Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Early Ambridge public schools: then and now

Five early Ambridge public schools,
Economy Centennial Souvenir Program,

Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today,

I plan to post more on some of the individual schools in the above photo in the future, but because there's been so much interest in these schools, I'm providing some basic information about them now:

Then (1924):
The photo above from the 1924 Economy Centennial Souvenir Program, Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today, compiled by Elise Mercur Wagner, shows five then-existing Ambridge public school buildings.

From the top:
  • Harmony School which was at 5th Street just above the intersection of Beaver and Duss Avenues, built in 1912 for Harmony Township students, expanded in 1915, and in 1916, taken over by the Ambridge Borough;
  • The first Ambridge High School at 740 Park Road, built in 1914, later became Park Road School;
  • Fourth Ward School at 16th and Church Streets, built in 1904 *;
  • Liberty School which was at 5th Street, directly above Harmony School, built in 1917-1918; and
  • First Ward School, 215 Merchant Street, opened in 1910.

Missing in the photo:
  • Second Ward School at Maplewood Avenue near 8th Street, built in 1904, duplicated Fourth Ward School. The Ambridge High School on Park Road was later built directly behind Second Ward School. In 1956, the Second Ward School building became the Ambridge Recreation Center, which, to the best I can determine at present, was razed in 1972 or 1973.  [Update April 12, 2004: the Old Economy-Sesqui-Centennial Historical Booklet compiled by Norman C. Young says that the rec center was razed in the summer of 1972.] [Update March 4, 2015: Although the Old Economy Sesqui-Centennial Historical Booklet says the rec center was razed in the summer of 1972, the school board was still discussing demolition bids in September 1972. The caption for a photo of the building in the Beaver County Times, November 23, 1972, said that demolition was slated to begin that month and was expected to be completed by mid-December. See the photo in the blog article "Second Ward School, Ambridge's second public school." The site now appears to be used as a parking lot by the occupants of the former High School/Park Road School building;
  • Ambridge Junior High School, Duss Avenue, under construction in 1924 but not opened until 1925, enlarged in 1929. After a second annex was built in 1938, it became part of the Ambridge Junior-Senior High School which was razed in 2008

Later schools:
  • Anthony Wayne School opened in 1929 and was renovated in 1965. The school closed in 2004 and the building is now vacant.
  • The Senior High School moved to Duss Avenue in an annex to the Junior High School in 1938. The Ambridge Junior-Senior High School building was razed in 2008.

    Now (2014):
Ambridge Towers,
site of former Harmony and Liberty Schools,
Google Street View

Harmony School later was used by St. Veronica High School beginning in 1945. According to the Quigley Catholic High School site, St. Veronica High School moved back to Melrose Avenue sometime after 1959 when the new St. Veronica grade school opened. As of now, I do not know the exact year that St. Veronica High School moved out of Harmony School. [Update 2/4/14: a commenter has advised that the last year St. Veronica High School was in the Harmony School was 1965.] And I also do not know how Harmony School was used, if at all, between St. Veronica's leaving and the eventual razing of Harmony School.

Both Harmony School and Liberty School were razed and are the site of the Ambridge Towers senior apartments pictured above which were built circa 1968.

First Ambridge High School building,
later Park Road School,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

The Ambridge High School building at Park Road, pictured above, is the only school of the five Ambridge public schools shown in the Centennial program to still be standing. After the Senior High School moved to Duss Avenue in 1938, this building became Park Road School, attended by elementary students until 1972. In 1972, the building became an administrative building for the Ambridge Area School District. In 2011 it became the location of the Center for Hope.

Old Economy Visitor Center,
270 16th Street,
site of former Fourth Ward School,
photo: Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Fourth Ward School was razed in 1964 and remained a "recreation area" for many years. The site is now the location of the Old Economy Visitor Center, opened in August, 2003.

215 Merchant Street,
former site of First Ward School,
Google Street View

The story of the First Ward School is the saddest so far. Like the Fourth Ward School, the First Ward School was razed in 1964. When I was in Ambridge in June, 2013, the site was a undeveloped, weedy lot with cars and trucks parked on it. I do not know who owns the lot or why the vehicles are there. Does anyone know? If so, please leave a comment below.

*Interesting Ambridge School trivia: the Fourth Ward School was designed by architect Elsie Mercur Wagner, who compiled the Economy Centennial Souvenir Program.

In addition to the resources with links in the post, information for this article came from:

  • Ambridge Golden Jubilee Program, "Bridging the Future," 1955;
  • "Board Awards Contracts For Demolition Of Schools," Beaver County Times, September 25, 1964;
  • Old Economy-Ambridge Sesqui-Centennial Historical Booklet, compiled and edited by Reverend Norman C. Young, May, 1974.


  1. Your picture notes that Harmony School was later Liberty School. I went there from 1958 (kindergarten) through 6th grade. Sometime after that. the building (then named Liberty School) was razed to build Ambridge Towers.

    1. Nancy: I couldn't authenticate my comment using my wordpress id.... It wanted my full name; but wordpress doesn't even KNOW my full name... oh well.

    2. Just to clarify: I went to Liberty School beginning in 1958.

    3. No, Harmony school was never Liberty School. They were two different schools that were built right next to each other. Look at the information on the schools in the "then" section of the post.

      Both Harmony School and Liberty School were razed to build Ambridge Towers.

    4. Liberty School was by itself behind (not next to) the St. Veronica High School (former Harmony School) on 5th Street. I believe Harmony School and St. Veronica High were one and the same! St. Veronica and Liberty School were razed to build Ambridge Towers.

  2. Nancy , I graduated from ST. Veronica in 1965. My class was the last graduating class from the school on 5th street. After 1965 the old St.V's grade school was used as the high school until Quigley opened

    1. Thanks for that information. Now I vaguely remember that St. Veronica H.S. moved back to Melrose Avenue while I was still at Ambridge High School. I will add an update to my post.

  3. Went to liberty school moved in 1965 to Michigan any alumni that graduated in 1972 out there

  4. I do have some information about Anthony Wayne School. I work at Rhodes and used to do a run up to The Watson Institute. After my first year, we got a notice from Watson saying they're opening other schools in different locations and Anthony Wayne is one of the locations. So for about a year now, it's used as part of Watson.