*** ONLINE AS OF AUGUST 5, 2011 ***

Mahoning School - Mahoningtown (New Castle) PA

The Mahoningtown Public School, also known as the Mahoning School, was built in 1893 in the Mahoningtown section of southern New Castle, Pennsylvania. It stood on North Cedar Street where it intersects with East Madison Avenue. It was located right next door to the Mahoningtown Presbyterian Church, which erected and opened a new building in early 1902. The new school replaced an older one built back in 1838 in the northern part of Mahoningtown. The new Cedar Street schoolhouse served the children of the local residents, mostly Italian immigrants who spoke very little English. At the time Mahoningtown was a separate municipality and did not officially become the Seventh Ward of New Castle until 1898.

In 1906 a new heating system was installed and a four-room annex, designed by architect W.G. Eckles, was built alongside the school to accommodate the increase of the student population. By the start of the Great War (World War I) in 1914 the school was home to about 600 children of all grades. At that time another annex, known as the Woods Building, was purchased for additional classroom use. By late 1914 school officials were planning further upgrades and improvements to the school.

However, before that could happen, the worst case scenario took place. On the night of Saturday, January 29, 1915, a raging fire swept through the main portion of the school and gutted the entire structure. Inadequate fire protection services in Mahoningtown led to a delay that might have saved the main school building from becoming a total loss. The adjoining four-room annex building suffered minor damage as well.

For several weeks the students went to school for half-day sessions at various locations in Mahoningtown including at the Woods Building and in four different churches. On February 22, 1915, when the annex building was cleaned up, students started back at full-day sessions at all six locations. Meanwhile, the remains of the demolished school were cleared away.

In June 1915, the school board awarded contracts for $83,391 to build a modern schoolhouse at the same site. The new red-brick school with gray stone trim, which would incorporate the existing four-room annex built in 1905, would consist of two floors of eighteen classrooms and a basement with playrooms and a gymnasium. It was built by the W. H. Chambers Company and designed to hold about 1,100 pupils. A public contest offering $5 was held to name the new school. Apparently a suitable moniker was not submitted because school officials simply choose to keep it as the “Mahoning School.”

The new Mahoning School opened in September 1916 to much fanfare. It accommodated students from grades first through ninth until 1958, when the junior high level pupils (grades 7-9) were transferred to Ben Franklin and George Washington Junior High Schools. The school, afterwards known as the Mahoning Elementary School, remained in operation for many years. Some of the head principals over the years (who usually served dual-duty overseeing other schools as well) included Dwight H. Connor from 1925-1926, Nannie Mitcheltree from 1926-1945, Fred McLure from 1945-1956, Peter Grillie Jr. from 1956-1958, John Matthews from 1958-1959, Lewis A. Grell from 1959-1963, John Ellefson from 1963-1967, and Pat J. George from 1967 until 1988.

After a reorganization plan was approved in the summer of 1987 the Mahoning Elementary School, along with the Arthur McGill, Rose Avenue, Lincoln-Garfield, and West Pittsburg Schools, was closed for good in June 1988. The school (through several buildings) had served the local community for about ninety-five years. The neighboring Mahoningtown Presbyterian School had previously closed and was demolished beginning in December 1984.

All five schools were advertised for sale beginning in October 1987. By February 1988 sealed bids had been received for all the schools except for the Mahoning building. In April 1988 local developer James J. Gabriel openly offered $5,000 for the Mahoning School, with the intention of converting into an assisted care facility for senior citizens. The deal was agreed upon but soon fell through. In September 1988 a small lot of property beside the school was to a local resident for $1,500. A month later the Lynch Brothers development team offered $2,500 for the school with a plan to convert it (and the Rose Avenue School) into an apartment building. The deal was contingent on them making specific improvements over the next few years, but this arrangement also fell through in early 1990. Another buyer, Dominick Grant (and associates), purchased the Mahoning School for $1,000 in July 1990 with plans to renovate it into an apartment building.

In June 1993 the non-profit Cedarcrest Housing Corporation began efforts to acquire the school property with plans to open a 38-room low income senior citizens home. Eventually, the project received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build a new apartment complex. In early 1994 the city – utilizing stipulations in the contract – gained the cooperation of Dominick Grant to sell the property. The Mahoning School was razed beginning on April 13, 1994, with the city paying for the asbestos removal costing $18,950 and the demolition costing $32,500. Meanwhile, work on the housing complex began in August on property just behind the school along Newell Avenue. The school property was officially sold to the Cedarcrest Housing Corporation in late October.

The Cedarcrest Apartments opened sometime in the summer of 1995. Curiously, with all the previous discussion, the complex was not built on – nor ever expanded over – the actual location of the Mahoning School. Today the former site of the Mahoning School is nothing more than a grassy lot.

