Gallery Now Open Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 - 4:00 pm. Weekdays by Appointment
A pair of photography buffs and entrepreneurs has invested in Brownsville, opening the Cast Iron Gallery in the former water company building at 200 Bank St.
"This is meant to be a way to protect and preserve the Brownsville history in a photographic way," says Stephen Beckman, a pharmaceutical executive who splits his time between Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh region. Co-owner Charles Hoopes also lives in Philly.
The town's new businesspeople and Beckman's father from South Carolina spent nearly six months working on the interior. The second floor was converted to an apartment, the first floor is the gallery and the basement, which needed mold remediation, is work and storage space. To date, Beckman has invested roughly $80,000 into the property.
"This is a major investment for me. I am committed to the town," Beckman says. "This hopefully will be a conduit to remind people that they have these wonderful resources in town. I'm hoping to raise awareness."
Cast Iron Gallery's soft opening was yesterday. Going forward, it will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Local resident and photographer Shauna Patterson-Benz has been hired as gallery hostess. The shop also is offering photography services.
Beckman and Hoopes will be providing exhibition space to local photographers in the future. Photographers should contact Beckman at 973-652-5324 about participating in the budding photo co-op.
Beckman's love for Brownsville began when he was scouring the area for photography sites. He subsequently volunteered with Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp., did a crowd-funding campaign that raised $7,000 for the organization and then became intrigued with opening a gallery in the borough. He --more--
ultimately bought the Bank Street building from BARC. During the course of his early involvement, he discovered his grandfather was born in Brownsville and baptized in the Historic Church of St. Peter on the Northside.
Cast Iron Gallery has artifacts related to the photography work, including an old ticketing window from the shuttered Union Station Building in the downtown. It also offers "a unique perspective," Beckman says, in that historic images and current ones depicting the same property or scene are hanging side by side.
"It has been a humbling, eye-opening personal development for me to meet the wonderful people in town and appreciate what they've done," Beckman adds. "I'm just looking to find different, creative ways to help the town."
Beckman also is in the process of setting up a nonprofit, Cast Iron Strong, which will be used to fund local initiatives. The gallery is free, but there is a donation box, the proceeds of which will go toward building maintenance, local organizations and community projects.