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County Seeks Grant For Gunzburger Building Project

April 18th, 2024

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Robert Rossman and Paul Heimel are working with Maintenance Director Joe Kurtz on a plan to deal with the deterioration of windows at the F.W. Gunzburger County Office Building. In anticipation of a project that could cost more than $1 million, involving nearly 250 windows as well as frames and entry systems, county leaders are seeking state and/or federal grants. One potential funding source being pursued is a Community Facilities grant involving federal funding administered by the Pa. Dept. of Community and Economic Development. Money would be used for materials, labor, site preparation, engineering and related services. New windows would preserve the historic building and ensure its continued use for county government operations, education, access to technology and health care, conferences, gymnasium recreation, community and government meetings and other functions. Two tenants, Penn State Extension and Dickinson Center Inc., would also benefit. In the long term, much of the project cost would be recovered through substantial reductions in energy costs.

The 57,000 square foot building has its roots in two separate schools that occupied the same lot in the early 1900s. What was once the Coudersport Elementary School (or “Grade School”) faced First Street. Charming reminders of that era can still be seen with the prominently marked “Boys” and “Girls” entrances on the north side of the Gunzburger Building. A separate Coudersport High School on the same block faced Main Street. A construction project in the early 1930s linked the two school buildings. Another addition on the West Street side in the late 1950s accommodated a cafeteria.

Most of the smaller communities it the time had their own schools, many of them of the one-room variety. Consolidation brought an increase in the number of students and space limitations. An annex in the “Sears Building,” between the Coudersport Theatre and the Main Street entrance of the school, temporarily solved the crunch, but a more permanent solution was needed. When the present-day Coudersport Area Junior-Senior High School was built in the early 1960s, the building became solely the Coudersport Elementary School. It served the community well, but physical modifications required to meet new regulations were too expensive for the school district to pursue. A new elementary school was built in 1987 and the former school was put up for sale.

Its deteriorating physical condition and the need to remove deadly asbestos in order to make the building fit for occupancy limited buyers’ interest. Finally, Adelphia Communications Corp. purchased the property. Major renovations followed, as the physical shortcomings were addressed and attractive furnishings and features added. Adelphia, which was experiencing rapid growth as a TV cable company, relocated several of its corporate operations to what was renamed the Rigas School Building. In 2002, Adelphia came under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. An interim management team took control and relocated most of Adelphia’s corporate functions to offices in suburban Denver. Eventually, Adelphia’s Coudersport assets were sold to Time Warner Cable.

It wasn’t long before that company pulled most of the remaining functions out of Potter County. As stressful as these developments were for the community, one bright spot was Time Warner’s willingness to donate the former Rigas School Building – an asset valued in the millions of dollars – to the people of Potter County. That transaction came at a time when the Potter County Board of Commissioners had been planning to address a severe space shortage at the county courthouse by constructing a new office complex at East Second and North East streets, across from the county jail and courthouse square. The F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building now serves the community in ways unimagined by those who engaged so many young minds in education for more than three-quarters of a century.

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