Lessons in history: Renovation reveals 1900s-era chalkboards

The $9.4 million project is expected to be completed in August 2006.
SHARON, Pa. -- As renovation work continues at the Penn State Shenango Campus, little bits of history keep popping up.
"Fortunately the renovation work has been pretty smooth, but these are old buildings, and we keep finding things," said Dr. Fred Leeds, chancellor of Penn State Shenango.
Among the finds were chalkboards in Lecture Hall dating to the early 1900s when the building was used as Shenango Elementary School.
For nearly a century, wallboard covered the chalkboards, which still hold the names of honor roll pupils as well as artwork.
Rick Lenzi, director of business and finance for Penn State, said some of the chalkboards will be saved and placed under tempered glass. A short history will be displayed next to them.
How it's going
Lenzi said about 30 percent of the work for the $9.4 million renovation of Sharon Hall and Lecture Hall has been completed. Work is expected to end in August 2006.
Leeds said they hope to make the buildings -- particularly the first floor -- more student centered with many student offices and activities located together.
The first floors of both buildings will be connected by a glass-enclosed grand hall. Most of the current work is centered in that area, where walls will be removed and new ones built.
Both buildings are getting new windows and air conditioning throughout. The second and third floors of Sharon Hall will have some cosmetic updates but no major building renovations.
Offices and classes have been moved throughout the eight-building campus to accommodate the work, but Leeds said few seem to mind.
"I think in the end we will have a more attractive place for people to study and work," Leeds said.
What's planned
Renovation plans call for state-of-the-art classrooms, a new food service area, a cyber caf & eacute;, workout room and space for student offices and lounges.
Most of the $9.4 million renovation is being paid for by Penn State with additional money coming from local benefactors and fund-raising activities.
An additional $5,000 donation was made last week by The FirstEnergy Foundation. The money will be used to refurbish an art gallery and meeting space on the second floor of Lecture Hall.
Leeds said they are trying to raise an additional $750,000 to pay for new furniture, window treatments and other things needed once the renovation is completed.
Leeds said they hope the renovations make the campus a more desirable place for the campus' 900 commuter students and the entire community.
Penn State Shenango's renovations also have made some city improvements possible. The Penn State investment was used to garner a $1.5 million matching state grant to resurface Shenango Avenue and build a pedestrian walkway linking the campus to downtown.
Sharon Mayor David O. Ryan said architects are working on plans for both projects.
That work should begin next spring and finish later that year, the mayor said.

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