Darlington Park is a small community park and playground area located in the Mahoningtown neighborhood of New Castle, Pennsylvania. Mahoningtown, a thriving railroad hub, was annexed into New Castle to become the new Seventh Ward in January 1898. A small park had existed for some time on the north side of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) tracks and was located at the intersection of South Liberty Street and Darlington Avenue. Various reports refer to it as Mahoningtown Park or Liberty Street Park. It seems to have fallen into disuse and was littered with trash and other debris in the early 1900’s.
Cleanup efforts were undertaken by civic groups and it was soon restored it to more picturesque state. On July 20, 1917, the local St. Margaret’s Society erected a flagpole and held a patriotic flag-raising ceremony in honor of our military forces preparing to join the fight in war-torn Europe. The event was well attended by the local Italian community. In the spring of 1920 the New Castle Rubber Company, located along South Liberty Street, undertook a project to beautify the park. The company also had a bandstand erected and it became the site of numerous summer concerts over the years. In late March 1931, after some delays, twenty Norway Maple trees were also planted in the park. This was part of a city-wide project supervised by Councilman Louis Genkinger, who managed the municipal grounds of New Castle.
Sometime later, most likely in the early 1950’s, the grounds were renamed as Darlington Park in honor of early founder Benjamin Darlington. Darlington and William Hayes, both from Pittsburgh, were pioneers who laid out the settlement of Mahoningtown back in 1836.
The bell that graced the old Seventh Ward Fire Station, which fought many fires associated with the railroad industry, was put on display at the park in October 1959. That fire station stood on East Cherry Street (and Cedar Street) and was demolished soon after a new firehouse was opened on North Cedar Street in October 1958. The bell was affixed atop a brick platform and dedicated – with a plaque – as part of a Firemen’s Memorial.
The New Castle News of Friday, August 7, 1959, mentioned the project with, “The preservation of the old bell which hung for many years in the Seventh Ward Fire Station as a memorial, was started yesterday by the Mahoningtown Merchants Assn. and workmen began building a platform for the bell in Liberty St. Park… The work is being down by city workmen under the direction of Councilman Richard Bibble of the Parks and Recreation Dept. The merchants have also been assisted in the project by Councilman Herman Steinbeck in securing the bell, a property of the city.”
In 1996 a train caboose was purchased from a group in West Middlesex for $1,200 with the intention to display it in Darlington Park. The caboose, formerly in operation with the defunct railway line known as the Lake Erie, Franklin & Clarion Railroad (LEF&C), was initially placed in storage in a building on Industrial Street. In July 1997, with the assistance of CSX Railroad, it was towed to the park and renovated. It was proudly displayed for a symbol of Mahoningtown’s illustrious railroading history, but fell into disrepair in the coming years. Fortunately, it was greatly refurbished by a local civic group in 2013.
Darlington Park has been the site of Mahoningtown’s annual Community Day, held every August, since its inception in 1996.
An early view of the Liberty Street Park – later known as Darlington Park – in Mahoningtown. The B&O railroad station is visible at top center. (c1924) Full Size
I believe the first bandstand was erected at this location back in 1920. (Aug 2015)
The train caboose was placed in the park in July 1997. It fell into disrepair in the coming years, but was greatly refurbished in 2013. (Aug 2015)
(Feb 2016) Full Size