Ellwood City 100 Years Ago

I decided to repost one of my favorite articles on the web site. The post features a priceless snapshot in time of Ellwood City taken from 196 feet above the town sometime between 1909 and 1915. It is amazing how much has changed from then to today. There is so much in the picture it is easy to miss some of the more interesting things. I have added yellow numbers to some of the points I would like to draw your attention to in this picture, of course there is more than the twelve things I mention here and would love to hear about something I missed.

The first point of interest I see when I look at this picture is the grand Hotel Lawrence surrounded by the majestic Oliver Park. Though it is difficult to get your bearings with this picture, we are actually looking at the side of the Hotel. The front of the Hotel formally called Hotel Oliver is the side with the large white peaks and faces down Fifth Street.
Secondly, in almost the center of the page we see the Central School building built in 1902 on the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Sixth Street. Today the Ellwood City Municipal Building is located on that lot of land with a number of memorials displayed in the front lawn. The large World War II memorial in front of the Municipal building was purchased through multiple fundraisers including donations and with the extra money that was raised for Ellwood City’s anniversary.
Number three in the picture is the Park Hotel, built 1895 and located on the North side of the Ellwood City Short Line. Today, most people don’t remember the Park Hotel and I have had a difficult time uncovering the fate of the old Hotel. Did it catch on fire from the sparks of a passing train, or was it simply torn down due to dilapidation? The fact remains that the building is no longer there but if you look the next time you drive past, one of the walls from its foundation is still standing today.
Four and Five go together, almost. Point number four is the old train station that is no longer there today and number five points to something that is actually missing from the picture, the Fifth Street Subway. The railroad you see in the picture beside the train station was the Pennsylvania Railroad, who owned Rock Point Park. The railroad through Ellwood City was known more as the Ellwood Short Line and replaced the B&O railroad that was built along the Northern bank of the Connoquenessing Creek in 1876. After the Ellwood Tunnel was completed in 1892 the railroad connecting North Sewickley & Rock Point ran through the natural plain which Ellwood City was built upon and the hilly B&O railroad was abandoned.
Ellwood City owes its birth more to the Ellwood City railroad tunnel and Beaver Falls then the more common misconception of New Castle. Ellwood’s founder H.W. Hartman was dissatisfied with the conditions in Beaver Falls where he was the head of the Beaver Falls Water Company and Hartman Steel Company. He heard the railroad was planning to build the tunnel to bypass the slower line through Hazel Dell and put his plan for an industrial resort town into action.
The passenger station in the picture, known as the Union Station, served Ellwood City until the mid 1950’s. One text says the station was torn down as late as 1957, while another says it was torn down as early as 1955. Today, a parking lot is all that remains beside what is now the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Rail line.
Just west of the Union Station is number Six, the freight yards of Ellwood City. The large structure on the Northern side of the tracks is the B.O. Freight Station. The station was located just West of Sixth Street which was a main road at the time of the picture as the bridge connecting Ellwood City to Hazel Dell was the Sixth Street Bridge, not the Fifth as it is today. The “Hazel Dell Bridge” as it was known then connected Sixth Street and College Street. The original Fifth Street Bridge was not erected until 1915.
The B.O. Freight Station was demolished in 1982 and the property was sold to the Ellwood City Forge Group.
Our number seven point of interest is one of the few things in the picture still standing today. Point seven is the Stiefel Building on the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Fifth Street. I have yet to discover if the building was named after one of Ellwood City’s most prominent citizens, Mr. R.C. Stiefel, if he actually had the building built, or maybe he even had his offices there.
Number eight is the old tube mill more commonly known to the folks of Ellwood as “Mill B”. Originally the mill was the home of the Ellwood Shafting & Tubing Company, the first manufacturing institution to establish itself in Ellwood City as early as 1891. “Mill B” was dismantled in 1923 and the property was sold to Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad for a freight station and yard. It is hard to see it today but from Sixth Street to Blanks Concrete and Supply was nothing but P&LE spurs. Five or six lines of empty railroad lines loading and unloading freight coming into and out of Ellwood City all day long. August 25th 1981 marked the last day P&LE took a loaded boxcar, cargo from Airway Industries out of Ellwood City.
Nine is less of a specific point as it is a general area. As you can see from the picture, the West End of town was the direction of the growth in the early days of the town. The mills and businesses were more congregated at that end and most Ellwoodians thought that the town would continue to grow in that direction. In fact the first school built in Ellwood City after its founding was the West End School and the first hospitals were all located in that direction of town. It wasn’t until Ralph C. Stiefel and J.H. Nicholson left the Shelby Seamless Tube Company in 1899 and erected the Standard Seamless Tube Company (later called “Mill A”) that the town began spreading east also.
Ten is the beautiful picnic grounds of Oliver Park and the site of Ellwood City’s first murder. According to “A History of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania” James Bell was found in the park next to a tree, murdered. The victim, who had carried the mail from Ellwood City to the Belton Post Office, was also robbed as his pockets were all turned inside out. The park was a popular picnic destination (if you got permission from the Hotel) and how Park Avenue got its name.
Eleven simply points out the large farms and spread out residences that still existed in Hazel Dell. Hazel Dell originally was on both sides of the Connoquenessing until Merrit Green and Henry Hartman purchased all the farms on the South side of the creek to build Ellwood City. The roads through Hazel Dell were the old Indian trading paths from when the Shawnee & Delaware Indian tribes occupied the area. It was these tribes that actually named the Connoquenessing, which means “can’t canoe”. Hazel Dell was cut in half by the Connoquenessing and connected by the covered bridge known as the Jones Mill Bridge or White Bridge (built 1858 and razed 1898) located at the present site of the Fifth Street Bridge.
Hazel Dell did not become a borough until 1901, almost ten years after Ellwood City. The borough of Hazel Dell officially consolidated with the borough of Ellwood City in 1914.
Finally, point number twelve reminds you of the time period that the picture was taken. The buildings with no windows behind the houses are not garages, but barns. Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 but didn’t begin the moving assembly lines in his factory until 1913, so there were not very many cars in the town when this picture was taken. Some of the buildings are barns, other smaller buildings are outhouses. My grandmother’s house inside Pittsburgh Circle was originally built as a boarding house for tube mill workers before indoor plumbing was the big craze on HGTV. Four bedrooms, BIG bedrooms, and no bathroom.
If you noticed something I missed or if you feel that I got something wrong, please leave a comment below or email me at info@ellwoodcitymemories.com
Originally Posted February 5, 2010
One Comment to “Ellwood City 100 Years Ago”
Bob Stevenson wrote: Just a quick correction. The B&O Freight Station still stands. It is where Fotia Brothers was located on Beaver Ave, The one demolished in 1982 was the P & LE Station. That property is now owned by the Forge.

One thought on “Ellwood City 100 Years Ago”

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