ELIZABETH TWP. — In September of 1916, a new school opened its doors to 146 pupils — 132 in elementary and middle school and 14 high school students. It was the first of its kind in the local area, converging first grade students up through seniors in high school, the total cost of construction being $25,000 at the time.
The Elizabeth Township School, now known as the Elizabeth Township Community Center, has been the heart of the community since its doors opened one hundred years ago in 1916.
“When I was going to school there, I couldn’t wait for school to start, and I always hated for school to end,” Director of the Elizabeth Township Historical Museum Audrey Phillis said.
For Phillis, there’s a strong connection to the building. Her father and his 15 siblings attended the school during their youth, although the only one to graduate from the school was her aunt, Jennifer — the rest of the boys enlisted when World War II broke out and found jobs when they returned from overseas.
Phillis attended the school from first grade up through eighth grade, before transferring to Staunton — now Troy High School. She is a graduate of Miami East — and yet, the Elizabeth Township School has always felt like home.
“It’s just like this feeling, like I belong there, for some reason,” Phillis said. “It’s just been such a part of my life.”
Now the director of the Elizabeth Township Museum, housed within the community center, Phillis has collected pieces of history surrounding the school—from old pictures, to articles, to books, and beyond. She chalks her initial reason for doing this up to a gut feeling.
“Somehow, I always kind of knew that someday we were going to do this. Every time they would throw away something at the school, or if we would have book sales, I’d drag so much stuff home,” Phillis said. “I kept saying, ‘we’re going to need this someday, we’re going to need this someday.’ I just knew they were going to have a museum there, and we did.”
The museum consists of two rooms within the building, chronicling not just the school, but the community of Elizabeth Township as well.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, a reunion was held at the Elizabeth Township Community Center in celebration of the 100 years the building has stood in the community and the 100 years of memories and tradition it inspired. Past graduates, students, teachers, bus drivers, staff, and anyone having attended or visited the school at any time were invited to partake in the birthday party for the building.
The event was reminiscent of the end-of-the-year school tradition — every year, on the last day of school, the community came to join the children, faculty, and staff with baskets full of food for a celebration.
Though the building hasn’t served as a formal school for decades, it still serves the community at large. Community members conduct classes and programs at little or no cost. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and many others offer classes of interest to those within the community. Clubs for gardening and card games and bingo were organized out of interest for the members of the community and rooms are used, to this day, for birthday parties, baby and wedding showers, wedding rehearsal dinners, wakes, and several other affairs.
“It’s like being part of a family,” Phillis said. “It really is a neat place and I think that hopefully this building will continue to be the heart of the community, as it always has been.”