Preserve the legacy of Planters’ founder

Published 9:47 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

Peanut Pals is an association of collectors of Planters Peanuts memorabilia, whose members visited Suffolk in 2007 for their national convention. Lyle Augustine Jr., president of the group, sent a version of the following letter to the Suffolk City Council earlier this week.

Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House has kept our club — Peanut Pals, official collectors of Planters and Mr. Peanut memorabilia — informed regarding the disposition of the Obici House, as we support their efforts to insure that the Obici House, already on the National Register of Historic Places, is not lost to future generations.

We wholeheartedly agree with them. Much to our regret, the original Planters Nut & Chocolate Factory in Wilkes-Barree, Pa., was demolished — another historic landmark lost forever.

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Considering the importance of Planters to Suffolk — and the many contributions the Obici family made to your city — it is difficult to understand why the City Council would consider such a fate for the Obici House.

In 2007, our club’s annual national convention was held in Suffolk, and we enjoyed our tour of the Obici House and, since then, have supported efforts to preserve this landmark.

We were informed that the Suffolk Professional Firefighters union had submitted a proposal to take control of the home, make repairs using volunteer labor and use the facility for union events and events for organizations it supports. And we understand that the Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House have also submitted a proposal.

In the 1970s in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pa., the Lions Club undertook a similar project by taking control of the Asa Packer mansion (also on the National Historic Register), which had been closed since the 1950s, when the last family member passed away. They made the needed repairs, and today, the mansion is open to the public for tours, available for hosting community events and a profitable asset to the community — and the group has applied for and received many grants over the years to maintain and continue restoration.

We’re sure there are many more success stories of such undertakings all across America by concerned individuals who wish to preserve the rich history of their towns or landmarks to be passed on to future generations.

It is our sincere hope that as City Council members, you will seriously consider any proposals that will save this landmark — an integral part of the history of Suffolk. Actually, Planters Nut & Chocolate Co., founded by Mr. Obici, is a very important part of our national history, the story of a successful immigrant who sought citizenship in our country, possessed a work ethic and vision and drive that built a company that spanned the nation and whose marketing abilities brought to us an advertising icon (Mr. Peanut) recognized world-wide.

What a tragedy it would be to obliterate the home of this giant of a man who was such a benefactor to Suffolk.