Malta Home to be razed

GRANVILLE – It has been there since the 1920s, but by the end of the year, the Malta Home in Granville Township will no longer be standing.

The building was planned and designed by the Knights in the Order of Malta of Pennsylvania and the local chapter.

The knights were a society created in Middle Ages, with just a few in Pennsylvania. At first, many knights were from the noble classes, but today, knights come from all walks of life.

The Knights of Malta have kept their moral values, which are characterized by the spirit of service, sacrifice and discipline.

Today’s knights fight against disease, poverty, social isolation and intolerance with peaceful tools.

It was in this spirit that the knights decided to build the Malta home.

The knights wanted the building to be the pride of the community. The order wanted several buildings on the 131-acre property, which was sold to the knights for $6,000 by Henry Selick, according to documents from the Mifflin County Historical Society.

The building, which was to cost “not less than” half a million dollars, was to house an orphanage, a home for old and feeble knights, and the executive office of the order.

Ground was broken Oct. 18, 1918, and the cornerstone was laid on May 14, 1919. The cornerstone contained the name of every person who voted for Mrs. Gruber, a candidate in a Philadelphia newspaper circulation contest at the time. Historical documents do not show if she won, but if she did, $6,000 would have been donated to the home.

Throughout the next two years knights donated their time to complete one building. On Friday, Aug. 12, 1921, one wing of the building was completed and ready to be dedicated.

Five thousand guests were expected for the dedication on Saturday, Aug. 13, 1921.

At the time the building made of pressed brick and trimmed Indiana limestone was only one-third of the way completed. It was built in the form of the Order of Malta’s cross. Each wing and floor would have its own purpose, from housing elderly knights to the offices of the current order of knights.

Historic documents show that Sir Walter Dipple, Esq., a native son of old Granville, furnished the reception room in memory of his father.

The building’s interior had hardwood oak floors, with iron steel staircases. It was set up to have 65 bedrooms with 11 bathrooms on the upper floors and two general bathrooms on the lower floor.

Eventually other buildings, like cottages, would be built on the grounds, for the elderly.

Children who grew up in the orphanage started to get together in 1951 to share their memories of growing up in the home. Their stories contain everything from working in the poultry house to scrubbing floors. One person at one of these gatherings even shared a story about how one child shot a hole in the wall while playing with a shotgun.

Malta Home, under the knights, was a home for the elderly until 2005, when Valley View Retirement Community, of Belleville, purchased the home.

Valley View operated the home at its full capacity until 2009, when it closed the personal care home section of the building for financial reasons.

More recently, due to the age of the building and the overall cost of the upkeep, Valley View decided to close the facility. This brought improvements to their other facility in Union Township, where the Malta residents were moved.

The building, while it has been renovated a few times, is now set to be demolished.

Owners of the property are unsure yet what will become of the 131 acres that helped raised children or kept care of the elder knights. However, it will always remain a piece of Mifflin County history.