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Schuylkill County News

Historical Marker Dedicated in Pottsville to Honor Preservation Hall Jazz Band Founder, Allan Jaffe

Hundreds turn out for ceremony in Pottsville; Preservation Hall band performs

It took a number of years to arrive at a Historical Marker dedication ceremony for Allan Jaffe on Centre St. in Pottsville Saturday morning. But it all started with a chance encounter one night in New Orleans and, of all things, a Yuengling T-shirt.

Pine Grove native Joe Stolarick, who had moved to the Crescent City, was wearing the shirt sporting the logo of Pottsville’s historic beer. That shirt caught the eye of Ben Jaffe, the son of Allan, who is creative director of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Allan Jaffe founded that world-famous New Orleans jazz band after he and his wife, Sandra, moved there from Pottsville after their honeymoon. He was born in Pottsville in 1935 and passed away in 1987 at the age of 51. Sandra died in 2021.

When Ben Jaffe saw Stolarick’s T-shirt, he said, “Hey, my dad’s from Pottsville.”

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That got the two talking.

At the time, Stolarick tells The Canary, he really wasn’t aware of Ben’s father’s connection to Pottsville.

“I knew who Ben was. And I knew who his dad was. But I didn’t know he had that connection,” Stolarick says. “That sparked something. And I started to research and the more that I dug, the more interested I became in the history.

allan jaffe historical marker pottsville pa
Joe Stolarick speaks on Saturday, May 14, 2024, at the dedication ceremony for the official historical marker of Allan Jaffe, founder of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans. Jaffe is a Pottsville native who moved to New Orleans with his wife, Sandra, after their honeymoon. The historical marker is placed at the original site of Jaffe’s father’s paint and wallpaper store. (Coal Region Canary photos)

“Eventually, I had this pile of information, trying to figure out what I should do with it,” he adds.

All that research eventually led to Stolarick applying to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2022 to have an official historic marker placed in Pottsville to honor Allan Jaffe.

That was no small feat. As Dr. William Lewis, a Commissioner with the PHMC, puts it, getting a marker approved by that organization requires work on the level of a Master’s thesis.

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So, after that chance encounter in a city 1,200 miles from here – and a fortuitous wardrobe selection – and countless hours of research and writing, Stolarick, Ben Jaffe, members of the Jaffe family, some members of the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and a couple hundred others – including former Gov. Tom Corbett, who is Stolarick’s uncle – gathered on N. Centre St. on Saturday morning to dedicate the official state Historical Marker for Allan Jaffe.

The bold, blue marker with yellow writing is located right in front of 316 N. Centre St. in Pottsville. That address is the original location of Harry Jaffe’s wallpaper and paint store and was Allen Jaffe’s first home. It’s now Arrow Studio & Events.

allan jaffe historical marker pottsville pa (4)

Honoring a Jazz Legend, Allan P. Jaffe

“My hope is that this marker will be a constant reminder of Allan’s connection to Pottsville,” Stolarick said during the dedication ceremony.

“It’s markers like this that show the contributions of someone from this community to the music of our nation and to the entire world,” Lewis, from the PHMC, said just before the cloak was removed from the marker.

Ben Jaffe spoke during Saturday’s dedication. It was the first time he’d been back in Pottsville in about 40 years. Today, he’s the creative director of Preservation Hall Jazz Band and plays sousaphone in it.

Jaffe said the marker was a fitting tribute to his father, especially because of the location of it. He said that even though his parents left Pottsville to live in New Orleans, he never truly left Pottsville and Pottsville never left him.

“Of anywhere in the world, this is where my dad would have wanted this,” Jaffe said Saturday morning. “It helped form who he was and the decisions he made in life. I can see that he and my mother and Preservation Hall and the impact that they had on all of us here.

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“To be acknowledged here today would have made him extremely happy. I don’t think he could have imagined being honored in any other way than right here in the town that he loved,” Jaffe added.

“Of anywhere in the world, this is where my dad would have wanted this,” Ben Jaffe said of the location of the state historical marker in honor of Allan Jaffe, his father, founder of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

During and after Saturday’s ceremony, Jaffe spoke more about his and his family’s connection to Pottsville, even when they were spending much of their time in New Orleans or on the road with the band. And yes, that connection often included Yuengling.

Jaffe said when he was with his parents at restaurants and they’d have Yuengling on the menu, his father’s eyes would light up.

“You would have thought my dad won the lottery,” he said. “He would just go on and on and on and on about Yuengling and the oldest brewery and his hometown and I didn’t know, at the time, that that was a way for him to express his pride for being from this place. And it never left him.”

