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Restored 1920s schoolhouse ready for 'class' again

After years of restoration, a one-room schoolhouse in Schuylkill County is opening to the public for educational programs for the first time in decades.

PINE GROVE, Pa. — A small, unassuming building stands along Camp Road outside Pine Grove. Driving by, it might not look like much, but a step through the doorway transports you back to the early 1900s.

In 2014, the Stanhope Schoolhouse was owned by the Girl Scouts and was in desperate need of repair.

"I'm a lifetime Girl Scout and discovered that they were going to demolish the building," said Linda Mills, chair of the Stanhope School Project in conjunction with the Pine Grove Historical Society. "I believe in historical preservation, partnered with the historical society, and as they say, the rest is history."

Linda Mills and about 100 volunteers put in more than 2,500 collective hours over eight years to restore this piece of history to its former glory, finding artifacts along the way.

Using $16,000 in donations and grant funding, they repaired the roof, fixed the walls, and refinished the original wooden floors, giving the school a third birth.

"The first school was a brick school built in 1876. It burned down during school in 1923," Mills said. "There was a chimney fire, completely destroyed the school. The school was rebuilt in 1924."

Before the school closed in 1952, a single teacher prepared lessons for students at all levels, marking down any absences in an attendance book.

"At times, there were as many as 50 students in this classroom at one time, one teacher," Mills said. "Grades one through eight."

Some of the students, seen in class photographs from decades ago, will be on hand when the schoolhouse reopens this weekend. It's the only one-room schoolhouse open to the public in the county.

"They're going to talk about their school life here, what the world was like then, and where they have gone since they were in the one-room school," Mills said.

There's still work to be done, including the eventual hoisting of the schoolhouse bell, but Mills is proud of how far the building has come.

"We're just so grateful for everybody helping us, contributing to this so we can share this with the younger generation as well as adults who would like to reminisce about what life was like back then," she said.

The school's first educational program in 70 years begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Stanhope Schoolhouse website.

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