To read a 1906 article about the planned installation of a heating system click on: HEATING PLANT ARTICLE. After the devastating fire of January 1915 the school annex was closed for a few weeks. To read about the students returning to classes in the annex click on: ANNEX REOPENED ARTICLE. To read more about the plans for the new Mahoning School click on: SCHOOL PLANS ARTICLE. To read about the remodeling effort in the annex in February 1916 click on: ANNEX WORK ARTICLE. The new Mahoning School was and dedicated in September 1916. To learn more about the dedication ceremony click on: DEDICATION ARTICLE.

This public school in Mahoningtown was built in the early 1890’s – with the annex on the left added in 1906 – and known as the “Mahoningtown School” or simply “Mahoning School.” The main portion (right side) of this schoolhouse was destroyed by fire in late January 1915 and the annex was incorporated into the new Mahoning School. (c1909)

The Mahoning School was built in 1893 and a four-room annex, seen on left, was added in 1906 to deal with the growing population of the area. By September 1914 the school was home to about 600 students of all grades. (c1910) Full Size

The school band from the Mahoning School c1952-53. My uncle John Hake, then in the seventh or eighth grade, is standing on the left of the top row with the trombone. Standing at far right on bottom is Mrs. Gladys (Thomas) Polland (1902-1981), the school’s popular music instructor and band leader.

A postcard showing the Mahoning School shortly after the devastating fire of January 1915. The main portion of the school you see was razed and rebuilt, while the annex on the far left was restored.

A photo of the new Mahoning School, which opened at the same location in September 1916. The left wing is actually the remodeled annex of the old school – the only portion that survived the fire. This school was in operation for many years until it closed in June 1988.

Looking at the vacant lot at the corner of North Cedar Street and East Madison Avenue in Mahoningtown, where the Mahoning School – first constructed in 1893 and rebuilt in 1916 – once stood. (Aug 2011)

The Mahoning School once stood in this vacant lot. N. Cedar Street runs on the left of this photo. (Aug 2011)



  1. My mother was director of the Mahoning School band and her picture is shown here A very nice surprise.

    william Polland · 01/30/2013 07:39 PM · #

  2. Anyone remember my mother, Gladys Thomas Polland? If so let me hear from you.

    william Polland · 05/19/2013 09:53 PM · #

  3. Yes, I remember your mother well. She was Miss Thomas when I was in Mahoning School. She was responsible for stimulating and teaching a long list of excellent musicians starting in the 30s, when I was in Mahoning School. Many of her pupils went on to play in national bands and orchestras. Her energy was unforgettable.

    Anita DeVivo · 06/01/2013 08:04 PM · #

  4. Anita, Thank you for responding to my question.
    She loved music, teaching and told me the saddest day was when she retired in Miami,Fl. I know a lot of her pupils went on to great careers in music. Did you know she taught for 50 years. She was so enthusiastic!
    William Polland

    wpolland · 10/26/2013 03:27 PM · #

  5. William, your mother was my 2nd grade teacher! I have great memories of her! If you said git or ain’t she would right the correct word in red ink on the top of your hand! For your birthday, she would give you a choice of paddles or kisses! She wore bright red lipstick and it would be left on your cheeks! She was a great teacher!

    Rose Marie Zarilla · 01/29/2014 11:25 AM · #

  6. I very much remember your mother, William. She worked patiently with all of us and never had a harsh word, but spoke calmly and with respect. Not all teachers did at Mahoning School. I remember her with love and respect. So does Hollywood. Someone who was associated with studio orchestras, bands and music in Hollywood knew your mother through her protegees and early students who spoke of her. We talked about her and he said he was amazed the music directors, etc. knew her by name. Not all students go to school enthused to learn history, math, etc., however they all ran to Ms. Polland’s class because she instilled love of music. Music is its own language and children become better students when they study music. I’m sure your mother was accepted easily through the gates of Heaven and that her role on the other side is working with children in the field of music.

    Jeanne Domenick Clark · 05/15/2014 05:33 PM · #

  7. My mother Idagenne Jolene Mitchell 1925-2005 went to this school, and played the violin. She also played piano, but I do not know if she had her lessons with your mother. She was accepted to the famous Ernest Williams Music Camp in Saugerties, N.Y. and his school in New York City, where she met my father James F. Burke a well known cornet and trumpet player.

    Joneta Burke · 06/13/2014 04:49 PM · #

  8. My father, aunt and uncle attended this school, as they lived right down the street. I also had many friends who attended here in the 70s and 80s when we were in the school system. Sad to see it go.

    Tim Hall · 12/26/2014 03:17 PM · #