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Schuylkill County Native Clings to Renovation Dream Despite Mansion Fire

The Minersville area native refuses to give up hope of restoring the mansion to its previous glory despite a devastating electrical fire.

Foster Township, Schuylkill County -- 82-year-old Joe Roperto walked the grounds, Thursday, of an historic property on Hill Road located in Buck Run Village, Schuylkill County. It's the Buck Run Mansion or Neale Mansion. Roperto used to deliver newspapers to its original owner coal baron James Neale in the 1930's and 1940's. Even as a child, Mr. Roperto had much respect for the property. "We didn't come here even though we played in the road or the tennis court. We never came back here."

Back here is where Mr. Roperto hoped to live after a planned move from Virginia later this year. That dream went up in smoke last Friday when fire swept through the landmark building which Mr. Roperto bought in 2012. He sank nearly a half-million dollars in renovations into the place in the last year and a half. "I said we would start on it right away and that's what we did." Mr. Roperto's eagerness to renovate the mansion ended up costing him dearly. He began renovations before consulting with an insurance company which then, in turn, denied him coverage. Losing that major investment combined with being in his 80s might deter a lesser man but Mr. Roperto refuses to abandon his dream of renovating the mansion. A bank fund is now set up at First National Bank of Minersville on Sunbury Street in Minersville for anyone who wishes to donate to the cause. "If we can clean it up, I'm sure that we can rebuild."

Mr. Roperto's longtime friend and construction worker, David Salazar, who oversaw most of the renovations before the fire is also holding out hope. "If we bring a group of carpenters, I mean real professional carpenters, they can finish in no time," said Mr. Salazar. Mr. Roperto added, "We'll just have to take it a day at a time and try and sort throughout and see what we an salvage and what the end results will be." If Mr. Roperto can somehow make his dream a reality, he expects it would take a little more than a year before the mansion would be fit to call home.

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