The  property  is  now  called  High School Park




Times   Chronicle   *   Glenside   News       August 6, 1997



Park is latest entry in property’s long history


By Stephen Esack

Staff Writer



   The main building at the old Cheltenham High School was known for its ornate and Gothic architecture.


   But time, neglect and fire destroyed it


   The first school building at the site was erected in 1906 and was originally called Elkins Park Junior High School, according to Betty Cataldi, a school board member and district historian. “The original high school in the late 1800s and early 1990s was on Union Avenue by Myers Elementary,” Cataldi said.


   The main building which was destroyed by arson in 1994, was built in 1926, and a separate gymnasium was added in 1936. The industrial arts building was added in 1951. “At one time there were four separate buildings and people prided themselves on that,  Cataldi said. “The atmosphere over there was like college. So many people who went to the old building still talk about how beautiful they were.”


   Then after World War II, the district started building bigger schools because the baby boomers had landed. The 11-acre park, bordered by Montgomery Avenue, High School Road, Mill Road, and Tookany Creek, did not have another use It had already been Elkins Park Junior High School, Cheltenham High School and Ogontz Junior High School. The administrative offices were the last school district operations at the site when they moved to their current site at Washington Lane and Ashbourne Road in 1977.


   “At that time we had seven elementary schools, three junior high schools, and one high school, now we are down to seven buildings,” Cataldi said.


   The Lubavitcher, a Hebrew organization based in Brooklyn, bought the site in 1977 and renamed it the Beth Jacob School. When the Lubavitcher abandoned the site in the mid-1980s, it left behind religious artifacts and decaying buildings. It is during this time that the site began to deteriorate and become a hazard for the township.


   Then the Ingerman Group of Cherry Hill bought the property, in1988 with hopes of turning it into a :senior housing development.” But the project fell through. The concrete block letters that spell “Cheltenham High School” are in storage. Cataldi keeps the Elkins Park Middle School sign in the alumni. Charlie Stamm, a high school social studies teacher and wrestling coach and his team removed patio blocks. The blocks are now sold to alumni.


   Although the fire completely destroyed the structure, it also helped persuade the county to allocate open space funds for the project. Ellis said, “The fire was an added incentive to both the township and the county; the building was a fire hazard. It convinced the county to purchase the property.


  But again township and county officials ran into trouble with Ingerman and Kwaitt. “Brad (Ingerman) was extremely difficult throughout the process, and we wanted to make sure he did not benefit from what he did to the property,” Ellis said.


   Under the open space program, the township purchased the property on June 29, 1995 for $1.1 million, with demolition costs included. Of the $1.1 million, the county paid $990,000.


   The school district and township also received $100,000 and $30,000, respectfully, in back taxes at settlement, Ellis said. “So taxpayers got back money rather than paying for it,” he said.


   In 1996 the township spent $71,953 from a $75,000 bond. For 1997 $49,320 has been allocated from a $125,000 bond.


   Since that time, the Friends of High School Park, the township, and area schools have worked to make the park a reality.







The campus as it use to be



Now called, High School Park




Photos  showing  the  demolition  of  the  four  buildings






















































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