For years I have been hearing of an old school on Main St. in Manville that predated the old Main Street School that sat at the current site of the Main St. parking lot. I heard of it referred to as “the old red schoolhouse” and it wasn’t until I starting turning up maps from the 1800’s that I started to really see the proof. Thanks to Kathryn Quicks great book Manville: A History Enduring, I finally recognized this mystery school by it’s real name Harmony Plains School. It wasn’t until I visited Gary Carmons great website until I turned up an actual photo of the school. This photo originally came out of a book published by The Courier News entitled “Somerset County Memories – the Easrly Years. Here was the original caption from the book
“The original Main Street School, Manville, cica 1900. Bernhard Meyer, Jr. is in front holding the bat.” Courtesy Marian Meyer
The original location of The Harmony Plains school was the Main Street parking lot site right next to the intersection of Camplain, where the Main Street school was later built. As marked on the following 1850 map with the white arrow… I also labeled the streets just to clarify the location. I’m assuming the initials S.H. stands for school house, but you can see the neat little illustration of the school. The map will enlarge if you click on it.
“Called Harmony Plains school in 1915, students from first through eighth grade attended school in a two-room building on the same site with two faculty members. A visiting country teacher would stop in from time to time and teach art. At that time the school was owned by Hillsborough Township. The school had no running water or sanitary facilities. There were no playgrounds, only farmhouses with haylofts.
The school was enlarged with an additional classroom by GB Staats and John W Hamilton of Dukes Parkway. When Manville became a borough, the teachers lost all their seniority and had to start as new.
A fire destroyed the original school shortly after the Borough acquired it. Since the town did not have a fire department at the time, a bucket brigade tried to extinguish the fire. Students were transferred to Camplain Road School until the school was rebuilt with four classrooms. Four more were added in the ‘20s for a total of eight.
The school was first referred to as “Gravel Hill School” because of the soil formation, but the official name was Harmony Plains School.”
I cannot confirm that the fabled “old red school house” was in fact Harmony Plains school, because frankly I do not know what color it was. There is a rumor of another small school in Manville in the late 1800s, but it’s a loose rumor, and that’s a mystery for another day. Thanks again to Gary Carmon for his great contributions. Please visit his website carmonsandusky for some more great old Manville photos.