Transeau School served community for almost 90 years

Transeau geography class. Dorothy Thompson poses in costume in 1935.

The Samuel Transeau School opened its doors in 1897 and continued for almost 90 years, serving the Williamsport Area School District in various reincarnations.

The school, according to the publication, “Williamsport Schools Through the Year,” which was published by the Williamsport Education Association in 1958, the school “opened its doors to the children of the Thirteenth Ward. Formerly these youngsters had hiked across the open fields to attend the ‘old’ Stevens building where the Lose School now stands.”

Transeau was and is still located at the southwest corner of Park and First avenues, although it no longer serves as a place of learning. Apparently when the land was pur- chased for the school, the board of education decided they had too much land and so they sold part of the plot off in building lots, the historical account noted.

The school was named after Samuel Transeau, who had been the city superintendent of schools. On its opening day the school had eight teachers, all women — Alice Fuller, Alicia Sigfried, Harriet Lowe, Edith Bevere, Blanche Balliet, Mary Braine, Janet Ephlin and Anna Watson. The principal was J. A. Kiess.

One of the unusual aspects of the building were what the publication described as “grotesque gargoyles” that adorned the roof.

“Since these impish ornaments have never served any real purpose, the reason for their existence has remained the secret of the de- signer,” it said.

For 58 years, Transeau served as a public school. Then, in 1955, it began its second life as the Center for the United States Army Reserve.

This was, however, to be a short tenure.

“It now seems more likely than ever that the army reserve unit will have to move out
of the old Transeau school building before the beginning of the 1958-59 school term,” read an account in The Grit newspaper of that time.

The school board had asked the new superintendent-elect, Dr. Clyde H. Wurster to find out if the school would again be needed for elementary students.

The army reserve had been renting the building on a month-to-month lease since 1956 and the current lease had been set to run out on July 1, 1958. It was reported in the news- paper that they would have to be out by Au- gust so that the classrooms could be prepared for the upcoming school year.

The need to reopen the school as a school came about because of two things, according to the newspaper

One, a major enlargement and renovation project at Sheridan School in the East End would probably mean that stu- dents would have to be out of the building while the construction went on. Students would be shifted to Cochran, but opening Transeau would also alleviate crowding at other schools, such as Lose and Web- ster.

And, two, the baby boomers were entering school.

Wurster pointed out that “the school census does not indicate even a slight drop in the number of first-graders until 1961.

“The post-war baby boom continues
to make itself felt in wave after wave of children entering elementary school each year,” the newspaper noted.

By 1959 a newspaper account stated that the school was worth a plug nickel and that there was a “good chance that a new school might be built on the location some day.” At that point, classes were only held on the first floor of the building.

Two years later, the state’s Department of Labor and Industry ordered safety hazards at the school to be correct- ed under threat of closure. At that point, Transeau had been a part of the school district for over 60 years and it wasn’t finished yet.

In September of 1962, the building housed offices for the district. The district had declared that Transeau, the oldest school building in the city, was in “var- ious stages of decay and that the cost of demolition may exceed the value of the land.

By 1970 there was talk of replacing the school, but in 1973, according to a newspaper account, Transeau School closed.

In 1974, a newspaper article recounted how the Transeau School again welcomed students, only this time they were a bit older than the elementary children who had walked the halls through the years.

“Four nights a week, English teacher Stanley F. Pilok goes to Transeau Elementary, a phased-out district school building,” the reporter wrote.

“At Transeau there is hope for persons who have dropped out of school or who never had a chance in the first place,” the article continued.

There were three main programs offered at Transeau, governement-funded and free to participants, which helped adults earn their GED.

“At the night school, Mr. Pilok said, ‘the fact is stress that they’re adults, not students and the instructors are not called teachers, because as the WHS teacher said, we don’t want to turn them off to school,’ “ the reporter wrote.

In 1978, according to newspaper accounts at the time, the district was planning to sell the school,

which was now called the Transeau Educational Center and

housed served as the District Service Center. It served that function until the center was moved to the Washington School in 1983.

But, by 1982, Transeau had begun yet another life, as the Williamsport Hospital used the facility for hosting programs for pregnant teens.

Eventually the building, which still stands at the corner of Park and First avenues, was sold and became an apartment building.


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