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.
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
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.