Stellar Turnout

A couple hundred people converged on the 300 block of N. Centre St. on Saturday morning for the dedication ceremony. That was a bit surprising to many because Jaffe doesn’t get the recognition that some other famous musicians who called Schuylkill County home seem to garner.

That’ll certainly change now.

“Being born and raised in Pottsville, I knew the Jaffe name but associated it with wallpaper and paint,” Pottsville Mayor Dave Clews said. “It’s truly amazing that Pottsville can say it has a hometown musician that created, supported, and was part of such an amazing music history. Thank you Allan Jaffe for giving Pottsville another reason to be proud.”

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Stolarick’s uncle, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett echoed that sentiment during the ceremony.

“Until Joe mentioned this to me, I had no idea who he was talking about,” Corbett said.

The fantastic turnout was a bit of a surprise to Jaffe as well. But then again, maybe not. As he put it, his family had deep connections to Pottsville, even if they spent much of their time miles away.

“I didn’t know how many people would turn out either but … my grandparents lived their lives here and raised their family here and have a very big, lasting impact on the city,” he tells The Canary.

“I met quite a few people today who came up to me and made a point of saying that they remember having fond memories of my grandparents. The turnout speaks to that. People were touched by my family, by the music, by New Orleans, by being from Pottsville. All of those connections are really deep and meaningful.”

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Even though Ben was born in and lives in New Orleans, he holds fond memories of Pottsville as well. He said he would spend his summers here – about 10 years of summers.

“It was a big presence in our lives,” he says.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band Performs in Pottsville

Following the dedication ceremony, five members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performed two songs for the crowd, right next to the newly minted historical marker.

You can watch videos of those performances here:

State Historical Markers in Schuylkill County

The historical marker dedicated to Allan Jaffe in Pottsville now joins the 27 others in Schuylkill County.

Jaffe joins other famous coal region musicians like band leader Les Brown (Porter Township), The Dorsey Brothers (Shenandoah), and composer Victor Schertzinger (Mahanoy City) with a marker in their honor.

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Here is a list of the other State Historical Markers located in Schuylkill County:

NameDate DedicatedMunicipalityStreet Address
1902 Anthracite Coal StrikeOct 25, 2002Shenandoah Centre and Union Sts.
Ashland Boys' AssociationAug 31, 2013Ashland N Hoffman Blvd.
Birth of Cable TelevisionJan 1, 1998Mahanoy TownshipVulcan Hill Rd. (PA 54)
Burd PattersonOct 5, 1996Pottsville 803 Mahantongo St.
Conrad RichterDec 8, 1994Pine Grove 11 Maple St.
Firth Dock (1828-1871)Oct 23, 1999Port Carbon E Washington St. (Rt. 209)
Fort FranklinMar 16, 1955West Penn Township2308 W Penn Pike (PA 309)
Fort LebanonFeb 20, 1949West Brunswick TwpMarket St. (PA 895)
John O'HaraJun 19, 1982Pottsville 606 Mahantongo St.
John Siney (1831-1880)Sep 1, 2003St. Clair Claude A Lord Blvd. (Rt. 61)
Les BrownMar 14, 2006Porter Township1944 E Grand Ave. (PA 209)
Little Lithuania, USAAug 10, 2013Shenandoah 5 N Main St. (PA 924)
Mahanoy PlaneSep 8, 2007Frackville Gold Star Hwy. (Rt. 924)
Mary Harris "Mother" JonesOct 25, 2002Coaldale E Water St. (Rt. 209) & 1st St.
Molly Maguire ExecutionsSep 9, 2006Pottsville Sanderson St.
Muhammad Ali Training CampJun 3, 2023Wayne Township8 Sculps Hill Road
Pottsville MaroonsNov 10, 1999Pottsville 305 N Center St.
Schuylkill CanalSep 4, 1994Port Carbon Pine & Pike Sts.
Schuylkill CountyMay 26, 1982Pottsville Laurel Blvd. & N 2nd St.
Sheppton Mine Disaster and RescueAug 22, 2015East Union TownshipSchoolhouse Rd.
St. Michael's ChurchNov 4, 1984Shenandoah Chestnut & Oak Sts.
The Dorsey BrothersSep 7, 1991Shenandoah 5 N. Main St. (PA 924)
Tulpehocken PathSep 16, 1949Pine Grove 205 N Tulpehocken St. (PA 125)
Tulpehocken PathFeb 7, 1950Hegins TownshipMain St. (PA 25)
Union CanalFeb 17, 1950Pine Grove TownshipSuedburg Rd. (PA 443)
Valley FurnaceOct 20, 1948New Philadelphia N Valley St. (US 209)
Victor Schertzinger (1888-1941)Sep 1, 2006Mahanoy City 115 W Centre St. (PA 54)

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