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A look back at St. Ann's High School in Lansford

Published August 30. 2010 05:00PM

The former St. Ann's High School, on Bertsch Street in Lansford, had humble beginnings in the basement of the St. Ann's Church at the behest of its first pastor, the Rev. Hugh J. Bowen, according to a booklet printed in honor of the church's social hall dedication.

Bowen persuaded the order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to start the school, which opened on Aug. 24, 1917.

Mother M. Angelus Ferguson, Sister M. Christina Lee, Sister M. Sacred Heart and Sister Alice Marie McCourt opened the school with 142 students in grades one through six.

In 1921, the Rev. James B. McGarry became the new pastor at St. Ann's. Shortly after he arrived, he began making plans for the new school. The church purchased the home of Edward Thomas at 40 E. Bertsch St. for a new convent, and on May 10, 1924, a contract was signed to build the school, with architect George J. Lovatt of Philadelphia and Garber & Cissel of Bethlehem to build a school with eight classrooms, a gym and an auditorium. The contract specified cut stone, wood and terazzo floors, painting and sidewalks, at a cost of up to $111,175.

The cornerstone of the school was laid on Sunday, Sept. 24, 1924, with a parade, the singing of hymns and patriotic songs, and stirring addresses. The Rev. Msgr. Michael C. Donovan officiated and expressed best wishes on behalf of Cardinal Dougherty.

Superintendent of Schools the Rev. Joseph M. O'Hare gave the address, and United Mine Workers president Thomas Kennedy spoke on behalf of the laity. About 25 priests and hundreds of laity attended the ceremony.

St. Ann's High School was established in 1922, but it was not until June of 1927 that the first students to finish a full four years at the school graduated.

The famous "Silver Pennies" - the school's award-winning paper - was first published in October 1927. The first editor was Margaret Sharpe Gildea, under the guidance of Sister Marie DeLellis, IHM.

In 1954, the last high school class graduated: the parish high schools consolidated, creating Marian High School.

In 1972, shortly after the Rev. Thomas E. Hoben arrived, major renovations were started on the school. Sacred Heart School in Nesquehoning closed, and its students were welcomed at St. Ann's. In September 1973, there were, for the first time in the school's history, eight grades, with an enrollment of 250 students.

According to research done at the Diocese' Office of Education, St. Ann's was one of several schools that in 1982 became Our Lady of the Valley, said diocese spokesman Matt Kerr.

The Panther Valley was once home to several parochial schools: Our Lady of the Angels Academy, St. Ann School, St. Michael School, Our Lady of the Valley School and SS. Peter & Paul School, all in Lansford; Sacred Heart School in Nesquehoning; SS. Cyril and Methodius School and St. Mary School in Coaldale; and St. Joseph School, and St. Stanislaus School in Summit Hill.

The last Carbon County school closings were in 1999, when St. Michael School in Lansford and Our Lady of the Valley in Summit Hill and Lansford were consolidated to form the only Catholic school left in the Panther Valley, Our Lady of the Angels in Lansford.

St. Ann's School is now being converted by Catholic Senior Housing into subsidized apartments for low-income older people.

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