During World War II and on through the Cold War, Ellwood City was ready in case of an attack on our soil with fall out shelters. There are a couple of old rusty yellow and blue signs that still exist in town but the shelters are no longer used as fallout shelters. This brought us to one of our recent “History’s Mystery”, where are the old shelters and what are they used for now.
Bob Stevenson informed us that there was one of these shelters in the Municipal Building on Lawrence Avenue. The fallout shelter had a complete two hundred bed mobile hospital that was controlled by the Civil Defense Department. The mobile hospital and other similar stored supplies are no longer there as everything was removed in the 1980’s.
Cheryl Franus recalled that when she started teaching in Ellwood city in 1968 there was a room in the basement of the old Hartman School that was full of food supplies, gas masks, bedding, etc, all marked appropriately with the triangular design of the Civil defense and the fallout shelters. She also pointed out that similar to the Municipal Building, all the supplies were finally removed in the 1980’s. Rumor had it, that the designated shelter was also in the basement at Hartman.
If you happen to know anything more about the fate of the fallout shelters in Ellwood City? We know one was in the old Hartman Elementary School and another in the Municipal Building but we also heard that there may have been one on Fifth Street, and several others are near or in the High School but weren’t there others in town? Has anyone got any pictures of them or an old map of where they used to be? If you would like to share your memories, please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
14 Comments to “Fallout Shelters in Ellwood City”
Jeff Lonnett wrote: Ben- I grew up in Pittsburgh Circle, between 2nd and 3rd Street- creek side. There was always a rumor that a fallout shelter was built by a homeowner over the hill behind his home.
The house was about 2 or three homes up from the 5th street bridge. Not sure if the new bridge construction would have taken it out, but it was certainly interesting to this guy from EC.
The site is cool.
Chris Pavkovich wrote: The old North Side School used to have a fallout shelter sign on it when I attended it in the early 80’s.
Sam Guerrera wrote: I was born and raised in Ellwood. After a career in the Air Force, I am now working for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.
You may want to contact the Lawrence Co. EMA or the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. There may be records that still exist on where the Fallout shelters were.
I am pretty sure that the old North Side Elementary School was one. Most city and county buildings and some State and Federal buildings if they had a basement and a protection factor of 100 were considered safe. The States were required to survey the facilities and maintain a list and share it with the FEMA Regions. Caves were used as well, I have heard a number of stories about the cave/mushroom farm between Wampum and Koppel on US Hwy 18 being one.
My first job with the State of Alabama was as the Radiological Defense Officer, each State had one. We were required to train people to staff the fallout shelters and monitor the radiation to report to us as well as monitoring and decontaminating people and maintaining the Radiological Survey Instruments and supplies. We also had a Fallout Shelter Survey Officer who visited each of the shelters and validated them as usable.
Good luck with your quest.
Sam Guerrera, Jr. CEM, MEP, ALEM
Alabama Emergency Management Agency/Alabama Department of Homeland Security
AEMA-Alabama’s coordinating agency for disaster preparedness, response,and recovery
Mike Powell wrote: I am not sure if this was a fallout shelter, but maybe someone can conferm it. In the 1970’s I worked at the G.C.Murphey store (now City Eporium)as a stockboy. In the basement in a back room behind the toy section ther was a room that had the fallout shelter signs on the wall. Not many people went into the room and sometimes we stored merchandice in it.
R. Scott Mackey wrote: Response to Jeff Lonnett’s post:
I recall seeing construction of what I presumed was a fallout shelter in the late-1962 timeframe at a property on the north side of Glen Avenue (several houses East of the old 5th Street bridge, as noted). This would be across the street from Dr. Brown’s residence.
Additionally, in 2008 I saw a MLS listing for a property in Wampum which featured a fallout shelter, although I don’t recall if pictures were included. A local Realtor should be able to confirm this.
Bob Burrows wrote: I went to Ewing Park Elementary in the mid to late 60’S, and I remember there being Fallout Shelter signs at basement level, small room under the entry stairs that faced Wood Street.
I also believe there were some Goverment supplies stored in that room as well.
The room was also used on occasions to house the visiting dental hygenist, etc.
The room to the left (North towards Adams Ave) was being used as a music room back then. The room to the right (South towards Beatty Street) was used for indoor PE activities. Had lots of good Dodge Ball games down there.
My Father taught in Hartman basement, and I will see what he can recall as far as shelters there.
First thought is that it would likely have been in the boiler room area (West side of school, going towards Lincoln)which set about half a story lower than the basement classrooms.
Lori “French” Lightner wrote: There was a fallout shelter located at the Walnut Ridge School on Mt. Vernon Rd. We used to play at the school when I was a kid. You went down the ramp by the old basketball court. To get to the entrance. I went to that school when I was younger.
Danny John wrote: The fall out shelters was stocked with equipment for a 200 bed Hospital, this was part of GSA my Dad Danny John Sr. worked with this program was based out of the Wampum Mins and the main office and storage was out of Boyers Mines in Bulter County Dad worked on this project from 1962 to 1973 Thats when it was shut down by the former President Nixion and Dad was transfered to Kansas city Mo. I do have a few photos of the boxes that was in one shelter they had all types of medical even generators was part of the equipment. Dad and his crew would go all over the east coast to service these units every six mo. not all fall out shelters had all this equipment I do know that the municipal building in Ellwood I remember going with dad a few times to open boxes and help him out. If I can answer any questions about that subject do contact me. I am not sure how to post these photos i have
Jo Ann (Miller) Oxsen wrote: I grew up at 450 Glen Ave. and R. Scott Mackey (above) is referring to the fall-out shelter dug out behind our shared garage by our then neighbor Robert Forsythe @1960.
michael bartoe wrote: There were fallout shelters at Hartman,I remember seeing the signs on the basement stairs and I distinctly remember having air raid practices even in 1965 in Ms. Spoa’s kindergarten class.
Thom Tate wrote: Just wanted to tell you that Trinity Lutheran Church is also a fall out shelter. Also this site is great. I love local History.
Bob Stevenson wrote: Jo Ann, Is that shelter still there?
Jo Ann (Miller) Oxsen wrote: Don’t know, Bob…it was directly behind your neighbor’s side of your shared garage and may have been demolished when the property lines were moved back for the new bridge in the 1990’s.
John M Miller wrote: Several of the local churches were designated as fall out shelters. Trinity Lutheran Church had barrels of crackers, a geiger counter, emergency rations, a large first aid kit, cots, blankets and barrels for water storage. A team of the council men was formed to report to the church to start filling the barrels with water should an alert go out.
The barrels were given away back in the 70’s or eighties when the shelters were disbanded. My father had several in his garage which he used to store sand that he used on the garage entrance when it iced over in the winter. There was also one in the Municipal Building, Hartman School, Lincoln HS, the old 5 & 10 and I think there was one in the basement of St. Agatha Church on 5th street as well.