Touring Warren County: The One Room Schoolhouse

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The school room at the Scandia Community Center & Museum. The Elk Township Historical Society has worked to restore the room to as much of its original condition as possible. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

SCANDIA, Pa. – Nestled in the heart of “metropolitan downtown Scandia” is a building that looks like many others on the outside. But inside, visitors are transported to a time when electricity was a luxury few could afford and logging ruled the countryside.

The Scandia Community Center & Museum, the home of the Elk Township Historical Society, now occupies what was the Scandia School. While the museum is filled with period pieces and artifacts celebrating the history of Elk Township, the work put into restoring the original one-room schoolhouse makes history come alive.

“This room we’re sitting in is a classroom that probably had 30 students in it,” Elk Township Historical Society President Julie Boozer said. “Scandia School is one of 12, one-room schools that existed at one time or other in Elk Township. Originally, this building that we’re in right now was down at the Cole Bed Road. And a few years later, they decided to move it up here as the community was growing. And this is what we call downtown metropolitan Scandia.”

To visit the room today is to take a walk back into the late 19th or early 20th century. But that wasn’t the case when the Historical Society took over the building in the early 2000s.

Boozer’s full interview:

“In 2002, these walls were covered with a Luan paneling. And so when we took down all the Luan paneling, we found these wooden walls painted a light green,” Boozer said. “And we knew they were original because I was married in the church over here in the 1950s. And the same walls are in the church. And it’s probably the same people in the community that built it.”

When workers removed the paneling at the front of the room, they made an even bigger discovery.

“And when they jerked off the paneling from the front of the schoolroom, we found these some of the boards were painted black,” Boozer said. “And on that blackboard was, written in chalk, was a date. You can see some arithmetic down there. And some other part of a lesson that the teacher was using.”

Volunteers discovered this blackboard, complete with lessons and a date (Nov. 22, 1894) when they removed paneling from the walls during restoration. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

The ETHS knew the blackboard was an incredible find and acted quickly to preserve it.

“We quickly had Warren Glass come up and cover it with acrylic, so nobody would erase it,” Boozer said. “And we were so fortunate that the men who put up paneling didn’t erase it before they put up the paneling.”

The ETHS holds an open house on the second Saturday of the month through the summer months (May – October). The reason they take winters off? Well, that’s part of maintaining the historical integrity of the room.

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“Now, these rooms are not heated and we, we have not put electricity in the classroom, simply because they never would have had it,” Boozer said. “And I think it helps you to realize the conditions under which these children worked at their desks.”

Keeping this piece of Warren County history available has been a labor of love for the ETHS, and one that has been fueled by volunteers and ETHS members.

“It is fairly expensive to keep these buildings going. But we’ve done it 100%, with local talent, local members,” Boozer said. “Everything that you see maintained has been done by local people who were interested in saving the school. That has all been volunteer labor. And it’s an example, I think, of what a community can do for themselves without having the government there to do it for them.”

A tribute to Elk Township veterans lists veterans dating back to the War of 1812. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

That passion for volunteerism is a hallmark, Boozer said, of not just the ETHS, but all of Scandia.

“I think Scandia is known for volunteerism,” Boozer said. “And we think it’s the air that we breathe and the water that we drink up here that helps to make really faithful volunteers.”

Of course, not all the work has been done to restore the one-room schoolhouse. The building also offers an Elk Township Museum filled with period pieces and historical artifacts from throughout the township’s history. Included are originals or replicas of tools used in the 1800s and early 1900s, as well as a tribute to the township’s veterans, which dates back to the War of 1812.

ETHS membership is open to the public, and forms can be found at the sign-in desk. Individuals can become members for as little as $15 per year. More information about the ETHS can be found on the Elk Township website or by emailing elktwphistorical@verizon.net.

See all the installments of our Touring Warren County series here.