Saturday, October 29, 2016

Anthony Wayne Elementary School

Ambridge's Anthony Wayne School was built at the corner of Lenz Ave. and 21st St. in 1928 - 1929 by the then-overcrowded Ambridge and Harmony Township School Districts. The two districts shared the cost of construction, as well as maintaining and operating the school until 1932, when Harmony Township built its own school, Highland Elementary.

Anthony Wayne appears to be still under construction in the photo below. The original plans for the stately, white brick school building were for 15 classrooms, a playroom, a reading room, and an office. Anthony Wayne was the last elementary school to be built in the Ambridge Borough.

Anthony Wayne Elementary School
Daily Times supplement?
August 10, 1929
Louis Vukovcan Collection

I know some people seeing that photo might say, "That's not Anthony Wayne School. The building looks nothing like that."

True, the current Anthony Wayne building doesn't look like the school in the 1929 photo, but it did before an extensive 1965 renovation.

The 1937 snapshot of Anthony Wayne School below belonged to my grandmother, Mary Gause.

Anthony Wayne School
May 18, 1937
credit: Mary Gause

My grandmother also owned my uncle Peter Gause, Jr.'s class photo, taken in front of Anthony Wayne School. I'm not sure of the grade. In May 1937, he would have been 9 years old.

Class photo
Anthony Wayne School
May 18, 1937
owned by Mary Gause

The photo below shows the Anthony Wayne building that I remember from my growing up years in the 1950s and early 1960s, when I frequented its playground and attended the summer playground program. The front doesn't look any different than it did in 1929 or 1937.

Anthony Wayne Grade School
Daily Citizen
June 25, 1954

With the 1965 renovation came new enhancements like a school library, the first in an Ambridge elementary school, and a cafeteria, I believe another first. A new multipurpose room with stage, showers, lockers, and toilets was heralded as not only a step-up for the school, but also as a place for community activities.

Anthony Wayne School renovation
Beaver County Times
November 6, 1965

Times caption:
ANTHONY WAYNE SCHOOL - Work on the renovation and enlarging project at Anthony Wayne Elementary School, Ambridge, is moving on schedule. Work is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 1966 - 67 school term. Children are attending classes at the building while improvements are being made. The size of the building will be about doubled when the project is completed.

Anthony Wayne Elementary renovation
Beaver County Times
November 20, 1965

Times caption:
SCHOOL RENOVATION PROJECT - Work is progressing on the Anthony Wayne Elementary School Renovation and enlarging project in Ambridge. The capacity of the bulding will be doubled when work is completed. The project is expected to be completed before the 1966-67 school term starts next September. When completed, the new building will contain 19 classrooms, two kindergarten rooms, a library, cafeteria, principal's office, conference room, waiting room, clerical office, itinerant staff planning room, counseling room, health suite, two teachers' lounges and an instructional planning center. The new library will be the first one for an Ambridge elementary school.

The renovated school looks nothing like the original building. It's hard to believe that it's the same school.

Anthony Wayne Elementary School
November 20, 2013
credit: Nancy Knisley

Anthony Wayne Elementary School
November 20, 2013
credit: Nancy Knisley

As a result of declining school enrollments in Ambridge, the school district closed the other elementary public schools--First Ward, Second Ward, Fourth Ward, Harmony, Liberty, and Park Road--over a number of years. Anthony Wayne, the last remaining public elementary school in the borough, was closed in June 2004. Ambridge elementary students now attend Harmony Township's Highland School. No public elementary school currently operates within the Ambridge Borough.

The Anthony Wayne building remains. During the 2005 - 2007 school years, it was used by the Quaker Valley School District when two of its elementary schools were being renovated. Since 2014, building has been leased to the Watson Institute, which provides education services and programs to children with special needs.
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Many former Anthony Wayne students and staff members remember my mom, Agatha (Gay) Bohinsky, who worked as a "lunch lady" at the school for many years before it closed.

My two strongest personal memories of the Anthony Wayne School's playground are: the tall metal sliding board that would burn your butt when you used it on sunny days; and the time a group of boys took my younger sister's new bike from her while we were there. The boys eventually returned the bike, thanks in no small part to my dad arriving at the playground. 

5 comments:

  1. I went to school here, briefly, in 1969 I believe, when I was four going on five. My lasting memory of my time there was the day my kindergarten teacher told me I could no longer attend as a result of my bad behavior.

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  2. I remember Mr Joyner the art teacher ..Mr McGee the principal ms yearly ..And Mr spatiola the music teacher ..Ms riguino the 3rd grade teacher and ms Fardo the 1st grade teacher I went there in 1997 & 1998

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  3. I remember Mr Joyner .... Mr McGee the principal..... ms yearly.... Mr spatiola the music teacher and ms Fardo the first grade teacher I went there in 1997-1998 & 1999

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  4. The Cramer family, 5 of 6 of us attended Anthony Wayne back around 1969 and I remember falling off the big metal slide and landing square on my head which the pavement made even more painful. I made a trip back a few years ago and was so disappointed to see the school semi operating and the degradation of Ambridge overall. So sad. We used to go to Nationality Days back when the steel mills were operating and G.C Murphy was there. Used to be a mirror on the side of a building that my older brothers convinced us if we looked into it that we would see the monkeys. LOL! I never did. It was nice to see my old hometown again but so sad to see all those homes in disrepair and downtown such a empty sight. Would love to see it brought back to the town we speak about so highly. Don

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  5. I loved Anthony Wayne,my 2 oldest sons attended there for a few years before they closed it,I remember my sons coming home really excited telling me they seen my name on the board in the gym ,no one beat my record for the step step jump😁😁😁😉😉😉

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