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Central Public School - Ellwood City, PA

In the early 1900’s school board officials from Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, authorized the building of a centralized downtown school. The new school, to be known as the Central Public School, was constructed on the southeast corner of Lawrence Avenue and 6th Street in Ellwood City and opened in 1902. It may have housed students of all grades for a short time, but it soon served primarily as the Ellwood City High School.

The importance of the Central School was quickly being eclipsed. A host of new primary schools, including the Hartman School built next to the Lawrence Building, opened in the 1920’s to accommodate the increase in grade school-aged children. At about the same time the school board decided to build a new high school on the site of the Lawrence Building. In late 1924 the Lawrence Building was sold to a local businessman, dismantled piece by piece, and carted away for salvage. Construction on the new Lincoln High School began soon after and opened for classes in the fall of 1926.

The importance of the Central School was quickly being eclipsed. A host of new primary schools, including the Hartman School next to the Lawrence Building, opened in the 1920’s to accommodate the increase in grade school-aged children. At about the same time the school board decided to build a new high school on the site of the Lawrence Building. In late 1924 the Lawrence Building and was sold, dismantled by a local company, and carted away for salvage. Construction on the new Lincoln High School began in 1925 and opened for classes in the fall of 1926.

An agreement called for the Central School to be turned over to the borough for use as a municipal building, but due to severe overcrowding of the school system it remained in use as a schoolhouse for the time being. By 1930 the borough had a total of seven schools. Five elementary schools housed students up to the sixth grade, the Central School housed seventh graders and some eighth graders, and Lincoln housed some eight graders and all other high schoolers.

On December 1, 1931, the school board finally turned over the Central School to the borough. However, the borough rented the building back to the school board so it could continue in use as a schoolhouse for a few more years. In 1934 a debate got underway regarding the financing of a new municipal building, which (if a new structure was authorized) would be built on the site of the Central School. The issue was soon settled as the federal government authorized $60,500 in Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds to demolish the school and construct a new borough building in its place.

During a borough council meeting on Thursday, February 20, 1936, contracts were awarded for the salvaging of any useful equipment, the demolition of the school, and the construction of the new borough building. No time was wasted as eighty local workers, contracted under the WPA grant, commenced with the salvage and demolition job the very next day. Within a few months the site of the Central Public School would be nothing but a vacant lot. The recently-graduated Lincoln High Class of January 1936 made a strong case to buy the old bell atop the school, which was apparently going to be sold for a higher amount to a neighboring township. The bell was simply donated to the former students and was soon installed atop the main building of the Lincoln High School. The cornerstone of the old school was also donated to the local library.

Construction started on the new municipal building in about June 1936. On Saturday, July 21, the cornerstone of the new building was laid during a ceremony that was part of a firemen’s convention. The magnificent Municipal Building, which cost a total of about $101,000, was opened for occupancy in about April 1937.

In 1975 the old Central Public School bell was removed from its lofty perch above Lincoln High. It was restored and returned to the former site of the old Central Public School (in front of the Municipal Building) in late June 1976, as part of the nine-day-long American Bicentennial celebration in Ellwood City. It was officially unveiled during an opening ceremony held on June 26. It still sits there today next to a memorial park for the military veterans of Ellwood City.


The Central Public School on Lawrence Avenue served all grades when it opened in 1902, but later served mainly as a high school for Ellwood City. (c1905) Full Size


The Central Public School soon after in was built in 1902. This school had a relatively short life and was razed in early 1936 to make room for the new municipal building.


The Central Public School in a postcard postmarked August 1915. The students and teachers line the front of the school. A note on the back on this card reads, “We live on the corner beside this school house.”


An old postcard of the Central School postmarked in April 1909 and sent to Mr. Ira Houk in Beaver PA.


The 1905 graduating class of the Ellwood City High School, which held classes in the old Central Public School. The two girls front and center in white are (from left) Bessie McMullen and Vera Cox. (1905) Full Size


The Central Public School housed students of all grades for a short time after it opened, but it soon served primarily as the home of the Ellwood City High School. (c1905) Full Size


Another old postcard of the Central Public School. (c1908)


A closeup of the front entrance with a facade that appears to read: “A.D. CENTRAL PUBLIC SCHOOL 1902.”


The Ellwood City municipal building, which sits on the former site of the Central Public School. Photo taken Apr 2010.


A view of the bell which once graced the top of the old Central Public School. When the school was razed in 1935 the bell was put in place atop Lincoln High School. In 1975 the bell was removed from its perch atop Lincoln and restored. It was returned to the former site of the old Central School (now the municipal building) in June 1976 as part of the American Bicentennial celebration. Photo taken Apr 2010.


Another view of the old bell. Also visible are some of the granite slabs of the veteran’s memorial in front of municipal building. (Jul 2010)


The plaque that rests under the bell explaining its significance. (Jul 2010)

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