The first dedicated high school in Beaver Falls, often referred to as the 11th Street School or Central School, was built in 1872. It was located somewhere on 11th Street near where the U.S. Post Office building now sits. It had ten rooms and a small auditorium, which was converted and divided into two additional classrooms three years later. The first commencement was held on May 20, 1879.
A new two-story high school, also known as the Seventh Avenue School, was built in 1910 on Seventh Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets. An addition was made to this school in 1922 and a new gymnasium was opened in January 1926. An article in the New Castle News on January 29, 1926, reads in part, “No more is it necessary to play on the most unique floor in the world, the old cork spread in a boxlike gymnasium.” The school sports teams adopted the nickname of the Tigers.
The third Beaver Falls High School, located on Eighth Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets, was built in 1930-1931. It had twenty-four classrooms and a large connected building with an auditorium and gymnasium. A series of sports fields were built behind the school, but the football team played their games at 5,500-seat Reeves Field/Stadium (opened in October 1925) at nearby Geneva College. Several additions were later built to the school in 1949 and 1978 to enlarge the capacity of the student body.
The most famous student of this school was undoubtedly local bad boy Joseph “Joe” Namath, a 1961 graduate who excelled in baseball, basketball, and football. The controversial Namath, nicknamed “Broadway Joe,” went on to become a star quarterback with the University of Alabama and the AFL/NFL’s New York Jets. He led Alabama to the National Championship in 1964, quarterbacked the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III in 1969, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.
In the early 1970’s the school board exploring the idea of building a fourth generation and much larger high school. At that time the local school district expanded as its absorbed students from neighboring areas including Koppel. In July 1970, the school board authorized the purchase of an eighty-acre site just to the north of the existing high school on Eighth Avenue. The site was the former home of the Keystone Driller Company, a pioneering oil and water well drilling outfit founded by Robert M. Downie back in the 1880’s. I believe the company closed down operations back in 1952.
The new modern Beaver Falls Area Senior High School, which cost over $11 million to construct, opened for classes on Tuesday, August 29, 1978. As part of the Big Beaver Falls Area School District it currently houses about 800 students in grades 9-12 from Beaver Falls and the surrounding areas to include Homewood, Koppel, and New Galilee. The vacated high school next door was renovated and reopened as the Beaver Falls Middle School housing students in grades 6-8.
To read a short article about the boys from Beaver Falls High School organizing a football team in 1901 click on: TEAM ORGANIZED ARTICLE. To read an article about an upcoming basketball game between the boys from Ellwood City and Beaver Falls in 1908 click on: BASKETBALL GAME ARTICLE. To learn more about a high school baseball contest between Beaver Falls and New Castle played at Cascade Park in 1909 click: TIE GAME ARTICLE.
This postcard shows Beaver Falls’ second high school, also known as the Seventh Avenue School, which was built in 1910. With the opening of the new high school on Eighth Avenue in 1931 this building was converted into a junior high school. It was later razed in 1978. (c1920) Full Size
Another postcard depicting the Beaver Falls High School. (c1920)
Another view of the old Beaver Falls High School on Seventh Avenue. This old postcard is postmarked in May 1913.
A photo of the Beaver Falls High School on Seventh Avenue c1915. Full Size
The girls basketball team of 1914-15.
The boys basketball team of 1914-15 – the Beaver County Champions.
The football team of 1914-15, who finished as county champs this season and the next. Full Size
The football team of 1916-17, which lost a controversial game to New Castle High School and finished with a record of 6-1-1. Seated on the left I believe is mathematics teacher and head coach Philip H. Bridenbaugh, who coached this team for two seasons before leaving for Geneva College. In the fall of 1922 he became the head coach of New Castle High School and achieved legendary status amassing a record of 265-65-25 over the next thirty-four seasons. Full Size
The student council of 1916-17. Full Size
The Science Club, led by science teacher Mr. Stewart, of 1916-17. Full Size
The high school faculty of the Beaver Falls High School from 1919-20. Floyd Atwell, a Grove City College graduate and the Superintendent of Beaver Falls Public Schools, is seated in middle. He had previously served in the school districts of New Brighton and Ambridge. Full Size
A postcard of the new Beaver Falls High School c1935.Full Size
Students in front of the Beaver Falls High School during the 1936-37 school year. Full Size
A class photo in progress during the 1937-38 school year. This is a group of juniors that would graduate in June 1939. Full Size
The girls’ Bike Club of the high school during the 1938-39 school year. Full Size