The two-story Circle School, which stood on Pittsburgh Circle/Fourth Street where it intersected with Fountain Avenue in Ellwood City, was built in 1898 at a cost of $4,799. It took its name from the fact that it was located within the area known as the Pittsburgh Circle neighborhood. It served as a primary school and eventually housed the younger students up to the sixth grade from the borough’s Third Ward.
The school was in operation for over four decades until it was closed for good in 1942. During a meeting on Thursday, June 11, 1942, the school board decided to close the facility due to a decline in the student population and ongoing school consolidation efforts. The teachers were reassigned and the school’s 145 students generally attended the Ewing Park and Hartman Elementary schools that coming fall. Marjorie “Madge” Yeomans, who was born in England and was a longtime educator in the Ellwood City school system, served as the last principal.
The school building was converted and put into operation as the “Shuffle Shop,” a teen recreation center that hosted dances and other activities. It also served as the home of the Ellwood Art Club and its small playground was used by local children. In 1953 the building’s heating system began malfunctioning and the facility was closed as a result. Efforts were undertaken in the next few years to provide funding for a new heating system, but I am doubtful that ever happened.
In December 1957, the federal government, as part of its Cold War-era Civil Defense initiative, authorized the establishment of two 200-bed emergency hospitals in Lawrence County. One was slated for New Castle and the other was to be established in the old Circle School building. About 1,900 of these Civil Defense Emergency Hospitals (CDEH), later known as Packaged Defense Hospitals (PDH), were established across the country during the mid to late 1950’s. Tons of packaged supplies, designed to last for thirty days, were to be stored in the basement of the Circle School. The mobile-type hospital was only to be stood up in the event of a regional crisis in the wake of an atomic bomb attack.
I’m not sure if the supplies were ever actually delivered as in the fall of 1958 the school board decided to raze the old Circle School building. A $1,195 contract for its demolition was awarded in September 1958 and the aging structure was razed during November-December of that year.
The school board rejected a $15,000 offer for the lot in April 1959 feeling the property was worth much more. Instead an expanded play area, known as the Circle Playground, was established on the site for the local children. In 1961, due to the danger posed to the children by being so close to busy Fountain Avenue, a three-foot fence was erected at the playground. I believe a large fountain at the site, which may have been a little dangerous for young kids, was drained and removed sometime in the early 1970’s. The popular playground on Pittsburgh Circle is still in use to this day.
An old postcard of the two-story Circle School on Pittsburgh Circle/4th Street & Fountain Avenue, which was built in 1898 and demolished sixty years later in 1958.
Another old postcard of the Circle School, which took its name from the fact that it was located within the area known as the Pittsburgh Circle neighborhood. (c1915)
This photo shows the demolition of the old Circle School as it is underway in late 1958. The following year or so the Circle Playground was established at this location. Full Size