BENSALEM TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL

Planning for the original Bensalem Township High School began in 1920 with the acquisition of land adjoining the school property known in 1984 as the Cornwells Heights Elementary School, at 2400 Bristol Pike. A. Oscar Martin, registered architect, of Doylestown, Pa., was selected to design a building along the lines and scope established by the Board of Education. Mr. Martin had years of experience in designing school buildings. The architect prepared drawings in 1920, using the existing two-story stone building of two classrooms as a nucleus. He developed a progressive planning system of which one unit was constructed that same year. It consisted of one classroom and one end of the central corridor.

BENSALEM TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL

With permission of the State Department of Public Instruction, the Bensalem High School was organized in 1923. Samuel K. Faust was supervising principal of the Bensalem Township schools and the high school faculty consisted of Cecelia Snyder and Gertrude Gillespie. The first graduating class, the Class of 1925, consisted of five persons, Emma Baird, Adeline Walker, Gladys Jenks, Charles Roeschen, and Elizabeth Smith. They received diplomas which certified that they had satisfactorily completed a four-year course of study as outlined by the State Department of Public Instruction and adopted by the Bensalem Township Board of Education. The course at that time was a General Course.

A second unit was added to the building in 1924, with a second story classroom over the one built in 1920. Another two-story section, two classrooms and another unit of the central corridor, was added in 1926. Up to this time, all additional rooms were added to the rear of the original old building. A completed sketch of the building was presented to the Board of Education in 1928, and it was decided to build another unit and revise the front to conform with the completed design. This unit consisted of a laboratory and library classroom. In 1929, the tax payers gave the Board the privilege of proceeding and completing the building of the original Bensalem Township High School.

The building was formally dedicated on March 14,1930 .At this time the school organization was the six elementary grade, six high school grade plan. High School enrollments in 1930 were:

Grade 738
Grade 846
Grade 948
Grade 1033
Grade 1131
Grade 1216
Total212

The high school faculty in 1930 consisted of the following persons: Cecelia Snyder, science and mechanical drawing; Alice K. Siddons,Latin and French; Emily Schroeder, history and library, Jane Kohler, English; Olive Sargeant, English and mathematics; Catherine Helfrich, music and art; Ruth S. Hansen, social studies and physical education; Anson M. Hamm, mathematics; Guye W. Miller, social studies and physical education; Alma I. Klink, commercial subjects, and Samuel K. Faust, problems of democracy. Four additional classrooms, two general purpose rooms, and several service rooms were added in 1949. By this time, the building was used by grades one through twelve. There were six grades in first floor classrooms, and a six-year secondary school spread over four basement rooms, two first floor rooms, the auditorium-gymnasium, and the full second floor.

During the 1940’s Bensalem Township had begun an accelerated rate of growth which produced serious over-crowding in the existing schools. By 1945, it was clear that a new high school building was needed. The board purchased a site of 30.345 acres of ground from Minnie Hansell on August 31, 1946 for the sum of $18,000. The first plans for a new high school called for a two-story building to accommodate about six hundred students. These plans were formulated under the leadership of Dr. A. Kurtz King, who succeeded Samuel K. Faust as superintendent of schools. The school board and Dr. King weathered the storm of the rejection of funds from the State School Building Authority and the discarding of plans and drawings by H. F. Everett and Associates of Allentown, Pa., architects, in 1947. Planning started from the very beginning again, this time for a one-story school building to house twice the original school population. It involved Dr. King, succeeding superintendents William B. Shellenberger and Robert K. Shafer, and the school directors, who formed the first municipal authority in Bucks County for the erection of school buildings, with the help of the Township Board of Supervisors.

Contracts for construction of the new high school were placed in March 1953. Groundbreaking ceremonies were on May 5,1953, and cornerstone laying, on November 9,1954. Flag raising exercises took place on November 18,1954. The new high school, located at Street Road and Asbury Avenue, Cornwells Heights, was finally occupied on September 8,1954, with 975 students in attendance. The cost was $2,685,000. The building contained these instructional facilities: twenty – five general classrooms, five science rooms,three commercial rooms, three homemaking rooms, two industrial arts rooms, four health and physical education rooms, two arts and crafts rooms, two music rooms, seven administrative offices, two faculty rooms, a student activity room, auditorium, cafeteria, and library. The former high school building became the Neil A. Armstrong Middle School. Within a few short years this building was nearing its peak for pupil capacity. Population growth of the area continued, and by mid-1963, the Board of School Directors was faced with another building problem.

