For Immediate Release:
October 6, 2020
Contact: Marie Cheek, Community Relations Coordinator, Culture & Heritage Museums
4621 Mt. Gallant Road, Rock Hill, S.C. 29732  803.909.7312

McCelvey Window Restoration Project completed

154 original wood windows preserve the character of historic school building

YORK, S.C. –    The McCelvey Window Restoration Project is complete; 154 original wood windows have been restored, reinstalled and made operable again using their original sash weight systems. A York County Hospitality-Tax Capital Project, the restoration work preserves the historic building’s most prominent architectural feature and provides an improved climate-controlled environment. Culture & Heritage Museums’ historic preservation team proposed and managed the project as an example of how original wood windows can be restored, rather than replaced, to preserve historic appeal.

The McCelvey Window Restoration Project retains nearly all of the building’s original wood sash windows, which date to 1902 in the west wing and 1922 in the central, east, and auditorium wings. Following years of deferred maintenance after the building ceased operation as a public school in 1987, the windows had deteriorated and required intervention. Culture & Heritage Museums made the decision to restore, rather than replace, them. CHM’s historic preservation team performed a condition assessment on each of the 154 windows. Shenandoah Restorations, Inc. of Irmo, S.C. was contracted to remove each window for restoration offsite at their studio, repair the deteriorated wood, replace broken glass, and accurately reproduce elements that were too deteriorated to save. Once reinstalled, weather-stripping was added to improve energy efficiency. The construction phase of the project began in April 2019 and was completed in early Sept. 2020.

A glimpse of history through 154 windows:

The McCelvey’s large windows are a character-defining feature of this former school building. Founded by the Bethel Presbytery in 1852, the Yorkville Female Collegiate Institute was located on what is now the McCelvey Center campus. The front of the three story brick building, at this time, faced northwest towards the Historical Center of York County. Built to accommodate 300 boarding students, the school was one of South Carolina’s leading schools for women. The school was closed to be used as shelter for Civil War refugees from February 1863 until November of 1866 and reopened for students in 1867. In 1879, boys were admitted; the building became known as a High School for Boys and Girls in 1882, which operated until 1888. It re-opened in 1889 as a public school for grades 1-6 and higher and renamed the Yorkville Graded School.

After partially destroyed by a chimney fire in 1900, the building was rebuilt in 1902 on its original foundation with modern conveniences of electricity and plumbing. When the post office shortened the name of the town to York in 1915, the school became known as York Graded School, where George C. McCelvey was principal from 1912 to 1948. The school’s central portion and east wing were added in 1922 and included an auditorium, new classrooms, and a new entrance portico facing East Jefferson Street. George McCelvey’s 36 year tenure as principal included leave to serve in World War I. During World War II, a cannery operated on the school grounds to encourage home canning of fruits and vegetables from Victory Gardens.

The York Graded School consisted of grades 1-11 until 1947 when grade 12 was added; during this time the building was also called York High School until 1951, and then became York Elementary School. The school was open to Black students in 1965. The building was renamed McCelvey Elementary School in honor of former principal, George McCelvey, after his death in 1973. As a York School District educational facility, the last day of school held in the building was June 4, 1987.


Culture & Heritage Museums was granted stewardship of the McCelvey in 2001. In addition to the 154 original windows, the historic building retains its original hardwood floors, working radiator heaters, and many classroom chalk boards. In 2012, restrooms were renovated and a new slate roof was installed with copper gutters. A South Carolina State Historical Marker, which was co-sponsored by the Yorkville Historical Society, was erected on the front lawn in 2013.

Over the course of 168 years, the McCelvey continues to be an anchor institution for the regional community. Outfitted with state-of-the-art sound and stage equipment in 2007, the McCelvey auditorium became the Lowry Family Theater, home to Culture & Heritage Museums’ annual Southern Sound Series. The theater retains the auditorium’s original seating in the balcony, its 1920s allure, and its original grand arched windows.


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  1. Front of the McCelvey after window restoration. Sept. 2020
  2. McCelvey’s east wing before restoration. April 2019
  3. McCelvey’s east wing after restoration. Sept. 2020
  4. Looking through the McCelvey’s new west wing windows at the new auditorium windows. Sept. 2020

Image Credit: All images courtesy of Culture & Heritage Museums

More stories to tell:

Want to learn more about Culture & Heritage Museums’ historic preservation work?

Want to learn more about fun history programs, such as the story of circus elephants who regularly exercised on the street in front of the McCelvey?


About Culture & Heritage Museums:

Culture & Heritage Museums is a family of museums that includes the Museum of York County and Main Street Children’s Museum in Rock Hill, Historic Brattonsville in McConnells, and the McCelvey Center in York.

The McCelvey Building with the Lowry Family Theater, the Historical Center of York County and the Southern Revolutionary War Institute are located on the McCelvey Center campus.

Culture & Heritage Museums is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums; accreditation signifies “excellence and credibility to the entire museum community, to governments and outside agencies and to the museum-going public.” 

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