1900 school in Snyder County gets new lease on life
WINFIELD — Troy Smith thought he would just fix and flip the old Winfield home he bought last spring. But with renovation has come a deep and charming history lesson about a one-room Snyder County schoolhouse that many people attended, including some who still call the area home.
“People have just made it a fantastic experience,” said Smith of Mifflinburg, who bought the house in May at a public sale for $26,000. “There have been countless people who have stopped by, and the cool thing is many say ‘thank you’ ” for keeping the building around.
People “have gone out of their way to find things,” such as class and school photos, Smith said, particularly neighbors Paul and Virginia Frantz.
Before 11 Hollenbach Road was a house, it was a school — the Ulrich Public School, built about 1900 and operating until 1955. Roy and Leila Hollenbach donated land from their farm for the Jackson one-room school, Virginia Frantz said.
Frantz was the youngest of 10 Hollenbach children who attended Ulrich, doing first grade there before kids went to school in the Jackson Penn School District.
“It was exciting for me; I loved school,” said Frantz, 66, who attended during the 1955-56 school year.
Even when it closed, Frantz couldn’t stay out of the schoolhouse. She liked to play teacher and would go down to the vacant building and pretend to have a class.
Frantz told Smith about her visits and speculated she was the last one to write on the blackboard there, assuming it was removed when Annie and Ralph “Jockey” Herman bought the building in June 1962.
Lo and behold, Smith uncovered the blackboard when a wall was removed. A young Virginia Frantz was the last one to write on it.
“We sealed it back up behind a wall,” Smith said, deciding to protect the blackboard — made from a treated cloth, not slate — and have it be a treasure for the next renovator to find.
Smith researched the building’s deed history. When the school closed, the land was returned to the Hollenbachs, who then sold it to the Hermans for $650. They turned it into a home. Ownership changed four times before the sale in which Smith bought the home.
“It’s been quite the transformation,” Smith said of the home.
About six Dumpsters of refuse and debris have been removed, and remodeling is nearly done. He said the home will be done by Thanksgiving.