COUDERSPORT — An Adelphia Era exhibit is on display at the Potter County Historical Society for three months, running now through November.
Adelphia was one of the largest cable companies in the country in the early 2000s and was headquartered in Coudersport. A $3.2 billion corporate accounting fraud scandal broke in 2002 and led the company’s downfall. Adelphia filed for bankruptcy, and was eventually split up and sold to Comcast and Time Warner.
But before that, and even after, Adelphia transformed Coudersport into a different town and community. During the Adelphia era, people from all over the country moved to Coudersport to work, and were used to a more urban environment.
With the influx of people came a lot of construction, said Dave Castano, president of the Potter County Historical Society. Many new homes were built and it impacted the schools and the school population, as well as services in town. McDonalds didn’t come to Coudersport until Adelphia was here.
“What might have appeared to some people as a corporate takeover of a community, because they had far-reaching plans, was really no different than what you saw in Rochester with Kodak over the years, or in Erie with General Electric,” Castano said. “Slowly, every aspect of the economy in Coudersport was connected to Adelphia in some way or another.”
People moved in, built houses which led to jobs for contractors. Restaurants began popping up and flourished.
So how did this exhibit come to life?
Julia Kolat, who is in charge of clothing displays at the museum, began with purchases at yard sales and such. She purchased any clothing with an Adelphia logo on it, Castano said. Over time, they had enough for a real collection of Adelphia clothing, prompting them to reach out to the Rigas Estate and start a collection of things the family had in storage.
Over three years, the exhibit gathered 100 pieces of memorabilia and artifacts from Adelphia. The exhibit contains things that represent John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications Corporation, and some of the things the Rigas family did for the community, Castano said.
Among those items are tickets and announcements of holiday concerts, a Cable Cares cookbook, a coloring book of places in town, including some Rigas buildings at the time, along with Adelphia crayons. There is an Adelphia Hot Wheels truck, notepads, mouse pads, pins, rulers, flashlights and desk toppers to name a few of the items on display.
The clothing shows the transitions of the company logo: “Adelphia Cable Communications,” “Adelphia Business Solutions” and “Adelphia.”
“Adelphia became a national logo, a national emblem. People recognized this everywhere,” Castano said.
The clothing, Castano pointed out, is made out of very high end material by quality brands. The museum also has a wide variety of Adelphia hats.
On another table are giveaways and artifacts from the annual Adelphia picnics held at CARP.
The event was, in a sense, a town-wide event. Though it was for employees, many brought mothers, kids and families along.
“These weren’t corporate banquets, so to speak. These weren’t clam bakes … this was always with family and that was important,” Castano said.
The museum also has an entire table of Adelphia mugs, with different logos like the clothing items.
“Whatever way history presents this, it’s still very much a part of this community,” Castano said.
“Was there right and was there wrong? We look at it historically as a little bit of both. But it is an important part of local history, which is why this display is here.”
Castano hopes people who have lived through this era will visit the exhibit during the Falling Leaves Festival and through Thanksgiving, as many may be traveling back to the area to visit family.
The historical society plans to bring John Rigas through the exhibit soon.
“I’m sure we’ll really get some insight on some of these,” Castano said. “We’re interested in the origin, like the concept of the coloring book and how that came about, and some of the other oddities that you don’t usually see from the business world.”
The museum presents a different display every three months. Beyond the rotating area, the museum has several exhibits that represent some sort of Potter County history.
They are always looking for volunteers.
“It’s a great place to volunteer,” Castano said. “Not only is this stuff cool to be around, but you learn about it.”
Those interested in volunteering can come to the historical society during open hours and talk with Castano or another member.
The historical society is open on Mondays and Fridays, from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. and is located at 308 N. Main St., Coudersport.