized a syndicate to provide Hazleton with telephone service and became president of the Lehigh Telephone Company, which served the entire Lehigh Valley. He was vice president and a director of the Jeddo Highland Coal Company and president of the Hazleton Manufacturing Company.
During World War I, Markle served as chairman of the Luzerne County Public Safety Committee and was a director of the Pennsylvania Council of National Defense. He organized Liberty Bond drives during the war in support of the United States. Appointed as Hazleton's tax collector by the Luzerne County commissioners, he served in that role without compensation.
From 1909 to 1924, he was chairman of the Joint United Mine Workers and Anthracite Operators Committee, which issued a resolution that he "presided over the conferences between operators and miners with infinite patience, exemplary fairness, and distinguished ability." He became a director of the Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania State Chambers of Commerce in 1916 and was also appointed special assistant to the postmaster general by President Harding.
"Alvan Markle, and his sons, had the vision to see Hazleton's needs, the ability to finance worthy projects, and the leadership that inspired civic progress," the plaque notes.
Penn State Hazleton, established in 1934, had its first home in downtown Hazleton in the Markle building and had several locations in Hazleton over the next 14 years. Markle's sons provided the means for the university to open the campus in a permanent location overlooking the Conyngham Valley, beginning in 1948, when Alvan Markle Jr. encouraged his brother, Eckley B.C. Markle, to give 60 acres to the Hazleton Educational Council for Penn State Hazleton and to sell, on generous terms, six additional acres with the building and gardens. In 1969, their brother, Donald Markle, gave his adjoining 31-acre estate, Norwinds, to Penn State for $1, plus related expenses. In 1998, Hazel R. Markle, Eckley's widow, gave seven acres near Council Crest for $1. Also, at that time their four children established the Alvan Markle Jr. & Gladys Jones Markle Scholarship. More recently, the heirs of Alvan Markle's uncle, Steven D. Engle, gave an additional 27 acres to Penn State Hazleton.