Friday, March 11, 2016


This column first appeared in the March 2016 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

Margaret Bell Miller High School, built 1926-1928.  (

 Like most people in Central Greene, I have nostalgic connections to Margaret Bell Miller School.  My teen years were spent in the building when it was Waynesburg High School. A short time later, my father, Richard V. Morgan, served on the authority that financed its conversion to MBM Middle School after the new high school was built. My mother, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins either taught or studied there, and Uncle Ace Wiley started the legendary Waynesburg High wrestling program in 1937.

The history of Waynesburg High School is older than the building. It began in 1899 with 12 students and two teachers in a section of North Ward School. By 1909, the high school had taken over all of South Ward School. Attendance continued to grow and within three years, a larger building was needed. However, voters twice rejected bond issues, and it was not until 1926 that financing was approved. The amount was $200,000. Design and construction commenced immediately, and Margaret Bell Miller High School opened in September 1928. It was named for a local pioneer of female education and women’s rights, Margaret Bell Miller, wife of Waynesburg College President A. B. Miller. Later the name was changed to Waynesburg High School.

T. M. Fowler map, 1897. Horse and buggy in upper left are at the corner of Morgan & Lincoln Streets near the J. T. Temple house, later site of Margaret Bell Miller High School.  South of the Temple House was the original Waynesburg Fairgrounds until 1902.  Note the covered bridge over Ten Mile Creek.  (Library of Congress)

Original Waynesburg Fairgrounds, photo by W. T. Hays, 1898.   Looking southwest from where Elm Street is today. Ten Mile Creek and Smith Creek Road are in the distance.  (Waynesburg Borough, via 

The school board had purchased the site in 1912. It was a large lot at the corner of East Lincoln and South Morgan Streets, formerly the home of Justice. F. Temple. Classes were held in the Temple house as early as 1916. When the new high school was constructed, the Temple house was moved south on Morgan Street to become the “Home Ec Cottage.” It was still there when I was a student, but demolished in 1977 for the middle school addition.

The Justus F. Temple House, built ca. 1880, later the "Home Ec Cottage".  Waynesburg High School Oracle, 1948.

Another early postcard view. (

The style of Margaret Bell Miller School is Neoclassical. The predominate feature is a huge two-story portico facing Morgan Street, supported by four massive marble columns that form a colonnade entrance to the auditorium. Around and behind the columns, large arched windows are arranged symmetrically. The exterior trim is restrained with classically designed cartouches and a double string-course near the flat roof line. Unfortunately, the elegant Lincoln Street entrance was removed during the 1977 renovation.

A sock hop in the gymnasium.   Waynesburg High School Oracle, 1956.

Inside, the gymnasium remains in close-to-original condition with its distinctive 20-foot high ceiling and balcony seating, prompting memories of wrestling matches, pep rallies and sock hops held long ago. Upstairs, the halls and stairwells are much as I remember, except they’re smaller! It’s funny how that happens. Typical of the 1920s, the hallway floors are terrazzo and the walls are lined with orange brick wainscoting.

Students pose in front of Waynesburg High School, ca. 1935.  (Waynesburg Borough, via

The architect, John H. Phillips of Pittsburgh, was a prolific designer of schools from 1910 to 1952. He had studied architecture at Carnegie Tech. Waynesburg High is one of only two Phillips commissions to be published in The Charette magazine of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is described as: “approximately 15 class rooms, auditorium and gymnasium, built of fireproof construction”. This is not surprising as the school was designed only a few months after the tragic Downey House Fire. 
Roth Hall, the administration building of Thiel College, is an early design by architects Edward B. Lee and John H. Phillips, 1912.  (Source, Thiel College)
Phillips designed schools in the Allegheny County townships of McKees Rocks, Stowe, Robinson, Imperial , Moon, North Fayette, Bridgeville, Castle Shannon, Neville Island, Avalon, Forest Hills, Penn, Plum, Harrison, Hampton, Richland, East Deer, West Deer, Springdale and Natrona Heights; plus Cecil and Houston, Washington County and Kittanning, Butler County. He also designed municipal and commercial buildings and two churches in McKees Rocks. According to The Charette, he was “known to Client and Contractor alike as ‘Honest John’.”