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Mooresburg One Room School


The Mooresburg One Room School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the text below were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Mooresburg School is a one story (fifteen feet high) brick vernacular building measuring thirty-five feet by twenty-eight feet on a fieldstone foundation. The school building was erected in 1875 and rebuilt in 1891. It is flanked immediately to the south by two outhouses and a coal shed. The four buildings possess good integrity, having retained most of their original features. The buildings are situated on a one-acre lot located on the south side of Route 642-45 one half mile east of the small village of Mooresburg in Liberty Township. The school and Mooresburg lie in a shallow valley that runs east to west in southern Montour County. The valley is a sparsely settled rural area.

The school building is a gable roofed edifice three bays wide and deep. The gable roof is covered with asphalt shingles and pierced at the front (east) gable end by a small brick interior end chimney with corbelled cap. The roof is framed by a plain boxed cornice with short gable returns. The roof ridge is topped at the rear (west) gable end by a simple belfry built of vertical tongue and groove boards with large square openings in each side through which the bell is visible. The roof of the belfry consists of four steep concave sloping sides covered with composition roofing shingles and capped at the peak with aluminum flashing. The front elevation features two 6/6 windows of mortise and tenon construction with simple wood trim and wide sills flanking a door with five horizontal panels. The door is surmounted by a three-pane rectangular transom and surrounded by a frame of mortise and tenon construction. The door is sheltered by a shed roof constructed of vertical tongue and groove boards, shingled with sawn wood shingles and supported by two simple wood posts. A granite riser steps up from the concrete porch to the interior floor level. Centered above the door is a marble stone with cut letters reading "Mooresburg Schoolhouse, Rebuilt 1891." The windows and door on the front facade are centered in recessed brick bays edged at top and bottom with corbelled brick work.

The side and rear elevations of the school repeat the recessed bays of the front elevation. On the west facade the corbelled brick work forms two bays, but there are neither windows nor doorways on this elevation. The south facade is divided into three bays by the corbelled brick work. Three 6/6 wood sash windows are set into these bays. Centered in the stone foundation directly below the first course of bricks is a small iron grate with screen over the outside. Another grate of identical positioning is located on the north facade. The north elevation is also divided into three bays by the corbelled brick work, but 6/6 windows occupy only the center and east bays. The west bay contains a secondary exit doorway with four lights over three panels. The door is surrounded by a simple wood frame and sheltered by a small shed roof constructed of plywood and wood plank with wood shingles. The transom over the door has been covered with plywood. A poured concrete base with pipe handrails steps down three risers to the grade. At the lower left corner of the east bay, a stovepipe protrudes through the wall from the stove inside which is the building's sole heat source. The building has no basement, only a crawl space underneath.

The interior of the schoolhouse includes flooring of two-inch wide yellow pine boards laid diagonally and a ceiling resurfaced with 4' x 8' paneling. Tongue-and-groove wainscoting with top molding and a bead along the bottom at floor level runs along each wall. Plasterboard walls extend above the wainscoting. Slate blackboards run the full width of the west wall. Above the blackboards, a picture molding also runs the width of the wall. Corkboard and grooved molding run the width of the north and south walls, just above the wainscoting. On the east wall, the molding continues but no cork has been applied. Molding strips connect the tops of the windows and the door frames. The doors and windows are all trimmed in simple 1" x 4" boards. The transom above the secondary door has also been covered on the interior. Centered in the west end of the ceiling is a hole where the rope hangs to ring the school bell. At the east end, the chimney extends down to the frame of the doorway and has been boxed in plasterboard. The stovepipe from the cast iron coal stove in the northeast corner of the building runs into this extension.

The school building survives with good integrity. The exterior has experienced few major changes. The shed roof and concrete base at the front door were most likely constructed during the 1910s or 1920s. The secondary door on the north facade was added about 1951 in order to meet fire and safety codes when the schoolhouse became part of the Danville Area Joint School System. There is no hardware on the exterior of this door, indicating its use as an emergency exit only. On the interior the ceiling was replaced or covered with paneling most likely after 1964 when the school closed and became the property of the Montour County Historical Society. In addition, plasterboard was installed above the original wainscoting. Corkboard was also added to the north and south walls. Four brass and glass globe electric lights that hang on chains from the ceiling were also added.

