The Exchange began as a project of interested, concerned, active citizens in and around Bloomsburg who saw the need for an arts and community center on Main Street — the project catalyzed and fostered by a wonderful building, the former Moose Lodge. Dating from 1949, the building at 203 West Main Street has a powerful presence. Designed by local architect John Schell for the Loyal Order of Moose as their Bloomsburg Lodge #623, the building served the organization for half a century. At the time of the building’s opening in 1950, the Morning Press wrote a sixteen page special feature, which can be viewed by using this link for pages 1-6, this link for pages 7-12, and this link for pages 13-16. Noted for its ArtDeco facades and interiors, especially the semicircular bar in the Grille Room, the building houses a six-lane bowling alley and numerous smaller spaces. All of these features remain intact today as the building starts a new life as a center for art, culture, and the community.
The name Moose Exchange paid tribute to the building’s roots as well as the vision for its future. Many who knew 203 West Main Street as “the Moose” continued to refer to it that way – but in its new incarnation, “exchange” more accurately described its function: Every day, people of all ages and backgrounds came into the building and their horizons expanded as information and knowledge passed among them.
One might say that this new era in the building’s life began decades ago with the museums of Harry L. Magee, owner of the Magee Carpet Company in Bloomsburg and collector of everything from Native American artifacts to full-size trolley cars. His museums did not survive the Hurricane Agnes flooding of 1972, but his granddaughter Drue Magee inherited Harry’s love of Bloomsburg and his desire to save important things. Thus when the Moose moved out of 203 West Main Street in 1999, Drue bought it to preserve as an asset for her hometown.
It took a decade, but eventually Drue recruited an enthusiastic group of volunteers who shared her goal of making this landmark building an anchor for the west end of Bloomsburg. The first tenants moved into the Moose Exchange in the winter of 2010, with the first public event Downtown Bloomsburg Inc.’s ArtWalk that February. The “ArtWalkIn” drew 800 people to the building on an unseasonably warm Thursday evening, and the energy and enthusiasm of that night helped to quickly fill almost all of the available studio and retail spaces. As time passes, more and more events and people have come to the Exchange, from line dancing and concerts, to cooking and painting classes, to Bloomsburg University-sponsored movies, performances, and exhibits — with no end of the possibilities in sight.
On December 21st, 2012, Drue transferred ownership of the property to the 501(c)(3) non-profit, and 203 West Main Street Inc. owned its landmark building free and clear, thanks to the large-scale generosity of Drue Magee.
In 2010, fewer than 5000 people visited the Moose Exchange; in 2013, more than 13,000 came through the doors. More than 5000 came that year just for the Bowling Alley: We hosted 109 parties — everything from kids’ birthdays to weddings (the ceremonies and receptions actually took place upstairs, but guests had the option of bowling, and many did!).
On the 30th of January, 2014, a fire of undetermined origin swept through the back of the first floor and most of the second floor of the building. Between the fire, smoke, and water (LOTS of water), the building now requires more renovation than our non-profit can afford, and in early 2016 we will turn it over to the Columbia County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. although plans remain uncertain, the authority will one way or another find a way to make the building once again an asset to Main Street.
The Exchange has carried on, running its Stairwell Gallery, Art Cart, and Destination Blues Music Festival. Please visit those pages for information about us now.
The Exchange is a project of 203 West Main Street Inc., a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation. We have federal 501(C)(3) non-profit status from the I.R.S., making your contributions to the Exchange tax deductible. You can make a difference at the Exchange, as a volunteer, business owner, customer, partner, donor – please get in touch!