The miniature Christmas village, one of Johnstown’s holiday traditions, has been saved, thanks to some City Hall wisemen – and women – and the generosity and caring of several area building contractors.

The city’s most-recent housing-rehabilitation project is a win-win: The city won’t have to spend a penny, residents, visitors and workers downtown will continue to enjoy a tradition, and the contractors will reap the benefits of an unusual advertising and marketing campaign.

The big winner, though, is the village, a fixture in Central Park since the mid-1980s but which had fallen on hard times.

Kelly Barger, the city’s residential development officer, said time and weather conditions had rendered the houses “embarrassing. They wouldn’t have made another winter.” But enter Jim White, community and economic development coordinator, bearing the ideas of a self-appointed save-the-village committee.

“Jim asked whether contractors in our housing-repair-assistance program might donate some materials to fix up the houses,” Barger said. “I was sure they would, but then what?

“Who was going to do the work.”

That’s when Barger suggested asking the contractors to donate some time, too, saying, “I was pretty confident they would jump on it.”

And they did. Ten contractors agreed to adopt one house each and the first crew of elves – er, builders – arrived late last week to tackle the fix-up.

A three-man crew from Limited Builders of Southmont led the way, spending nearly two days attaching vinyl siding and installing a new roof, chimney, windows and railing on a now-yellow house off Locust Street and Gazebo Place.

So extensive was the rehab that some onlookers suggested it might have been easier for the crew to have built a new house.

Limited owner Paul Deffenbaugh figured his expenditure on materials and manpower at a shade over $1,000, not including his time.

Very generous indeed.

“I was really looking forward to doing this. We’re going to set a high standard for the rest of the contractors,” Deffenbaugh said, laughing.

Nobody examining the finished product could disagree, and it didn’t come without rewards for Limited. As noontime rolled around each day, so did the “building inspectors” and “sidewalk superintendents” as downtown workers broke for lunch.

“Eight people asked me for business cards. I already got one job lined up,” Deffenbaugh said late Friday afternoon.

More contractors are ex-pected today and Saturday.

Once completed, the houses will be decorated by businesses serving as sponsors. Signage will be placed on the “property” to identify and acknowledge each contractor and sponsor, Barger said.

Although it’s only November, the Christmas spirit is definitely alive in downtown Johnstown.

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