Nearly 50 years ago, Tom Donmoyer helped channel the energy of students at Northern Lebanon High School in a positive direction. Today, the fruits of the students’ – and Donmoyers’ – labors stand proud on the grounds of Fort Indiantown Gap in the form of a fully renovated Lindley Murray School.
The school is open for tours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August from 12pm to 4pm. It’s an opportunity for the public to peek inside this self-contained time capsule at a time when education was very different, and it’s the first time the school has been open since 2019, when more than 300 people attended – a record year for both visitors and donations.
Money raised during the open house goes towards upkeep of East Hanover Township’s property and insurance costs.
Continue reading: The one-room schoolhouses that once defined rural education in Lebanon County
Named for a Harper Taverner native who left an immense educational impact, the Lindley Murray School was one of the last single-room school buildings still in use as such in Lebanon County, serving as such until the early 1940s. At this point, the military bought the land and began using it as a paint shop.
Continue reading: Lindley Murray, a native of Harper Tavern who has left an educational legacy in Lebanon and beyond
Some 30 years later, Donmoyer, then a government and history teacher for juniors and seniors in northern Lebanon, had the idea of restoring a one-room schoolhouse. After a few false starts, Donmoyer asked if military reservations could allow Lindley Murray to be used on the restoration project, and they eventually agreed to the idea. Today, the East Hanover Township school is rented by the state for $1 a year.
Donmoyer said the project received critical support from a number of sources, primarily from the students who took the idea and implemented it, and helped raise funds for the effort through slide presentations to local community groups.
Donmoyer also credited the late Sally Walmer, who had visited Lindley Murray in the 1890s. Walmer had a “fabulous” mind, Donmoyer said, and gave the restoration team a breakdown of exactly how things were set up when the building was a schoolhouse, such as the location of the chimney (which had been relocated through the gap when the building was still a schoolhouse). paint shop) or setting up the desks.
Walmer even kept her homework and test papers from the 1890s, materials that are now on display in the schoolhouse.
“We wanted to restore it exactly as she said we would,” Donmoyer said, noting that the Washington portrait ended up being the most expensive object procured for the project. Washington’s portrait, Donmoyer explained, always hung next to Lincoln’s portrait at the front of the room.
Donmoyer even secured a large pot-belly oven with an apron around it — a metal shield that protected students from the actual oven — through a donation from a Fredericksburg church that was being torn down.
“What I find so unique about a one-room school is that you weren’t just a student, it was almost like a family,” Donmoyer said. “You were all neighbors, you knew each other.”
The school open house is organized by the group Golden ’50s, founded by the late Wayne Anspach and the late Herman Heck. When Anspach passed away a few years ago, Vernon Schriver took over organizing the annual tour events.
Schriver said if the event is advertised in the merchandise, he expects a good turnout. “They have to promote it in merchandiser, and when they promote it in merchandiser, people come,” Schriver said. “Anyone who wants to advertise today advertises like this.”
Sundays are typically the most popular day to visit, Schriver said.
Schriver said he and other volunteers were at the school on Saturday July 9 cleaning up for the tours — mostly to dust things off.
Wayne Anspach’s book, One Room Schools in East Hanover, Union, Swatara, North Annville, North Londonderry, and Surrounding Townships, is also available for purchase during the tours.
Both Schriver and Donmoyer himself attended one-room schoolhouses, but not the Murray school. Schriver attended Harrison School and Donmoyer attended Webster School.
“When people walk into the school, memories are made,” Donmoyer said. “If the public goes in, hopefully they’ll ask the volunteers questions because they have a lot of really fond memories.”
“That’s what it’s for — for the public to see, and for some to remember.”
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