Editor in Chief
Central Pennsylvania is well known for its rich history, exemplified by our landmarks and structures that have been preserved through time. As one walks past the former banks, schools, and parks in the towns and cities we know and love, it may be easy to forget how much has truly happened there. When we fail to maintain and appreciate these buildings and landmarks, they are often forgotten by the always-rushing eyes of humans, breaking down and welcoming nature into their walls until the Earth finally reclaims them.
Millersville University is admired for its picturesque and historic campus. With aesthetically pleasing views such as the pond and the Old Library, the former teachers’ college continues to serve the community through both academic prowess and architectural beauty. Among these sights are the houses; scattered throughout the campus, each one has historically served some purpose for the students and staff.
Today, there are 35 houses owned by or leased to MU, 12 of which remain vacant. The four houses along East Frederick Street – Dauphin, Allegheny, Armstrong, and Susquehanna – are slated for demolition over the upcoming winter break. Thanks to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Thomas Waltz and University Communications Director Janet Kaczkos – both of whom accompanied us – we were able to tour these houses along with the former police station in order to get a glimpse of their historic impact and current state on campus.
The first stop on our tour was one of the oldest houses remaining at Millersville. Built in 1911, Dauphin House served as office space for the English department. At a time when Chryst Hall could not accommodate the professors, they would instead be provided cozy rooms in this three-story farmhouse. When the English department moved to McComsey Hall, they no longer had the need for these offices, and so they have since been vacated.
Dauphin House remains frozen in time, cluttered with textbooks, magazines, and paperwork that once belonged to the brilliant minds that set foot there. Drawings and writings collect dust on the chalkboard of the living room, where professors and students presumably gathered for meetings.
Like our previous stop, Allegheny House also served as faculty offices. Constructed in 1927, this building served as the former home of the IT help desk, in addition to providing rooms for English professors. Once the renovation of Brooks Hall is completed and the business school moves there, however, even more space will be made available to English faculty in neighboring McComsey Hall and the houses will be considered obsolete.
As Allegheny House has been out of use for nearly half a decade, it is especially in rough shape. Dust and mold gather on surfaces and furniture throughout the building, while the rotting carcasses of squirrels lay to rest in the kitchen and under the old fireplace. These sights show what occurs when a historic building is neglected and its purpose and potential are left unrealized.
Among the houses we visited, this structure in particular has the most sentimental value for some students and alumni at Millersville. Built in 1927, Armstrong House served as office space for Fraternity & Sorority Life advisors, as well as a meeting location for Greek organizations beginning in the late 1980s. For these students seeking to find community and purpose through friendship and service, the appropriately dubbed “Greek House” provided a home for those proudly wearing their letters. Organizations would also host fundraisers and activities here, such as the haunted “Skull House” hosted by the fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma, which would decorate the house in a spooky fashion and donate proceeds to Multiple Sclerosis patients. In addition, volunteers would work night shifts on weekends, providing an escort service where students partying in E-Courts or Brookwood would call Armstrong House and have two of these volunteers escort them safely back to campus.
By 2018, Greek life outgrew its purpose at Armstrong and moved operations elsewhere. When the Student Memorial Center was renovated, the iconic colorful rocks displaying the organizations’ letters were moved to outside the SMC, where they still stand today.
Although Armstrong House is no longer in use, remnants of its heyday still remain. Plaques and trophies from past Greek Week events and awards ceremonies adorn the walls, while boxes of brightly colored banners and paddles lay in boxes on the floor of what was once a lounge or storage room. The staircases, coated in dust, lead to rooms where students and staff once planned recruitment and service projects. Old VHS tapes containing anti-hazing modules clutter a second-floor office. On a table in the hallway sat a stack of old composites from the 1990s, with pictures of bright faces with big hair showing the smiles and spirits that once walked the Millersville campus.
The last of the East Frederick Street houses slated for demolition is the newest, but also arguably in the worst shape. Constructed in 1950, this is the only house not considered historic. Susquehanna House previously served as office space for the anthropology, sociology, and criminology faculty. Just as with the English department, these professors moved to McComsey once rooms were made available there. Today, the modest brick building remains a ransacked mess. Posters and flyers still decorate the bulletin board, while the former department chair’s office is barely recognizable through old paperwork and books strewn across the floor. After years of abandonment, the stench of the place was so foul that members of our group left after only viewing the first floor.
Susquehanna House, along with Dauphin, Allegheny, and Armstrong houses, will be demolished to make way for green space. There is also the possibility of expanding the existing McComsey parking lot or adding a new science building on the site of the former homes. Although these houses are in manageable shape, Waltz claimed they will be demolished not because of their condition, but rather due to the lack of necessity for them.
“Over the past decade, we have lost a lot of students,” explained Waltz. “The university receives money to maintain buildings based on our enrollment, and with our most recent size feasibility study, we are roughly 200,000 square feet over our allowance. Because of this, we do not have the budget to keep up all of the facilities.”
When asked about whether the buildings could be sold or used as residential homes or housing, he explained that the process is more complicated than one may think.
“When selling your own house, you can put it on the market and it may be sold within the week,” he said. “However, many of the houses do not legally belong to the university. While we own some of them, several others are owned by the state, the borough, or by General Services. Because of this, the process of selling or divesting the houses may take weeks or months.”
In addition to the houses on East Frederick Street, we ventured across campus to check out the former campus police station. Nearby stands the original police station, Pike House, which is in fact the oldest building on campus. Only recently vacated over the summer, Lebanon House appears not much different than mere months earlier, when the halls and offices bustled with conversation. Empty desks remain in these offices, while the wall of the security room stands unusually bare where over 50 monitors once stood.
Unlike the previous houses we visited, the university has plans for Lebanon House, however, these have yet to be determined. The parking lot that was once used exclusively by officers on duty will be converted into commuter parking – which will be very beneficial to those taking courses in Stayer or at the Winter Center.
The days for the houses on Frederick Street may be numbered, but the memories that were made within their walls will hopefully never be forgotten by faculty and alumni who utilized them.
This is one in a series of articles featuring the historic and abandoned sites and buildings of central Pennsylvania. To learn more, check out The Snapper’s website or keep an eye out for future “History Rotting Away” articles in the Features section of our print editions.
Photo Gallery: All photos credited- DEBORAH PHILLIPS / SNAPPER
A student desk is surrounded by waste and clutter in the vacant Armstrong House.
The Armstrong House Sign remains outside the unused building.
A Millersville fraternity banner lies on the ground of the Armstrong House.
Rain streaks down the Dauphin House sign in front of the house’s dirty exterior.
A lonely brown desk chair rests on the Dauphin House porch.
A green chalkboard displays drawing and writing marks behind an empty table (Dauphin House).
Papers, posters, a computer, clutter a deserted desk in the Dauphin House.
Boxes of toilet paper and a curtain picturing two angels dwell inside the yellow-tiled bathroom of the Dauphin House.
Fall leaves gather in the grass of the vacant Allegeny House.
Empty lockers line the hall of the Lebanon House.
The Millersville University Police Department moved their office into the Boyer building during the Summer of 2023, leaving the Lebanon House empty.