Plaque Becomes Permanent Memorial To Doylestown Public School
Nearly 40 years after the educational landmark was destroyed in a fire, the datestone that once marked the entrance has been returned to the site.
A piece of Doylestown's history has finally come out of the closet.
The datestone plaque from the former Doylestown Public School was returned Thursday afternoon to a site only a few feet from its original location. The school, which operated from 1890 to 1960, burned down in 1973. A county government parking lot occupies the grounds.
About three dozen people watched as Kevin Munnelly, principal of Central Bucks West High School, and Stuart Abramson, president of the Doylestown Historical Society, unveiled the restored plaque at Broad and Court streets.
The plaque, approximately 5 feet high by 4 feet wide, is now attached to the Millennium Wall on the corner, which was designed by sculptor Steven Snyder and installed in 2000.
"I'm very grateful this artifact of Doylestown High School has been preserved," Munnelly said. The plaque was stored for years in a closet in his office, apparently having been moved there when the school was demolished after the February 1973 fire. Bucks County government had purchased the school building in 1966 and was storing records there at the time of the fire.
Thursday's ceremony was one of many events being held this week to celebrate the bicentennial of Doylestown as the Bucks County seat.
Encased in a concrete frame which is fastened to the wall, the plaque has raised letters reading: "Doylestown Public School. Erected A.D. 1889." It originally was placed between the arched entranceways on the Broad Street side of the school.
This is the only original item from the school at the site, although a historical marker commemorating the school was installed in 2002. The Doylestown Historical Society, working with the county government (which owns the property), the Central Bucks School District and contributors, sponsored the restoration and placement of the plaque.
Ed Ludwig, the society's president emeritus, said the plaque's existence came to light last year when Munnelly mentioned it to the society's archivist. After considerable effort and discussion, it was agreed that the plaque should be installed at the original school site.
Geri McMullin, Doylestown's representative on the Central Bucks School Board since 1983, said the former borough school "can be considered absolutely the cornerstone of the school district."
Noted for its elaborate gables, turrets and arches, the stone school was dedicated April 8, 1890 to house both primary and secondary grades. As enrollment grew, additions were built in 1912 and 1925.
Doylestown High School's last class graduated in 1952, and seventh through twelfth graders then attended the new Central Bucks High School. The old building continued to house primary grades until Linden Elementary opened during the 1959-60 school year.
Mary McDowell, who was at the ceremony, attended the Doylestown Public School through eleventh grade in 1952. She was a member of Central Bucks High School's first graduating class in 1953.
"I loved it every day," McDowell said of the old school. She then lived a block away on North Main Street and walked home for lunch.
Mary Ann Darlington, who attended the old school as an elementary student from 1952 to 1959, remembered the smell from the solvent (probably turpentine) that was used to clean the hardwood floors in the hallways and classrooms.
Tom Scarborough, whose parents graduated from Doylestown High School, was a student at the borough school through sixth grade, before going on to Central Bucks High School..
"We had a great time here," said Scarborough, who grew up in the borough and is now a Doylestown Township supervisor. He recalled the old school was so crowded that classes were conducted on the stage of the auditorium, in the cafeteria and in hallways.