Monday, January 27, 2014

The Demolition of the old Ambridge High School

Ambridge Junior and Senior High School,
Ambridge Golden Jubilee Souvenir Program, 1955

Ambridge High School,
Bridger yearbook, 1964
The first Ambridge High School, built in 1914, was at 740 Park Road in the building which later became Park Road School. My grandmother was among the students in grades 7 through 12 who attended that high school. 

In 1925, a new Junior High School was built in the 900 block of Duss Avenue for grades 7-9. In 1938, an annex to house the Senior High School was built on the south side of the Junior High School. My mother went to grades 7-12 during 1936-42 in the combined Junior-Senior High School. She remembers a beautiful school with gleaming marble and polished wood.

Fast forward to the mid-60s when I went to the high school for grades 9-12. While the sturdy brick exterior of the school seemed to be holding up, the interior, worn and dated, looked older than its actual age. I remember dripping pipes, drafty windows, and in winter, some classrooms would be steamy hot, while others would be freezing cold.

The electrical system was worrisome. The girls' gym, where the boys played varsity basketball, was laughably outmoded. The showers in the dismal girls' locker room no longer worked, for which, I suspect, most of us were grateful.

The large contingent of baby boomers coming through the school added to the wear and tear on the building. To put it mildly, repairs and updating were sorely needed.

After Ambridge schools merged with Baden, Economy, Harmony Township, and South Heights in 1971, the high school underwent a major renovation. In 1979, the school underwent another renovation that included the construction of a field house south of the main building and a new cafeteria where the boys' gym had been located. 

However, some school board members continued to talk of a new high school. In 2005, the year after the high school was declared eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places and Preservation Pennsylvania added the school to its list of historic buildings "at risk," construction of a highly controversial new high school began northwest of the then-existing school. The "old" high school was demolished when construction of the new school was completed in 2008.

P.J. Shotter took photos of the demolition of the old school and has given me permission to post them here. The photos below, plus more, are in P.J.'s slideshow, "Ambridge High School."

All photos of the demolition of the "old" Ambridge High School courtesy of P.J. Shotter, used with permission.

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