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HCPA applies for funding to repaint Deily mule barn

Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association is seeking a Trexler Trust grant.

The application was submitted in December 2020. HCPA oversees a number of historical treasures in Catasauqua.

According to HCPA volunteer Deb Mellish, the grant request is to repaint the mule barn. The Trexler grant award decision is expected sometime this summer.

The mule barn, Mellish noted, is located on a compound behind the Biery House at 8 Race St.

It’s a “muddy yellow color,” according to Mellish, and is in need of refurbishing.

The barn was once owned by George B.F. Deily.

The barn was used as a place for residents to keep mules and as a rest station for the mules used to pull canalboats. In this case, the boats were full of coal and unloaded at the Deily Coal Yard. The coal would then be sold and distributed to Catasauqua residents.

Deily was a lifelong bachelor. He was a coal and coal services businessman and dabbled in real estate and money lending around the turn of the 20th century from his 2 Race St. residence.

Reportedly, Deily loaned residents money to purchase homes. He would then seize homes whose owners experienced difficulty repaying him.

Mellish said Deily painted most of the homes and buildings he owned in Catasauqua, including the mule barn, that “muddy yellow color.”

At one point, Deily owned more than 100 properties in the borough.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were a number of colorful characters in Catasauqua. George B.F. Deily was one of them.

Deily was born in 1865.

In 1884, he reopened the coal yard behind 2 Race St. Before the reopening, the coal yard was closed from 1882 to 1884.

Although he benefited from his father’s estate, in 1885, Deily opened a general store at 101 Front St. He was on his way to more financial success. Typically, he could be found in his store, perched on a high stool, with his trademark black derby on top of his short, stocky frame. A cigar was usually clenched between his teeth.

In addition to these two prosperous enterprises, Deily accumulated real estate. In addition to the farms he inherited from his father’s estate, he was a real estate operator.

It was rumored the acquisition of these homes was the result of quick collection of personal debts owed to him. During the depression, many residents were without jobs and borrowed money from Deily. They had put up their homes as collateral, and Deily foreclosed when payments could not be met.

Despite his ownership of many homes, Deily resided his entire life in his house at 2 Race St. He never married but lived with his sister and her husband and his housekeeper.

Deily died in November 1940, after a long illness.

After his death, newspaper reports indicated most of his assets were left to charity. He had set up the G.B.F. Deily Hospital Fund to assist Allentown Hospital. He created a fund for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Catasauqua.

Deily also bequeathed a substantial amount of cash to his sister, housekeeper and some of his employees.

Upon the death of his sister, the G.B.F. Deily Memorial Fund was created to help Allentown Hospital, the Topton Lutheran Home and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

The Deily legacy appears mixed. Some see him as a wealthy philanthropist; others view him as a scoundrel. However, he was an influential personality who added, along with others, considerable color to the history of Catasauqua.

For HCPA, Deily is considered one of many whose work is memorialized in the rich Catasauqua history of the 19th century.

The dedicated HCPA volunteers labor to keep memories alive by recounting the stories of past borough leaders and thorough maintenance of buildings where these leaders created Catasauqua legacies.

“We hope to receive the grant from Trexler, so we can keep working to keep our history alive,” Mellish said.

PRESS PHOTOS BY BILL LEINER JR. Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association is seeking a Trexler Trust grant to repaint the mule barn, located at the historic Deily Coal Yard in Catasauqua. A decision is expected sometime this summer.
Funds will be used to repaint and refurbish the historic building, which was an important part of the canal system that ran through Catasauqua.
The Deily Coal Yard was founded in 1849. George B.F. Deily took over the yard in 1884.
Deb Mellish, Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association volunteer, is looking to repaint the “muddy yellow color” of the mule barn.