Arts & Entertainment

Exploring Abandoned Spaces 

William Penn High School in Harrisburg

Written by Taylor Cosalter 

The cold breeze swirls leaves of muted tones across a once bustling schoolyard. Across the yard stands a behemoth of an academic facility. Walking up to this massive building, you almost feel a sense of power in its looming stories and massive columns adorning the front of the building.  

Built in 1926 as a sister school to John Harris High School (which is still in operation today), William Penn High School was considered the crown jewel of area schools of the time.  The inside of the school boasts high ceilings and stunning wood work. There is a sadness in the air as these halls once bustling with students trying to make the bell are now reduced to crumbling walls and peeling paint. Walls once decorated in posters for school events and motivation pictures are now only decorated in crudely sprayed messages about who to call for a good time.  

Photos by Taylor Cosalter, November 2022, taken at William Penn High School in Harrisburg, PA

Empty classrooms smell of stale air and are filled with textbooks covered in dust, The gymnasium that was once filled with students in gym shorts learning how to dribble is now only filled with ash and charred remnants of the equipment being stored across the court due to various arsons that have plagued the school in the past ten years. As I continued to wander the facility, I stumbled upon the remnants of the technical school’s cosmetology classroom. This former school was converted into a technical school sometime after its closing in the early 70s before permanently shutting its doors in 2010 due to low enrollment.  The old equipment is still sitting vacant amongst outdated books sprinkled throughout the room. 

 It was truly surreal exploring the halls of this mighty learning institution and feeling the energy and angst of the students once here. The fate of this building lies in the hands of the school district who has been attempting to unload the building on whoever will take the risk of handling the property. Please do not attempt to go here, as many explorers meet the fate of the back of a cop car and trespassing charges will be filled.  


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