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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:01:02 14:19:25

Above, members of the 1977-78 St. Mary’s Assumption championship basketball team visited the school during a reunion last summer. From left, are Don White, Mark Casper, Jim Fitzpatrick and Joe Colarusso. At left, the center court circle, which Casper salvaged to use as a tabletop, is removed from the gym floor.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:01:02 14:19:07

As workers demolished the St. Mary’s Assumption School building on Church Street in Pittston last week, friends, neighbors and alumni stopped by to rummage through piles of bricks for souvenirs. Among them were a mother and daughter, classes of 1975 and 2005, respectively, and a former teacher who used a milk crate to gather some bricks.

Mark Casper was one of them, too. Casper has a deep connection to the Catholic grade school, which the Scranton Diocese closed in 2011. Not only does he have an Assumption family legacy — his mother and siblings graduated from Assumption and his son, Drew, was in seventh grade when it closed — his great grandfather, Henry Baumeister, can be considered the school’s founder.

Casper also is strongly identified with the school’s boys basketball program. He played on the school’s first Catholic League championship team and coached the program for 20-plus years.

Given all his connections, when he heard the school was going to be demolished to make way for a senior housing project, he organized a 40th class reunion last summer for his 1978 class. Classmates came back to Pittston from San Diego and Florida. Before the demolition began — a process which took over two years from when the Pittston Redevelopment Authority acquired the building in 2016 — he wrangled a walk through and rescued American flags from the classrooms for former teachers.

His wife, Audra, gave him an idea — the center jump circle of the gym floor would make a nice bistro tabletop. With the help of Charles Barone, another Assumption alumnus, and using a variety of saws, they cut the jump circle out. Below the floor they found an older floor with an older SMA logo, which Barone took as a souvenir. Cutting the floor also revealed old metal locks which were used to anchor cages which went around the court.

Casper said people who don’t understand why men and women would have such an emotional attachment to a school which only went up to eighth grade, can’t know what it’s like.

“If you went there, you know how it feels; if you didn’t, it can’t be explained,” he said. “It was different. We looked out for one other. Still do.”

Casper said Assumption alumnus Jim Fitzpatrick, who has an ink pen business, salvaged wood from the demolition to make souvenir pens. Check out “Pens By Fitzy” on Facebook.

In 1868, Casper’s great-grandfather, Henry Baumeister, put benches in the sacristy of the original Assumption Church, built by German immigrants on William Street in 1851 for $8,000. The school predated the Scranton Diocese by 17 years and was built by the Philadelphia Diocese. Baumeister was the first teacher of what would eventually become St. Mary’s Assumption School. In June 1882, the cornerstone was laid for a new church on Church Street, also called Church Hill. In 1877, the members of the Sisters of Christian Charity, a German order, came here to teach. Classes continued in the sacristy on William Street until 1885, when the new church opened with an attached classroom and the school officially opened with enrollment of 70.

In October 1890, ground was broken on a new wooden frame school at the present site. It was replaced by the school now under demolition in 1924-25. John J. Gibbons, of Avoca, was the winning bidder at $75,000. The school, with a steel skeleton and brick overlay, was three stories, with a clubroom, two bowling alleys, pool tables, large auditorium/gym, and six classroom with a 500 desk capacity. The new school, often called “The German School,” was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony in February 1925 by Rt. Rev A.J. Brennan, auxiliary bishop of the Scranton Diocese and with 20 attending priests, musical selections by the students and a passion play in the auditorium for the public.

jsmiles@pittstonprogress.com

Henry Baumeister, considered the founder of St. Mary’s Assumption School, built an organ for St. Mary’s Assumption Church. It took him two and a half years. It was played for the first time on Christmas Day in 1906.

The organ was said to combine “sweetness of tone and mechanical equipment equal to the best organs in the Valley” according to the Pittston Gazette. Made of polished oak, the organ was 13 feet high, 10 feet long and 8 feet deep. It had 21 alternating blue and gold front pipes, with 480 pipes total and 12 stops. The front had three towers Baumeister richly carved with a penknife.

Baumeister built much of the organ in his workshop behind his home on Carroll Street. During the building of the pipe he had to raise the roof of his workshop four feet.



THE ST. MARY’S ASSUMPTION ORGAN

Henry Baumeister, considered the founder of St. Assumption School, built an organ for St. Mary’s Assumption Church. It took him two and a half years. It was played for the first time on Christmas Day in 1906.

The organ was said to combine “sweetness of tone and mechanical equipment equal to the best organs in the Valley” according to the Pittston Gazette. Made of polished oak, the organ was 13 feet high, 10 feet long and 8 feet deep. It had 21 alternating blue and gold front pipes, with 480 pipes total and 12 stops. The front had three towers Baumeister richly carved with a penknife.

Baumeister built much of the organ in his workshop behind his home on Carroll Street. During the building of the pipe he had to raise the roof of his workshop four feet.