In 1917, the Ellwood Realty Company began laying out lots and erecting homes on the land that later became known as Ellport in Ellwood City, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. At the time the property was actually part of Wayne Township. Most of the land to the west of Golf Avenue formerly made up the golf course and grounds of the Ellwood City Country Club, which leased the land from 1912-1916 until moving to a permanent location in North Sewickley Township in early 1917. The Ellwood Realty Company – while retaining some property – sold much of the former County Club grounds and also the eastern portion of “Ellport,” which consisted of a few large farms, to the Pittsburg Realty Company for $100,000 in February 1918.
Both realty companies went about making improvements, including laying out streets and building homes in the summer of 1918. With new tenants came the need for a new schoolhouse. In about May 1922 a four-acre plot of land on Wurtemburg Road, just opposite the entrance (Golf Avenue) to the old Country Club grounds, was purchased for $2,400. Construction got underway the following summer and the new Bend School, which initially handled students up to the eighth grade, was opened in late 1923 or early 1924. It also served as an overflow for kids from neighboring Burnstown, basically the neighborhood stretching from Ellport to the Ewing Park Bridge.
In the late 1920’s the area came to be popularly known as Ellport in reference to it being situated between Ellwood City and Portersville. In February 1929 the citizens of Ellport were granted borough status by the county and the Ellport School Board was formed at that time. The removal of the school from the Wayne Township School District led to a severe budget crunch for a few years.
I believe a small addition to the back of the Bend School may have been built in 1930-1931. As early as 1933 the Wayne Township School Board was working to relocate two wooden frame buildings that made up the nearby Burnstown School. A New Castle News article of April 6, 1935, indicated that the school board had “…definitely decided to move the one-room building near Burnstown to a new location near the Bend schoolhouse. The old two-story Burnstown building will be torn down and a room will be built from the lumber to join the other one-roomed building.” I believe this project was carried out in the summer of 1935.
The newly erected portable building behind the Bend School was filled to capacity as kids from Burnstown started attending school in Ellport as well. Before long a new two-room stone schoolhouse was planned to adjoin the old Bend School. This school, constructed with stones from the Ellport Quarry, was built by local men as a project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The small but impressive looking new building opened for classes in late October 1936, though workers continued to complete interior portions during the evening hours for another month or so. Together these two buildings made up the Ellport Public School. The portable wooden building (made from the lumber of the former Burnstown schoolhouse) was sold off in December 1936 and dismantled.
Years later, in July 1959, the Ellport School District was incorporated into the newly created Ellwood City Area School District, which also contained the schools of Ellwood City, Wayne Township, and Perry Township. The Ellport Public School, renamed as the Ellport Elementary School and housing students up to the sixth grade, remained in operation for the larger district until declining enrollment saw it closed in the summer of 1975. Rumors had abounded for months about the reorganization of Ellwood City schools. Ellport residents started a petition to fight any attempts by the Ellwood City Area School Board to close the Ellport schoolhouse. On Monday, June 30, 1975, the school board voted to close the Ellport and Ewing Park Schools in a cost-cutting measure. The closing of the nearby Ellwood City Works of U.S. Steel (the “Tube Mill”) in January 1975, and the economic downturn it brought, also factored into the decision.
The school board indicated that the schools would possibly be reopened within the next few years if enrollment could be increased. The kids from Ellport were transferred to the Perry Elementary School in nearby Porterville. The Ewing Park School would reopen, but I don’t believe the Ellport School was as lucky.
In March 1976 the school board voted to lease the Ellport school building to the Leeds & Northrup Company, which had a main plant nearby on Jameson Avenue and manufactured temperature measuring devices for industrial use. The lease was soon extended and the company occupied the building for a few years. Further consolidation of area schools saw that the Ellport School was never reopened for classes.
Eventually the Ellport School was sold to private interests and today is home to various businesses including the Ellport Junction convenience store, an insurance agent, and an outdoor adventure company. The land behind the school, where the school ball field and playground sat, became home to the new Joseph A. Tomon Jr. Funeral Home & Crematory in June 2004. My cousins Shirley (Migut) Perry, of Michael’s Furniture, and Mary Kaye (Migut) Alfera, a substitute teacher in the Ellwood City school district, grew up in Ellport and attended classes in the former school buildings.
To read about how the pupils of the new school held a fundraiser in October 1924 click on: FUNDRAISER ARTICLE. To read about the school letting out in May 1925 click on: SCHOOL’S OUT ARTICLE. To read an article about a Bible School held in the school back in the summer of 1925 click on: BIBLE SCHOOL ARTICLE. To see a list of pupils with perfect attendance in April 1934 click on: PERFECT ATTENDANCE ARTICLE.
The 3rd grade class of the Bend (or Ellport) School in the late 1920’s. A young Frankie Mozes is seated – fifth from right end. (c1929) (Photo courtesy of Richard Gartley) Full Size
A 1st grade class from the Ellport School from the 1947-48 school year. My cousin Shirley Migut (Perry) is standing in first row – fifth from right end. My cousin Stanley LaPatka is the tall kid standing in the back. The teacher is Mildred McElwain. (1947) (Photo courtesy of Richard Gartley) Full Size
A 2nd grade from the Ellport School during the 1946-47 school year. A young Richard Gartley is seated – second from left end. The teacher is Violet Vogler. (1947) (Photo courtesy of Richard Gartley) Full Size
Shirley Migut of Hazen Avenue posing in front of the newer portion (built in 1936) of the old Ellport Public School on Portersville Road. Shirley later graduated from Lincoln High School and married Mike Perry Sr. – the proprietor of Michael’s Furniture in Ellwood City. (c1950) Full Size