Fissel's one-room schoolhouse celebrates Christmas in July


The image of a small, red brick building with a large bell on top still persists when some think of school and classic education.

"The progress of mankind was never more advanced by any instrument than by the great American institution known as The Little Red School House," reads a 1961 history of Shrewsbury Township's Fissel's School.

Seated atop a hill outside Glen Rock is that very school, radiating that vintage vibe. Fissel's One Room Schoolhouse — one of a few classic classrooms still maintaining its original aura — will soon open to the public to enter for only the second time since classes stopped in the 1950s.

Christmas: The Glen Rock Historic Preservation Society and the Southern York County School District will partner to host an open house in the historic building from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 26.

The open house will feature a "Christmas in July" theme, with tours, presentations on the building's history and information on its restoration.

"We're going to decorate so it looks like it did when the school was in use during Christmastime," said historical preservation chairman John Hufnagel.

Decorations will be provided by the children of the Good Shepherd Day Care at Immanuel United Methodist Church.

"We're going to have a Christmas tree, and a day care in town made some paper ornaments," Hufnagel said. "It's not exactly fancy, but they didn't have anything too fancy back then, really."

Wayne McCullough, chief financial officer for the school district, will discuss the district's efforts to place the building on the National Historic Register at 1:30 p.m.

Fissel's was added to the register in 1997, Hufnagel said.

At 2:30, Dale Benshoof, a Glen Rock Historic Preservation Society member, will discuss the challenges of having the building restored, and at 3:30, Hufnagel will offer a history of the schoolhouse.

Some history: "There has been a one-room school, Fissel's, since 1836 out in that general area," Hufnagel said. "Our present building was built in 1896."

In 1830, a man from Maryland, Michael Klinefelter Seitz, purchased 240 acres of land in the area of Shrewsbury Township, according to the 1961 history of the school written by Clarence Seitz and Joseph Hicks, who both attended Fissel's.

"Mr. Seitz was the father of several children of school age, and it was his greatest desire that they have an education. Nearby neighbors wanted the same for their own children," the text reads. "A majority of the schools being built today have brightly gleaming cafeterias where students consume scientifically prepared foods. Contrast this picture with the one presented well over 100 years ago when a wooden rack at the rear of the room held the lunch pails or bags of the students."

In spite of its humble start, the school began to grow, Hufnagel said.

"We know that there was some need for relocation," he said. "Perhaps they wanted to use the ground for something other than the building, but they most likely needed to enlarge the school."

Students learned their "three R's," or "readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic," at the school until the early 1950s, when the York County Southern School District began to form and ultimately eliminated the need for the tiny brick building.

"The closing of the dozens of Little Red School Houses in the Southern District did not pass without the shedding of tears of remembrance," Seitz and Hicks' history reads.

Since then, renovation efforts have brought the building a new roof, some brickwork and several upgrades on the inside of the building that don't interfere with its authenticity.

Students: The classroom at one time had between 40 and 65 students, Hufnagel said.

"We estimate that there were about 1,500 students that walked through that building," he said. "Though it's hard to be sure. Unfortunately, there aren't that many records on the building, and those that existed are long gone."

Hufnagel said he hopes those who attended Fissel's attend the open house.

"Hopefully we get people interested in coming out to see what their grandparents or relatives had to go through for their education," Hufnagel said. "And let me tell you right now, there won't be any computers on those desks."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.