Goodwill Industries Resurrects Abandoned North Scranton Building

After decades of abandonment, the former North Scranton Junior High School, located on Main Ave., was renovated to serve a new purpose. Goodwill Industries of Northeast PA transformed the historic landmark into Goodwill at North Gerald T. Langan Apartments. The building now provides 58 apartments for senior citizens, aged 65 and older, that have restricted income levels. The building is also home to The Theater at North. The school’s auditorium was renovated into an 800-seat theater for plays, concerts, recitals, films and social events.

The renovation was 21 years in the making. After the school closed in 1987, the building was vandalized and deteriorated through years of vacancy. Some of the windows were smashed, causing precipitation to get inside and allowing the interior to rust. Goodwill Industries wanted to save the building because it was considered an important asset to the people of Scranton. “It’s an icon to the Scranton community,” said Gerald T. Langan, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northeast PA. “We wanted to save it.”

City, state and federal government were involved in funding the renovation, but community support really helped the project come to fruition. Goodwill Industries applied to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Association (PHFA) and needed letters of support. When the community heard of the proposal to save the building, they wrote over 300 letters to the PHFA to support the cause. Approximately 75 percent of the people in Scranton have some kind of affiliation with the building. Some attended the school, others just played basketball in the gymnasium. “I haven’t encountered anybody who was against this project,” said Langan. “It wouldn’t have been done without everybody’s support.”

After Goodwill Industries obtained the funding needed, they hired Quandel Construction, who specializes in historical buildings. During a one-year period, Quandel completed the construction part of the renovation. “They (Quandel) didn’t cut any corners,” said Langan. “They did first-class work.” Although renovated, many of the original 1922 historical features of the building were preserved. Since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, Heritage Consulting Group, a tax credit consultant from Philadelphia, made sure the renovations met historical qualifications. That meant retaining the late Gothic Revival architectural style. All of the apartments, which used to serve as classrooms, have the same 15-foot ceilings and 9-foot windows. The main entrance still has the Gothic-style arch and marble staircases. The original ceiling moldings were restored. “We didn’t change anything,” said Langan. “We just brought it back to life.”

The new community room, which used to be the boys’ gymnasium, still has the original bleachers, which have been repainted and modernized. The room is currently used by dance studios and the North Scranton Rotary Club. The building also has memorabilia of the former high school. Trophies are displayed in one of the hallways. Next to it is the Bull Award, an award given to the funniest teacher. “It just gives you chills to see the before and after pictures of what this place looked like,” said Rachel Sweeney, marketing director of Goodwill Industries of Northeast PA.

The exterior was also preserved. The building’s iconic clock tower is working once again. About 500 people attended the clock-lighting ceremony. It became a beacon of hope for the revitalization of the building. “It gave them inspiration,” said Langan. “It gave them hope, and I think it had a lot to do with the support of the community.” The building was dedicated on February 11, 2016. Since then, thousands of people have attended performances at the Theater at North. Former students come to watch the show and reminisce about their school days. “It’s kind of a nostalgic destination for a lot of Scrantonians,” said Carrie Colaiezzi, director of operations of the Theater at North.

Goodwill Industries of Northeast PA is a completely not-for-profit organization. All of the money generated from its thrift stores, donation centers and ticket sales from Theater at North fund programs for the community.  –Ben Freda