Using an eye-catching setting in a beautiful nearly eight-decades-old former school building and campus, staffers at Whitehall Columbia are employing customer service and charm to help the new special events venue go to the head of the class.
Head Concierge Harold Maddock says he knew the old Columbia Station public school building — which opened in 1938 — was just what he what he wanted for hosting a wide range of special events such as weddings, receptions, performing arts events or private parties. When the school district put the building up for auction several years ago, Maddock jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s a beautiful old building,” he says. “It has a lot of style and grace to it, which we’ve been able to utilize in setting up the Whitehall facilities.”
Maddock will readily admit to a hometown bias about the old building since his family has been in it before — as students.
“My father (Harold Sr.) attended school there the very first year it was open,” Maddock says. “I went to kindergarten there, then ended up in other classes there a few years later. It’s been a big part of the area for many years, and we know it means a lot to the community.”
That good feeling even helped draw one wedding from London, England.
“[The groom] was from Columbia originally and had apparently gone to school in London and is in the financial industry,” Maddock says. “When they were looking for a site, they liked the facilities and the idea of having it back here.”
One longtime Columbia Township resident and member of the Columbia Board of Education, Blanche Nemeth, says those types of feelings run deep. Nemeth, who has lived in the township since 1980, worked many years as a school bus driver and lunch aide for the district. She adds it was tough for the board of education and the community to decide what to do with the old school complex.
“We had looked at renovating the buildings for further use, but it just wasn’t cost-effective for the district,” she says. “We didn’t want to tear them down because so many people in the area went to school [there] and cared a great deal about them. [Maddock’s] done great things by keeping the old buildings, the gym, the wood floors, the old windows with a chain and parts, which keep the charm.” 
Maddock has upgraded other parts of the facility and allows the community to use the parking and facilities when he’s not using them.
The Whitehall Columbia complex can host everything from an intimate event in the chapel, which was built in 1921 and is located by the old school building, to a group of several hundred people for a reception, play or other event.
“Both the chapel and the school are historic, unique, old buildings that provide great places for creating memories,” Maddock says.