Waynesboro cupola will go back on display

February 11, 2002

Waynesboro cupola will go back on display

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The cupola that once graced the top of East Junior High School is surrounded by a chain link fence in the Waynesboro Area Middle School parking lot, waiting for the day when once again it will top off an important town structure.

That structure will be an amphitheater on a hillside between the middle school and Waynesboro Area Senior High School. Its builders, a group of local volunteers, said the amphitheater will be used by the community as well as the school district.

The cupola was damaged by the crane that lifted it off of the East Junior High School building in 1998 before the building was razed. The same group of volunteers that repaired and restored the cupola hopes to raise the $200,000 to build the amphitheater.

The school building was bought by Waynesboro Hospital at auction in 1990. The hospital razed it eight years later, amidst a wave of nostalgia and opposition by local residents, to make room for an as yet-unplanned future expansion project.


The building opened in 1937 as a senior high school at a cost of $321,900, Haugh said. Students helped to pay for the building in those Great Depression years by holding fund-raisers, he said.

The cupola was built in place. The committee estimates its weight at around 10,000 pounds. Instead of dismantling it, workers lifted it off in one piece with a crane, which caused the damage.

The hospital gave the cupola to the school district as a memento of the building. Then-schools Superintendent Robert Mesaros appointed Richard Mathias, 78, principal of East Junior High from 1964 to 1982, to head a committee to repair the cupola and find a suitable use for it.

The committee received a $10,000 state grant for the repairs, which took the volunteers three years to complete. The copper dome was replaced at a cost of $4,500, said William Helfrick, 71, who supervised the repair project.

"We salvaged seven of the eight wooden columns," Helfrick said. "All of the paint was burned off, stripped and repainted. We put new mahogany trim around the top."

Volunteers put in more than 450 hours repairing the cupola. Area businesses donated materials and equipment, said Donald Haugh, 73, committee vice chairman.

"We have a structural engineer on the committee who has it all figured out how we're going to put it on top of the amphitheater with a crane without damaging it," Helfrick said.

Now that the cupola has been restored and tucked safely away from vandals behind its chain link fence, the committee is turning its attention to its main project - building the amphitheater.

It will consist mainly of a curved brick wall and tower to hold the cupola. The wall will be built on a hillside on the west side of the middle school parking lot. It will face west toward three pavilions the committee plan to build.

The biggest pavilion, 30- by 30-feet, will be large enough to accommodate musical ensembles such as the Wayne Band or a school band. Flanking it on each side will be small, 20- by 20-foot pavilions.

The land between the pavilions and the wall and cupola tower will be a terraced grassy slope where residents can sit, picnic and have a good seat for whatever is going on in the pavilions.

Haugh said the amphitheater will also be used for performing arts and special community events.

The committee is asking Del. Pat Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, to secure a grant to get the amphitheater project started. The rest will be raised through a local fund drive, Haugh said.

The committee's most pressing problem is finding someone to head the fund drive, he said.

"We have people willing to serve on the committee but no one wants to be chairman. We probably need someone who is familiar with fund-raising," he said.

Anyone interested in the project can call Haugh at 1-717-762-1447 or Mathias at 1-717-762-4618.

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