Although Williamsport's first school was in operation by 1802, only six years after the city's founding, a high school did not come into existence until after the Civil War.
In 1869, an examination of pupils in the three highest grades in schools then in existence determined the selection of 13 young people who, with Samuel Transeau as principal, constituted the Williamsport High School. Even though the entire physical plant consisted of one small room on West Fourth Street Between Hepburn and Elmira streets, the public objected to the additional expense of this new school.
Over the next 18 years, the Williamsport High School had five locations and seven principals. One of the early sites was the second floor of the old Engine House No. 1 on Mulberry Street near what is now Little League Boulevard. In 1873, the three-year course of study was expanded to cover four years, and, in 1877, to prepare graduates for teaching.
The first Williamsport High School building was constructed in 1877 at the southeast corner of West Third and Walnut streets, accommodating 250 students on the second and third floors, and providing six elementary classrooms on the first floor.
A fire on Saturday, April 4, 1914, completely destroyed the high school building and all school records. At the time of the fire, however, a new high school building was already under construction at West Third and Susquehanna streets. The Class of 1914 was graduated in this still unfinished structure.
Two decades later, increased enrollment necessitated the addition of a new wing and a gymnasium, which was built on the south side of West Third Street. This high school building and gymnasium are now part of the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
The name "Williamsport High School" was changed to the "Williamsport Area High School" in 1964, soon after the decision of the state Department of Education to consolidate and reduce the number of school districts across the state.
January 1972 saw the Williamsport Area High School community move into its present building, where the Commons, long walks between classes, swimming pool and three cafeterias became a way of life.
Like its structures, Williamsport Area High School traditions have spanned a good many years. The school colors date back to at least 1895, when "The Cherry and White," the school's magazine, first appeared. The earliest available football statistics are fro the 1897 season, in which the team showed a 4-2-2 record.
"La Memoire" originated in 1920; before that time, a special edition of "The Cherry and White" had served annually in place of a yearbook. Athletic teams have been known as the Wolverines, the Black Shirts and the Billtowners, and, since the mid-1930s, the Millionaires. This current designation echoes the name of a local baseball team of 1890, in the Tri-State League, and undoubtedly refers to Williamsport's days as "the lumber capital of the world" and to the stately homes along "Millionaires' Row" along West Fourth Street.
Today, students have endless educational opportunities. The Williamsport Area High School offers a setting in which students are encouraged to grow and to interact with teachers and fellow students in the process of learning. Recognizing individual abilities, attitudes and behaviors, the school sees its mission as one of cooperation with the home and community to encourage each student's intellectual, moral, physical and social development. Students are Williamsport Area High School are offered opportunities few schools of any size, anywhere, can match.