The three outbuildings located on the property are small. Nearby the southeast corner of the school is a coal shed built of vertical wood planks that sits on a concrete foundation. The roof is corrugated metal with rafter ends showing under the open eaves. A barn-style wood plank door at the east end on the right has iron hardware. The only other opening in this building is a window on the north facade, located in the upper right corner and equipped with barn-style hardware. The two privies, each with two holes, are built of vertical wood planks on poured concrete foundations. They are located to the southeast and southwest corners of the site. Both have gable roofs covered with wood shingles, a six-foot high fenced walkway around the south and west sides, doors constructed of vertical tongue and groove boards, screened or slatted vents above the doorway, a bulkhead at the north side and a decorative gabled stack on the roof.

Significance

The Mooresburg One Room School is a significant representative of an important chapter in the evolution of schools in Montour County. Before the mid-twentieth century, schools in Montour County outside Danville were small, generally one-room buildings. The rural municipalities in the county relied on these small schools to educate their children for over a century. The Mooresburg School is the best preserved survivor among these rural small schools.

The Mooresburg One Room School was erected by Liberty Township in 1875 nearby the small village of Mooresburg. Liberty Township built seven more schools by 1886. In 1891 the municipality "rebuilt" the Mooresburg School, as indicated on a datestone. It is not known how the school was rebuilt. The township erected only one other school before 1912. Mooresburg One Room School continued to educate local children in grades one through eight until 1964 when it was acquired by the Montour County Historical Society which has since used it as a museum.

Most of Montour County depended on small schools such as the Mooresburg School to educate their children from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. The first "free" or public schools in the county were erected in the mid-1830s following the passage of the 1834 Act to Establish Free Schools by the state legislature. The number of schools erected by the county's municipalities increased to twenty-eight by 1872, fifty-seven by 1886, and eighty by 1912. Most of these buildings were small, frequently one-room schools that taught grades one through eight. Only twenty-two children on average attended each school in 1886; this average rose slightly to twenty-five pupils by 1912. A number of schools erected during the 1870s and 1880s were built very similarly to the Mooresburg School. These schools, which include the Clark School at TR 337 and TR 318 in Liberty Township, the Jackson Grove School at SR 3003 and SR 642 in Liberty Township, the Center School at SR 300-4 and TR 306 in Liberty Township, and the Oak Grove School at TR 331 and TR 365 in Liberty Township, were erected in brick three bays wide and deep with gable roofs, end chimney, cupola and gable-end main entrance. Also like the Mooresburg School, these other brick buildings were "rebuilt" (as indicated by datestones) in an unknown manner. Other schools erected in the county during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were small frame buildings. Before the 1920s the only exception to this pattern of small brick and frame rural schools was Danville's schools. Danville, which had a far larger population than any other municipality in Montour County, developed a system of neighborhood elementary and centralized junior and senior high schools by the early twentieth century.

The system of small rural schools teaching grades one through eight was gradually replaced by a consolidated school system teaching grades one through twelve between 1927 and 1964. In 1927 the first consolidated township school was opened in Valley Township to replace six one-room schools. In 1932 Limestone Township was the next municipality to close six one-room schools and open a consolidated school. Small schools were consolidated into larger schools in other townships during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1951 Montour County became the first county in Pennsylvania to form a county-wide school board, which replaced the earlier municipal school boards. The first regional high school was opened in 1959. The last two one-room school houses, Clark and Mooresburg, were closed in 1964, ending a long period in the evolution of Montour County schools.

The Mooresburg One Room School is the best preserved example of the small nineteenth and early twentieth century rural schools in Montour County. Many of these schools have been demolished. Those that survive have frequently been greatly altered and converted to other uses. For example, the Jackson Grove School is now a house with sliding glass doors in the middle of the front facade. A two-story brick addition has been constructed on one end of the building, and a frame addition erected on the rear elevation. The Clark School has also been converted to a house, with a wooden portico added to the main entrance and all windows replaced with smaller sash. The Center School has been greatly changed to become a machinery shed and storage building for a saw mill. The back wall has been opened with large sliding double doors, a cinderblock section added to one gable end, and a frame addition erected on the other gable end. The windows on the front elevation have also been filled in. The Oak Grove School is the only small school that has not been greatly changed. However, in its conversion to a storage building, it has lost its chimney and cupola and had new aluminum storm windows added. Before its conversion, the Oak Grove School had also had an emergency exit added to one side of the building. Thus the Mooresburg One Room School stands out as the least altered survivor among these schools.

References

Fred W. Diehl. History of Montour County (Berwick, Pa.: Keystone Publishing Company, 1969), pp.282-300.

Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties (Chicago: J.H. Beers and Company, 1915), pp.308-309.

Interviews with A.M. and S.A. Hummel, October, 1987.

  1. A.M. and S.A. Hummel, Montour County Historical Society and William Sisson, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Mooresburg School, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: Liberty Valley Road, Route 642

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