The CHARA array is an optical interferometer with six 1-meter diameter telescopes, providing baselines from 33 to 331 meters. With sub-milliarcsecond angular resolution, its versatile visible and near infrared combiners offer a unique angle of studying nearby stellar systems by spatially resolving their detailed structures. To improve the sensitivity and scientific throughput, the CHARA array was funded by NSF-ATI in 2011 to install adaptive optics (AO) systems on all six telescopes. The initial grant covers Phase I of the AO systems, which includes on-telescope Wavefront Sensors (WFS) and non-common-path (NCP) error correction. Meanwhile we are seeking funding for Phase II which will add large Deformable Mirrors on telescopes to close the full AO loop. The corrections of NCP error and static aberrations in the optical system beyond the WFS are described in the second paper of this series. This paper describes the design of the common-path optical system and the on-telescope WFS, and shows the on-sky commissioning results.