Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Second Ward School, Ambridge's second public school

Second Ward School
Maplewood Avenue near Eighth Street
Daily Citizen supplement
August 10, 1929

The Second Ward School on the west side of Maplewood Avenue near the intersection with Eighth Street was the second Ambridge public school to be built. It was built in 1904, the year before Ambridge was incorporated, following the construction of the Economy Public School, which later was called Fourth Ward School. The two schools used the same building plans designed by architect Elsie Mercur Wagner*.

While the postcard below was postmarked in 1908, it looks as though perhaps the photo was taken before work on the school grounds was completed.

Second Ward Public School
postmarked January 1908

I think the next photo is amazing. The photo was taken on the 700 block of Maplewood Avenue looking north towards Eighth Street (then called Bryden Road) and shows three children crossing what appears to be a very muddy, rutted Maplewood Avenue towards Second Ward School. This photo was published as a "Looking Back" feature in the October 18, 1985, Beaver County Times, and the brief article with that photo mentions the "unfinished boardwalk" on the far right. No date was given for the photo, but I'm guessing it was soon after the school opened. The photographer isn't mentioned, only that the photo was submitted by William J. Bowan, an avid Ambridge history buff who died in 1992. If anyone can provide more information about the photo, please leave a comment.

Children crossing Maplewood Avenue to Second Ward School
William J. Bowan collection?
circa 1904

According to the Beaver County Times, November 23, 1972, no regular classes were held at the Second Ward School after 1938.**

I don't know for sure why the Second Ward School was closed as a public school in 1938 when its slightly older twin, Fourth Ward School, remained open until 1964. But 1938 was the year the new senior high annex to the junior high school on Duss Avenue was opened. That made the 1914 high school building*** at 
740 Park Road, directly behind Second Ward, available for elementary students, so the Second Ward building may no longer have been needed.

The school housed a sub-office for the County War Housing Center in 1943. The center helped new war-workers moving into the area to find housing in the County.

In 1944, the American Red Cross set up an office there so people could send messages about refugee visas or "Palestine Certificates for stateless persons in enemy or enemy-occupied countries." 

In 1956, the Second Ward building became the Ambridge Recreation Center. A June 8, 1956 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about the opening of the Rec Center mentioned that the building "had long been an eyesore."

The Ambridge Recreation Center,
Maplewood Avenue near 8th Street,
late 1960s?
photo courtesy of Betty Lazorisak, used with permission

Even when the building was being used as a rec center, it wasn't properly maintained and by 1967 the School Board was making plans to raze the building; however, another six years passed before the final decision to raze the building was made:

Ambridge Recreation Center
former Second Ward School
Beaver County Times
November 23, 1972

The photo's caption says:
SCHOOL COMING DOWN--The Second Ward School, constructed in 1904 on Maplewood Avenue at Eighth Street in Ambridge, is slated for demolition this month. Besides Ambridge Elementary school children, the building was at one time or another occupied by Ambridge Recreation, Community College of Beaver County practical nursing school, and Ambridge High School shop and industrial arts classes. The building was built at a cost of about $37,000 and was designed by Mrs. Elise Mercur Wagner, a turn of the century architect in the area. The building is expected to be completely razed by mid-December. No elementary school children have entered its doors for regular classroom sessions since 1938 according to a school district spokesman.
The site of the Second Ward School is now a parking lot for The Center for Hope which occupies the former Ambridge High School/Park Road School building.

The parking area that once was the site of Second Ward School,
Maplewood Avenue near 8th Street,
March 22, 2014

*Elise Mercur Wagner also compiled the 1924 Economy Centennial Souvenir Program: Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today.

**However, Divine Redeemer School students went to the Second Ward School building for the 1959-60 school year when their parochial school in the former Davis Hotel was condemned, but that was after the building had been converted to the Ambridge Recreation Center. 

***The first high school was la
ter renamed Park Road School.

1 comment:

  1. jd aka john domansky

    i went to divine redeemer (holy redeemer in the 40s) for 9 yrs, Kindergarden thru 8th grade grad in 1946, went to 9th grade AHS Junior high, home room teacher was family friend Budimer, john 1st name, great guy. went to my moms wake & then to 2nd ward for food. that was 1980 early. sis frances had wake at funeal home on 10th & maplewood across from library, 1990s not enuff room for all the people, heard it was largest attendence ever,