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JW Cooper School

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Quoted from Preservation PA's 2001 newsletter: "Originally scheduled to open in 1918, the 3-story stone school building located at the intersection of North White and East Lloyd Streets in the center of the Borough of Shenandoah, was commandeered and used as a temporary hospital and morgue during the flu epidemic of 1918, when the local hospital was unable to accommodate the large number of victims. In May 1919 the building was dedicated as the "new Shenandoah High School". It was later renamed the J.W. Cooper High School in memory of the school's first principal. The school remained in use until 1986 when it was replaced with a new facility."

"Shenandoah was a coal mining community, which during the 1920s and 1930s has a population of 30,000 residents within its one square mile boundary, giving the borough the highest population per square mile of any municipality in the U.S. at that time. Tens of thousands of Shenandoans were educated within the walls of the Cooper High School and the school holds a significant place in the history and culture of the community."

Abandoned for years, the demolition of the J.W. Cooper Center seemed all but certain. Surprisingly, it has been purchased by a dedicated individual who has a vision of turning the building into a community center. Though the costs in restoring the building are high, owner Kent Steinmetz has made significant progress in restoring the front sections of the building through hard work and enlisting the aid of the surrounding community. The success of the project would mean not only a significant victory in revitalizing downtown Shenandoah, but also would serve as an example that there is no excuse not to restore historic properties and that given the opportunity, citizens will rally to support efforts to save sites that are a part of their heritage. The fight is far from over, and donations of time and labor are very much appreciated and necessary if the vision of the community center is to be realized. Photographers are welcome to tour/photograph the building for a donation of time/labor. If you are interested please contact Kent at kent@steinmetzjewelers.com - if you appreciate these buildings and bemoan their loss, the least you can do is give a few hours to see that this one is saved.

Photographs and text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.