A history of Titusville High School - Titusville Herald: News

A history of Titusville High School

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Posted: Friday, September 20, 2019 5:00 am

Titusville’s annual Homecoming festivities will wrap up Saturday with the Homecoming dance. While Homecomings may come and go, this year’s iteration held a special significance for the Titusville Area School District.

The year 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of Titusville High School. The landmark was used as the theme of Homecoming this year, looking back on a century and a half of higher education in the Titusville region.

In observation of this date, The Herald, with the help of the Titusville Alumni Association, has compiled a history of the high school. Much of this information stems from the book “Titusville: An Illustrated History,” written by Mabel Clark for the TASD in the 1970s, as well as the history page on the TASD’s website. Clark was the social studies coordinator for the district from 1966 to 1972.

The official start of high school classes in Titusville took place in 1869. While public schools were first established in the area in 1837, following the passage of Pennsylvania legislature establishing a public school system, these early classes consisted of two long sessions and night classes held on Saturdays around the entire year.

The first classes were held in a two-story building located on the corner of Main and Washington streets, which was known as the Union Schoolhouse. However, the building quickly ran into a problem of overcrowding, as it could not accommodate the vast number of students. At the time, the average number of students to teachers was 71.

The school board at the time approved the construction of various other schools to deal with the influx of students. This included the Elm Street School, Drake Street Elementary School and the Fourth Ward School, while the two-story building remained the high school.

As the Union Schoolhouse slowly fell into disrepair, a new high school was built on Main Street, opening in 1912. It would last until 1931.

In 1930, the president of the Titusville Trust Company planned a donation of a modern high school to the Titusville area on behalf of Mrs. Daniel Colestock. The plan was put into effect, with the Drake Street Elementary School building getting torn down to facilitate the construction of the new structure. This would result in Colestock High School, which opened for classes in the fall of 1931.

Shortly after the Colestock building’s construction, a separate junior high school was organized in 1933. Ninth grade classes were to meet in the original Main Street high school.  The grade would move back in 1957, when the Main Street building was converted into the elementary school it remains as to this day, and a senior high school addition was made to the building.

During the time the junior high school was separated from the main high school, an annex was added onto Colestock High School in 1941.

In 1952, Titusville merged with surrounding townships to form the Titusville Area School District. This saw students from Hydetown, Oil Creek Township, Pleasantville and more begin to attend classes at Colestock High School.

Additional space was added onto the building in 1965 in what is known as the Fisher addition.

A major renovation project would be completed in 1979. For the cost of almost $2.7 million, the high school would gain a pool and accompanying natatorium, a new multi-purpose gymnasium, a new library and several additional classroom areas and improvements.

The high school’s next, and more recent, renovation would come in 2001. New wiring to address technological advancements were made, and additional upgrades were completed in all classrooms, hallways, the librarian and auditorium.

One piece of the high school’s history that is not entirely clear is the change in name. The transition from Colestock High School to the modern moniker of Titusville High School was a sort of unofficial switch with no real set date. Benson Memorial Library Historian Jessica Hillburn, based off of references to the school in old Herald articles, found the new name seemed to have been informally adopted some time around 1957, when the senior high school addition was made.

Meanwhile, Alumni Association Executive Director Ron Wig estimated the change occurred when the Fisher addition was made. However, he said that many people still referred to the school as Colestock at the time, and thought that many faculty members and Titusville residents would have their own dates for when they thought the change occurred.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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