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Lincoln-Garfield School - New Castle PA

In 1880 the city of New Castle, Pennsylvania, built a new school named in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the Sixteenth President of the United States. The Lincoln School was located in an area known as Slabtown, along East Long Avenue on the south side of the city. As the population of the area steadily grew the building, often referred to as the Slabtown School, soon became packed with little scholars. Ten years later, in May 1891, another similar school, soon renamed in honor of the Twentieth U.S. President James Garfield, was opened to help alleviate the overcrowding issue. Oddly enough, the Garfield School was built facing East Reynolds Street and directly behind the Lincoln School. The schools shared more than just a property line, as they were both dedicated in the memory of the first two U.S. Presidents to be assassinated in office.

I believe both schools were two stories in height, handled students in grades one through eight, and shared a common playground. In 1914 about $17,000 worth of additions and interior improvements were made to the Lincoln School, which added a full basement and several other detached portable rooms. The six new classrooms added space to accommodate another 250 pupils. Another round of improvements was completed on both schools in 1920-1921, which featured the construction of a new shared gymnasium. It was at this time that a passageway was built to join the two schools as one, now known as the Lincoln-Garfield School. With the building of two new junior high schools in the city during the 1920’s this school soon became a dedicated elementary school serving grades one through six.

By 1950 the old Lincoln-Garfield School was in bad shape, with an antiquated heating system, inadequate lighting, outdated bathrooms, and warped wooden floors. In 1952 the decision was reached to demolish the aging structures and construct a new Lincoln-Garfield School on the same site. In mid-1953 the Lincoln end of the school was demolished and construction hastily got underway. Meanwhile, the students all attended half-day sessions in the Garfield section of the old school, which would be demolished once the other half was completed. The construction of the first half of the new school fell behind schedule but finally opened in early 1954. Immediately afterwards the old Garfield section of the school was demolished and construction started at that location. Students now shifted to half-day sessions in the new portion of the school for the remainder of the 1953-1954 school session.

The newly completed and modern Lincoln-Garfield Elementary School, with principal Peter Grillie Jr. in charge, was opened to students in the fall of 1954. On Tuesday, November 9, 1954, public open houses were held at the various elementary schools in the city, including at Rose Avenue, Mahoning, Oak Street, Thaddeus Stevens, and Arthur McGill. The Lincoln-Garfield School was opened for public inspection for the first time and later that evening an official dedication ceremony took place in the new auditorium. Over 2,000 people toured the school that day.

After a consolidation plan was approved in the summer of 1987 the Lincoln-Garfield Elementary School, along with the Arthur McGill, Rose Avenue, Mahoning, and West Pittsburg Schools, was closed for good in June 1988. All five schools were advertised for sale beginning in October 1987.

In April 1988 two offers were received for the Lincoln-Garfield School. Abdul Mansour and Richard Koury submitted a bid of $30,000 with plans to establish a clothing factory (with about 55 employees) at the school. Dr. Muhammad Ali, a local physician, soon placed a bid of $65,000 with plans to convert it into a medical arts building. Zoning restrictions soon became an issue. Dr. Ali announced if he acquired the school he would lease it to the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership for their Head Start preschool program.

In late May 1988 the school board accepted the bid of $65,000 from Dr. Ali and turned the building over to him the coming August. Renovations were soon began and the New Castle Family Development Center, part of the Head Start preschool program, began operating out of the building in November 1988. The Head Start program utilized the building until moving to more spacious quarters in the former Ben Franklin Junior High School during the summer of 2008. A few months later the Family Worship Center, led by the Reverend Kris Kauffman, began leasing the building for its weekly services. They moved out in late October 2010 and the former Lincoln-Garfield School has been vacant ever since.

To read about how a fifth grader from the Lincoln School was arrested for truancy in 1905 click on: TRUANT ARRESTED ARTICLE. To read about the contracts awarded for the 1914 renovations at the Lincoln and Garfield Schools click on: IMPROVEMENTS ARTICLE. To read a 1926 article about the special education class at the combined school click on: OPPORTUNITY CLASS ARTICLE.

