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The first Board of School Directors of Manchester Township was elected in the spring of 1849 after passage of the Act of 1848—the common school system. In 1849, what is now East Manchester Township was still a part of Manchester Township, and the new school system established schools throughout the area now included in the two townships.

The Free School Act of 1834 (a general system of education by common schools) was not accepted by our township delegates as well as many other townships. After subsequent conventions and bitter controversies, the Act of 1848 condition was “that from and after the passage of the act, the common school system shall be held and taken to be adopted by the several school districts of this county.” Prior to that time so-called “free schools” were established but did not afford equal privileges to all classes. There were still not enough votes to accept the system until the spring of 1849 when the 6 directors were elected. They went into executive session, laid a small tax, and appointed a tax collector. There remained considerable opposition, some so violent that the tax collector levied a tax on personal property. The president of the board was publicly reprimanded by fellow church members and an effort made to have his name stricken from the church roll.

The state appropriated $100 to the township for operating the new public schools. The Mennonite church was rented; a house was built in Foustown, Aughenbaugh’s meeting house was rented; a Methodist meeting house in New Holland (now Saginaw) was rented; and the rest were opened in such houses as could be obtained.

Although many of the schools were shown on an 1860 map, more appeared on the 1876 map. There is a strong possibility that some of the buildings shown on these maps may have been built earlier and were of frame construction. No documentation has been found to establish the erection date of each of the typical brick one-room school buildings.

Early photos show all the brick buildings were identical in design from the bell in the steeple to the 6-over-6 windows and full porch. They all had one teacher who taught grades one through eight and may have had as many as 40 to 50 pupils. The only significant variation was that a few buildings were a bay longer, probably determined by the number of students.

Recent renovations on the Springdale schoolhouse, on Greenbriar Rd., have uncovered some interesting architectural elements that are likely shared with the Centre Square School, as well as others in the area. When the ceiling was removed, the roof is supported by one long beam but has additional beams set at angles near each end. An architectural engineer examined the construction, but there are still questions about the construction technique they have not been able to answer.

Another interesting feature is in the brick walls. There are actually three brick walls. The outer wall is load-bearing, but the inner two walls, layers, seem to serve only as insulation.

Centre Square Schoolhouse today

Centre Square is a 4-bay building located on Church Road near Sinking Springs Road. It did not appear on the 1860 or 1876 map and is estimated to have been built about 1884 or 1885. This building was closed in 1921 for unknown reasons. Grace Union Sunday School bought the school in August 1941, and it was used by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

It remains the only one-room school building in the township never converted to a residence. It is still owned by Grace Lutheran Church, and is in need of love and tender care.

Centre Square School stands in Manchester Township’s “Hub of Education”. Central York School District’s new Roundtown Elementary School and Sinking Springs Elementary School are nearby. Centre Square stands today and is currently used for storage, but an effort is underway to restore the building. If you'd like to help this worthy project, please contact us or use the Donate link to help preserve this historic building.

Portions of the content on this site have been republished with permission from the Manchester Township Historical Society. Please visit http://www.mantwphistory.com/ for more information regarding this and other local historical resources.

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This site is maintained by the Schoolhouse Commitee of Grace Lutheran Church, a non-profit organization