ShareThis Page
School came a tumblin’ down |

School came a tumblin’ down

Ron Paglia
| Thursday, July 28, 2005 12:00 a.m

It was a hot and humid day, much like we’ve been experiencing in recent weeks, but that didn’t stop spectators from grabbing a bird’s eye view of activities in North Charleroi.

The day was June 12, 1974, and the original North Charleroi Elementary School was disappearing from the community scene.

Completed in 1912, the three-story, red-brick building overlooking the Monongahela River was being razed to make way for a new structure as part of a long-range building and renovation program in the Charleroi Area School District.

The demolition project was done by Matthew Canastrale, of Rostraver Township, through a sub-contract with Mood Construction Co. Inc., of Fayette City, general contractor for the $350,000 project. Robert Lettrich, of Charleroi, was the architect.

An annex to the original building constructed in 1937 and facing Olive Avenue remained intact and was scheduled to house students in kindergarten through grade three during the construction and renovation work.

The new building, completed in early 1975, was a two-story addition to the annex. The top floor included a kindergarten area and a classroom.

The ground-level floor was designed to be used as a storage area that could be converted into a classroom, if needed, and a boiler room. A playground occupied most of the area outside the addition.

The original North Charleroi Elementary School, the annex and the new facility were familiar sights to motorists traveling along Route 88. You couldn’t miss it because you had two stop signs at that busy intersection – one coming down Fourth Street from the North Charleroi Hill district and another traveling south on Route 88 (Pennsylvania Avenue). That intersection remains very busy today and motorists will recognize two other “landmarks” there – Thorpe’s New Dawn Personal Care home, which now occupies the site of the former school buildings, and Double M’s Pizza.

As someone who attended North Charleroi Elementary School in the 1940s, I remember other businesses at that corner. They included a Clover Farm food market, Cuddy’s drug store, and Paul the Barber’s shop. Just up the street from the building that now houses the pizza shop and apartments were a butcher shop and a dairy bar.

Regis Lee was the police chief in North Charleroi for many years, and he also was a familiar and friendly face to students at the school, as well as motorists who heeded his instructions when he was directing traffic at the intersection of Route 88 and the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge.

Like the other neighborhood schools in the Charleroi Area School District, the North Charleroi facilities eventually closed. The buildings housed a job training and placement center for several years, but remained vacant for some time before Thorpe’s gave it a handsome facelift and opened the personal care home last year.

While the original North Charleroi Elementary School was razed in June 1974, another part of Charleroi Area educational history felt the pinch of consolidation some six months later. On December 2, 1974, the Charleroi Area School Board voted 8-1 to sell the Ninth Street School to Charleroi Borough for $1.

Constructed in 1897, the Ninth Street School was an awesome site, spreading between Fallowfield and McKean avenues. As described in the Millennium publication, Charleroi At Year 2000, the Ninth Street facility was “an unusual castle-type structure with a grand staircase dominating the center of the interior. There were two wide stairways – one from Fallowfield and the other from McKean – each featuring about 30 steps up to a landing at the very center of the building; then two more stairways with about 10 steps going up either side of the mezzanine-type second floor.”

The decision by the school board to sell the structure in 1974 paved the way for demolition of the school and construction of the Char-House high-rise by the Washington County Redevelopment Authority and the Washington County Non-Profit Housing Corp.

The sale of the building and its eventual demise by a wrecking ball did not come without controversy or public outcry. Lengthy debate over the sale took place at the December 1974 school board meeting, with board members peppering Redevelopment Authority officials for more than an hour with questions about tax revenues and the long-term lease for the high-rise.

Today students attend classes at the Charleroi Area Elementary Center, which is part of the educational complex that also houses Charleroi Area middle and high school students in Fallowfield Township.

(Ron Paglia is a former newspaper reporter and editor. Anyone with ideas for his weekly column is invited to contact him at

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.