Support for Sharpe sought in Chambersburg

October 02, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After nearly a century of continuous operation, Mary B. Sharpe Elementary School's days as a school are numbered, but one woman recently asked the district to support her efforts to preserve the building for future generations.

"The building is worthy of preservation. Let's find a way to do it," Joan Bowen told the Chambersburg School Board last week. Holding and occasionally ringing a bell that belonged to Sara B. Cameron, the school's first principal, Bowen said an exploratory committee has been formed to pursue preservation of the school.

Originally named the Broad Street School, it was renamed in 1933 in memory of Mary B. Sharpe, who died after being severely burned in an accident at her home. Sharpe left money in her estate for public education, Bowen said.

"Preserving this school could commemorate the 175th anniversary of the establishment of free public schools in Chambersburg," Bowen told the board and administration. That anniversary will happen during the 2008-09 school year.


The school could be used as a museum and archives, said the retired teacher and librarian, who had a display of educational artifacts set up in a hallway next to the board's conference room.

"Is the burden on the owner? Can it be conveyed to someone else to do the preservation?" School Board President Thomas Orndorf asked.

Bowen said it could be conveyed to another group to run, as in the case with the Chambersburg Volunteer Firemen's Museum on Broad Street. Or the district could maintain the facility itself, as the Greencastle-Antrim School District does with the Tayamentasachta Environmental Center.

"The building is not that expensive to operate," Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. The district could retain ownership, using the building for office space as well as dedicating part of it to the history of the school system, he said.

Built in the Romanesque Revival style, Sharpe is supposed to remain open until completion of a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School in 2009. Unlike King Street Elementary, which also is slated to close when Gordy opens, Padasak said there has not been a lot of interest by outside parties in acquiring Sharpe.

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