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Weiglestown Primary, an Asbestos Schoolhouse, in Dover Township, York County, PA (1941 Photo from Scott Knaub collection at the York County History Center)

Asbestos One-Room Schoolhouses utilized in York County

Asbestos buildings were utilized throughout York County beginning in the 1920s as temporary and permanent schoolhouses. The bolt-together, fire-proof, sections of these buildings were produced in Ambler, Pennsylvania; a borough in Montgomery County; near Philadelphia. Ambler was known as the asbestos capital of the world; which is not a good thing, since Ambler residents are diagnosed with mesothelioma three times more often than in other Pennsylvania residents.

The 1941 photo, from the Scott Knaub collection at the York County History Center, shows the asbestos building, utilized for Weiglestown Primary school; i.e. grades 1 through 4. That building was assembled in front of the 8-grade Weiglestown One-Room Schoolhouse during 1932, likely due to escalating enrollment. Thereafter, the original building became Weiglestown Grammar; for grades 5 through 8. These schoolhouses were located along Carlisle Road in the southeast part of Weiglestown.

In 1921, the Asbesto-Crete Buildings Company becomes Asbestos Buildings Company, Ambler, PA. One of their new product lines gained approval by State School Boards as temporary and permanent schoolhouses. The following photo of the Ambler Asbestos One-Room School House appears in a 1925 Product Catalog of Asbestos Buildings Company; which had their sales offices in Philadelphia.

Photo of Ambler Asbestos One-Room School House in 1925 Product Catalog of Asbestos Buildings Company, Ambler, PA; pg. 2

For School Boards, the big selling points of asbestos schoolhouses was their lower cost, compared to traditional construction and ease of selling the bolt-together building, if it was no longer needed. However when these expenditures came up at School Board meetings, they were also careful to point out the safety aspects; i.e. the fire-proof nature of asbestos buildings, which was always highlighted in ads by Asbestos Buildings Company.

Intro part of Asbestos Buildings Company ad for their Asbestos School Houses in The American School Board Journal, Dec. 1922; pg. 140

Asbestos schoolhouses were a favorite option from cash-strapped School Boards, when there was a need to temporarily house students; i.e. if a schoolhouse was destroyed by fire, if repairs were being done to their normal schoolhouse or if an additional schoolroom was needed, while a bigger permanent schoolhouse was being built. When used as temporary schoolhouses, after the need no longer existed, the School Boards sold the building, since it was very easy to un-bolt the sections. In many cases, the buyers were often other school districts that required a temporary schoolhouse.

One of the earliest Asbestos Buildings Company ads for their Asbestos School Houses in The American School Board Journal, Dec. 1921; pg. 136

In 1924 as enrollment surged, several two-room asbestos schoolhouses were set up next to what became Hannah Penn Junior High School on the corner of Beaver Street and College Avenue in York. With the opening of William Penn Senior High School in 1927, these temporary asbestos schoolhouses were no longer required.

In my early search of news articles, besides Dover Township and York City, so far other municipalities utilizing asbestos schoolhouses include: North York Borough, Red Lion Borough, Shrewsbury Township, and Spring Garden Township. Those municipalities’ definitely utilized schoolhouses manufactured by Asbestos Buildings Company, with Weiglestown Primary School in Dover Township and Barren Hill School in Shrewsbury Township utilized as permanent schoolhouses.

Per State reports, there are at lease another nine York County municipalities, yet to be determined, that utilized asbestos schoolhouses. If any of my readers remember this type of schoolhouse, I would like to hear from you.

Asbestos Buildings Company ad in 1927-28 Directory of Teachers and School Directors of York County and York City, Pennsylvania; pg. 43

Click on this LINK for a yorkblog.com Full View of the photos and illustrations in this post.

Use the following links as a location and source index for pre-1950 York County schools. The vast majority of these schools are One-Room Schoolhouses:

York County One-Room Schools (A-B)
York County One-Room Schools (C-D)
York County One-Room Schools (E-G)
York County One-Room Schools (H-K)
York County One-Room Schools (L-M)
York County One-Room Schools (N-P)
York County One-Room Schools (Q-R)
York County One-Room Schools (S-T)
York County One-Room Schools (U-Z)

Links of related posts include:

Number of Graduates in early history of York High

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts