This Mon County native has worked 61 years at the Seneca Center.
An unassuming guy with a familiar face walks the halls of the Seneca Center most weekdays. He’s had a hand in taking care of the place since he was 16 years old. Denzil Lemley is now 77.
He grew up on a farm in an unincorporated part of Mon County called Daybrook. His dad was the head mixer at the Seneca Glass Factory, which operated on the Beechurst property from 1891 to 1983, and he secured a mixer’s assistant job for his son in 1961. Lemley graduated from Clay Battelle High School a year later on a Thursday and the following Monday began working full-time in the mixing room.
He’s been there in one capacity or another every year since, even as the property changed ownership. Each new owner recognized the wealth of knowledge that Lemley had and respected his expertise and dedication to the building. For the glass factory, he worked as an assistant mixer, the head mixer, in the blowing room, as a boiler attendant, and in the mold room until they “shut her down” in 1983. He worked every hour they would give him to support his young family. After the shutdown, the owners of Seneca called him back to work as a watchman and handyman until they could liquidate the property. Seneca Glass filed bankruptcy in 1983, and Gene Sanders acquired it a year later as a base for his business: Sanders Floor Covering. Lemley met Sanders’ son-in-law, John Brand, in the parking lot. “I told him I knew everything there was to know about the building,” Lemley recalls. Brand scooped Lemley up, too, and he worked for the family for more than a decade as a Jack of all trades—a role he fills now for the building’s current owners, Paula Hall and Barton Loar.
“I’ve torn down, built, and torn down again most of the walls in this place,” Lemley says. “I’ve even found places where I signed my name and the date when I built it the first time, covered it up, and uncovered it again. I’ve been here all hours of the day, all days of the year, and for too many years to count. I grew up in this building. It feels like home.”
The Seneca Center was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and has reinvented itself over the years to fit the times. Lemley has been there for most of it and has no plans to leave anytime soon. “It just feels like I’m right where I belong.”