The Board took action in 1966 to condemn a site of land on Hulmeville Road. It consisted of 111.70 acres and was known as the Morrow Farm. Condemnation proceedings lasted throughout 1966; in early l967, settlement was reached,with the cost of the site set at $585,000. The architectural firm of Everett Associates of Allentown, Pa. was engaged to plan and design the third home of Bensalem High School.

The new school, located at 4319 Hulmeville Road, Cornwells Heights, opened its doors in September, l969. Cost of the structure, including site and equipment, was $8,930,120.25. The cost per pupil was $2,831 and the cost per square foot, $17.59. The rated pupil capacity was 1,800 students. A flag raising ceremony was held on September l0, 1969, the cornerstone was laid on May 13,1970, formal dedication of the building was held on May l5,1970, and an open house for the community was on May 17, 1970.

The new high school building has many outstanding features: ten business education rooms; thirty-eight standard classrooms; a music center including a band room, choral room, general music room, music office, and several practice rooms; three art rooms; a metal shop, wood shop, power mechanics shop, and mechanical drawing room; a library to handle 25,000 volumes, two cafeterias to seat 600 students, an auditorium to seat 2,000; earth-space science room, botany room, zoology room, two student science project rooms, chemical storage and preparation room; a home economics department with four complete kitchen centers, a sewing room, laundry and work room; four seminar rooms for small group instruction, an audion for large group instruction, gymnasium for physical education classes, a remedial physical education gymnasium of smaller size, a nurse’s suite and office, guidance offices, administrative offices, student commons, teacher planning centers, and a swimming pool.

The construction of this new high school building was considered as Phase I. Several additional phases of future construction were planned. In 1972, Phase II was begun, which included the Bensalem Township Memorial Stadium. The Bensalem Township Memorial Stadium was dedicated on September 21, 1984 to the memory of four persons who made significant contributions to the athletic programs of the school district. The persons named on the plaque, nominated and selected by a committee representing the school and community, were: Eleanor Hughes Mossbrook, Class of 1942; PFC Bernard Young, USMC, Class of 1951; Bob Whitfield, Class of 1952, and Elmer Cianni, a teacher, a football and baseball coach, and sports announcer. The committee plans to add other names to the plaque when additional persons meet the criteria for selection. This stadium is the only one in Lower Bucks County which perpetuates the memory of a group of people. It is a lasting monument to those who have helped Bensalem student athletic teams to achieve excellence. Phase II will enlarge the pupil capacity from 1,800 to 4,000 pupils. It will be accomplished in two separate parts. The first part, completed in September, l973 provided for 2,900 students, a complete stadium and athletic fields. The second part will enlarge the building to house 4,000 pupils and construct a field house.

Bensalem High School Principals:

Cecelia Snyder1934-1951
Russell C. Struble1951-1966
Thomas H. Ramsay1966-1969
Arnold D. Ody1969-1976
Robert N. Dampman1976-1981
Harry Kellerman1981-1986
Stephen Smith1986-1999
Elliott H. Lewis1999-

Bensalem Superintendents of Schools:

Samuel K. Faust1923-1940
Dr. A. Kurtz King1941-1950
William A. Shellenberger1950-1952
Robert K. Shafer1952-1970
Dr. Samuel M. Sanzotto1970-1973
Dr. Robert H. Hays1973-1982
Dr. Robert N. Dampman1982-1995
Dr. Gerald R. Kohn1995-1998
James D. Watson, Jr.1998-2001
Victoria C. Gehrt, Ed.D2001-Present

A Look to the Future – Because of the intensive building of new homes, apartments, townhouses, and the great influx of new residents, Bensalem will continue to face the problem of providing, almost over night, sufficient schools and personnel to take care of the hordes of new pupils entering the district. Next school review.