The original Lincoln School (or Slabtown School) on East Long Avenue, which opened in 1880 and was named in honor of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. In 1890-91 the 5th Ward School (renamed as the Garfield School) was erected right behind this school on East Reynolds Street. During renovations in 1920-21 the two buildings were joined by a passageway and gymnasium and became a single entity – known as the Lincoln-Garfield School. The Lincoln building shown above was demolished in 1953 as work on a new school got underway. (c1910) Full Size

A sketch of the old 5th Ward School, opened on East Reynolds Street and located directly behind the Lincoln School in 1891. It was soon renamed in honor of assassinated U.S. President James A. Garfield. This school was literally joined with the Lincoln School in 1920-21 to from the new Lincoln-Garfield School. The Lincoln School was demolished in early 1953 as work on the new Lincoln-Garfield School got underway. Once a portion of the new school was completed the demolition of the old Garfield School took place beginning in early 1954. The new school was completely opened for classes – for grades 1-6 – in the fall of 1954. (c1900) Full Size

The former Lincoln-Garfield Elementary School was closed in June 1988 and sold just over a year later. It was the home of the local Head Start preschool program from 1988-2008. (2010)

The building was occupied by the Family Worship Center from 2008-2010, but currently sits vacant. (2010)

The school was named in honor of two separate schools that were once co-located at this site. (2010)

The lettering marking the name of the former elementary school. The school is named in honor of the first two U.S. Presidents that were assassinated in office. (2010)

For a time the former school was utilized as part of the Head Start Program but it now sits vacant. (2010)

The fenced-in playground area of the former school. (2010)

The Lincoln-Garfield School, with Peter Grillie Jr. serving as the first principal, was officially dedicated during a ceremony held on Tuesday, November 9, 1954. That day open houses for the public were held at the elementary-level schools of Lincoln-Garfield, Rose Avenue, Mahoning, Oak Street, Arthur McGill, and Thaddeus Stevens. (Mar 2013) Full Size

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The namesakes of the building, U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield, were both assassinated in office. Lincoln died in April 1865 and Garfield in September 1891. Full Size

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  1. My first wife, the mother of my 43 year old son was from New Castle. Sarah Jane Robinson.

    Have you ever had your namesake come spend the day with your staff and students?

    I have been portraying ABE all over the country since 1975, including several in your area, in years past. www.abeusa16.com (2,140 visits in 46 states in front of two million people.)

    Mrs. Lincoln and I would love to come spend the day with you and perhaps some other schools in the area while we are there. The government will pay for the visits with Federal Drug-Free Funding or you can have a local bank pay for it through the Community Reinvestment Act. I will be happy to explain these to you if you would like a Presidential visit.

    Have a wonderful day and keep soaring with the eagles.

    Homer S. Sewell III aka
    Abraham Lincoln and
    Xylona is Mary Todd Lincoln
    Cell: 770-402—0917

    P.S. You can see on my website all the places I’ve visited and you are welcome to call any of them if you would like to.

  2. I attended head start here, in the early 90’s.

    I can remember the play ground ( for some reason I remember it always being wet), the library ( there was this structure built for comfortable reading, it had pillows and lots of little cubby holes to hide in and read), the gym and nap time (my mat was blue and I wanted the red one). I can even remember growing marigolds for my mom on Mother’s Day with my teachers . OH! and I just remembered we had pet caterpillars who we let turn into butterflies and then we released them.

    All of that brought back to me through this article.

  3. It was closed in the 1988 consolidation with McGill, Mahoningtown, West Pittsburg, and Rose Avenue. All 4-6 graders moved to George Washington, and 1-3 went to JFK, Thaddeus Stevens, and West Side.

  4. “…with principal Peter Grillie Jr. in charge, was opened to students in the fall of 1954” is incorrect. The principal’s name was Peter Grittie.

  5. My grandmother, Minnie Houston, was a custodian at the school in the late 50’s.

  6. I went here for preschool around 2003. I spent two years there. I remember nap time, stories, playing in the kitchen set and house set. Dancing and acting out songs like “Little Bunny Foo Foo”, learning how to spell my name, and many other things. It is hard to believe that all that is left of the building, where I made many memories, is empty classrooms, deserted hallways, and a pavement where there was my favorite playground. At the end of the day, we would go to the playground and wait for, either, our parents to come or our bus/van to come. My mom would come to pick me up every day and I would fight with her to stay on the playground and play with my teachers and friends. The only thing that got me to leave was the promise of ice cream and being told I was coming back the next day. I miss that place a lot.


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