Sign Commemorating Gunzburger Placed At County Building

From Potter County Today

A new sign and flagpole now greet visitors to the F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building in Coudersport. Miller and Richards Masonry of Genesee repaired a deteriorating stairway and installed a triangular sign, flagpole and landscaping to identify it as the “Gunzburger Building.” Donated to the county in 2007 by Time Warner Cable, the former school was named as a memorial to “Ferdy” Gunzburger, who served as chief commissioners’ clerk for several decades and also was chief assessor, director of elections, veterans affairs director and head of the Potter County Board of Assistance.

The F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building at the corner of Main and Water streets served for several decades as a center of education in the Potter County seat of Coudersport.The 57,000 square foot building actually 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. Expansion in the early 1930s linked the two school buildings and, soon, the students had a gymnasium. Another addition on the West Street side in the late 1950s accommodated a cafeteria. Most of the smaller communities in what is now the Coudersport Area School District had their own schools, many of them of the one-room variety. Consolidation brought an increase in the number of students and space limitations.

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 limited potential buyers’ interest. Finally, Adelphia Communications Corp. purchased the property.

Major renovations followed before 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. Eventually, Adelphia’s Coudersport assets were sold to Time Warner Cable. It wasn’t long before that company pulled its functions out of Potter County.

For more than 70 years, Coudersport’s Ferdinand Wile Gunzburger was the epitome of public service. During his tenure as a county official – a longevity record unequaled in Pennsylvania history – Gunzburger was an inspiration to countless others through his pleasant demeanor, his positive attitude, strong work ethic, healthy lifestyle and dedication to helping others. The majestic courthouse in the middle of Coudersport’s town square became “Ferdy” Gunzburger’s second home in 1928 when he was appointed Chief Clerk for the Board of County Commissioners. He remained in position until he retired on Jan. 1, 1993.

A test of Gunzburger’s mettle came after the Great Depression in 1933. As Director of the Emergency Relief Board, he found work for upwards of 1,500 unemployed people. Streets were paved; renovations were made to churches, the hospital, and government buildings; an athletic field was renovated and wood was cut and delivered to needy families. As counties’ burdens grew, Gunzburger found himself holding down more titles than any other county official in the state. He accepted these added roles — public welfare director, veterans affairs director, chief tax assessor, director of elections and chief voter registrar —to save county taxpayers money.

He was admired for his ability to instantly cite statistics, statutes, individuals and events and for his investment abilities with county revenues. Any number of Potter County residents who came upon hardships benefited from Ferdy’s quiet charity and words of encouragement. At his funeral in 2002, several speakers remarked that they had not once heard him utter an unkind word about another. (Upper photo courtesy of Endeavor News)

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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