The photo above of the gutted former school building was received on April 30, 2012 from a source who preferred to remain anonymous. Scroll to the bottom for a closer view.
   
 

Former Blacklick Township High
School building destroyed by fire

 

 

Page added February 27, 2012
This page has been revised since its original publication

Despite the efforts of more than 50 firefighters from as far away as Colver, Ebensburg, Jackson Township, and Northern Cambria to save it, fire on February 26 destroyed the former Blacklick Township High School building. Flanked by a grove of shade trees and well-manicured lawns on two sides and woods in the rear, the site was the pride of the township for more than 50 years.

The fire was reported as the result of a controlled burn intended to eliminate dry underbrush near the building that was started by Lee Rummel, who resided in the building with his wife. The couple and their pets escaped injury in the fire that was called a total loss by Nanty Glo Fire Department Deputy Chief Rich Brown. Rummel told the Tribune-Democrat that he tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher when winds blew it beyond his intended bounds, but it quickly got out of his control.

Fire fighting efforts, which continued for more than five hours on Sunday, were reportedly impeded by inadequate water lines to hydrants at the building's site at the intersection of Route 271 and Red Mill Road, halfway between Belsano and Twin Rocks.

The building's first section was built in 1917 by Cambria County Judge and Belsano resident Samuel Lemon Reed as a private vocational school. When that project failed as a business, the judge donated the building to the township (c. 1919) to become the district's public high school. Blacklick Township graduated its first class in 1922, though it is not known at this time whether that class, consisting of only six students, attended this building or did its studies in a building in Twin Rocks.

An article in the Nanty Glo Journal, May 5, 1921, reports that the following pupils graduated from Vintondale High School: Elizabrth McCracken, Hugh Harrison and Ralph Smith of Twin Rocks and Gazel LaBelle from Vintondale. This suggests that prior to 1922 students attended high school in Vintondale. Belsano historian Desmond Warzel says that "the heading on the 1922 graduation picture, 'First Graduating Class of the Blacklick Township High School,' indicates that these students spent their final year in the Reed High School [building]. It is likely they graduated from a two-year course. . . . The class of 1925 graduated after a three-year course. [Six of these] same people graduated again in 1926 as the first four-year class. Those students were Margaret Lees, Donald Zimmerman, Teresa Goss, Edith Shadden, James Gazdagh, and Webster Mahan. In addition, the following graduated in 1925, but not 1926: Lula Gottshall, Loren Harrison, and Georgetta Young."

This building continued to serve township high school students until 1969. Warzel reports that the two-story section of the building put up in 1917 was supplemented by a temporary one-classroom building in 1925, followed in 1927 by the one-story wing added toward Red Mill Road and the football field across the Road. In 1928, the gymnasium was added behind the two-story section, which had originally been built with the foundation for the gym included. Students of the school raised funds and helped build the gym, which was first used for intermural sports with a basketball game played on February 5, 1929 after petitions with some 500 signatures gathered by students had been presented to the school board..

The township merged with Nanty Glo-Vintondale School District to form the present Blacklick Valley School District at the end of the 1965-66 school year, but the township's 1967, '68 and '69 graduates had their teaching in this building while the new Valley High School in Nanty Glo was under construction. After the 1969 graduation, this building closed. It was sold in 1970 to the Rummel Brothers for use as a sawmill. The two-story section of it was later turned into a residence.

 

 
   
   
Thanks to Desmond Warzel for his input to this report.
Additional information about the school's history is linked here.
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