In 1798, John Carlysle Stewart, a civil engineer, traveled to western Pennsylvania to resurvey the “donation lands” granted by the government to revolutionary war veterans. In the course of performing his task, he discovered that the original survey forgot to stake out 50 acres at the confluence of the Shenango River and Neshannock Creek. Stewart claimed it for himself.
Stewart laid out the town of New Castle, named for his hometown in Delaware, in April of 1798; the town became a became a borough in 1825, having a population of about 300. Business began to flourish with the construction of the canal system which made its way through the city. Numerous manufacturing plants located in New Castle because of the availability of transportation facilities and ready access to raw material markets. The canal system was later supplemented and then replaced by the railroad system which offered greater speed and capacity for freight as well as year round service.
In the 1870s, the city became a major hub of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad and by 1900 was one of the fastest growing cities in the country as it became the tin plate capital of the world - the population swelled from 11,600 in 1890 to 28,339 in 1900, and to 38,280 in 1910, as immigrants flocked to the city to work in the mills. Steel and paper mills, foundries, a bronze bushing factory, and car-construction plants contributed to the economy. In addition, the Shenango China produced commercial china and created fine china for the White House, including dinnerware for Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson.
New Castle has been known for decades as the Fireworks Capital of America; it is home to Zambelli Fireworks, the largest manufacturer and exhibitor of fireworks today. Our walking tour will begin at Zambelli Plaza that has been designed to be a focal point of downtown New Castle where the two major roads of East Washington and Mill streets join and a fireworks sculpture illuminates the night...
WALK SOUTH ON MILL STREET, TOWARDS THE SHENANGO RIVER.
11 South Mill Street at southeast corner of East Washington Street
This site is the birthplace of the legendary Warner Brothers movie studio of Hollywood fame. The four founding Warner brothers (born Wonskolaser in their native Poland) emigrated from to Ontario, Canada and later moved to nearby Youngstown, Ohio. In 1903, Harry, Sam and Jack showing a used copy of The Great Train Robbery at Idora Park in Youngstown, and then traveled to New Castle to screen the movie in a vacant store on the site of what would become the Cascade Center. This makeshift theatre, called the Bijou, was furnished with chairs borrowed from a local funeral home In 1906, the brothers purchased a small theater on this site, which they called the Cascade Movie Palace, taking its name from nearby Cascade Park. The Warners maintained the theater until moving into film distribution in 1907. Within a decade they were in Hollywood producing movies. The buildings eventually fell into disrepair and the Cascade was demolished to make way for a parking lot. In 1996, parts of the wall of the building that housed the Bijou collapsed onto East Washington Street. The city of New Castle was very close to issuing a condemnation notice to the building, butthe building’s historical significance was discovered, saving the building. The city then announced redevelopment plans to make it what would eventually become the multi-use Cascade Center.
TURN RIGHT ON EAST WASHINGTON STREET.
126 East Washington Street
Brothers W.A. and J.R. Stritmater, dealers in dry goods, millinery, carpets, merchant tailoring, boots and shoes, began business on East Washington Street in 1876. The original ground floor has been compromised but the bothers would recognize the upper facade if they walked down the street today.
Huntington National Bank
101 East Washington Street
Some of the finest building in northwestern Pennsylvania were built for banking institutions along East Washington Street, New Castle’s main thoroughfare.
First Commonwealth Bank
27 East Washington Street
This sturdy vault combines elements of Art Deco (small, square glass panes), Classical (Ionic columns) and Beaux-Arts (sculptured facade at the cornice).
East Washington and Jefferson streets
When John Carlysle Stewart platted the town he set aside this piece of land as the town square. In one form or another, it has remained the town square ever since. The square has been reconfigured several times. Like most town squares in Western Pennsylvania, it is known as “The Diamond.” In 1846 a brick market house was built here. In 1886, the Ladies Park Association was organized for the purpose of beautifying the public square, which as one member put it was “as desolate as the Sahara.” By 1891, the Association had begun raising money for a monument to commemorate the soldiers who had died during the Civil War. In 1893, the granite for the monument was shipped from Quincy, Illinois, and work was begun. The monument was finished in 1896, and on December 15, 1897, the statue was placed on the top. The cannon was placed in the park and later a plaque with the Gettysburg address was placed by the monument. There are now stone monuments to the men who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. In the 1960s the square was officially dedicated to John F. Kennedy when a memorial fountain was erected. The western portion of the diamond was wiped-out by a runaway truck coming down the North Hill on Jefferson Street in May of 2006.
9 East Washington Street
New Castle fancies itself as the “hot dog capital of the world” - its chili dogs are the product of Greek immigrants who came to town in the early 1900s and established restaurants along with their homes. Since 1923, Coney Island has been serving their famous hot dogs when cooks would stacking up to 20 hot dogs on their forearms in order to speed up the addition of condiments. Over the years Coney Island has grown into multiple locations and continues to be one of the most popular hot dog destinations in America.
United States Post Office
south side of Kennedy Square
The old Post Office was designed by the W. G. Eckles Company in the 1930s with a massive front of fluted Doric columns. Now it is being preserved and used as an office building.
First Christian Church
23 West Washington Street
The First Christian Church in New Castle was formally organizedin March of 1856. At that time, the congregation met at the old Covenanter Church. They moved into their own church on North Street in April 1858. In February 1868, the congregation moved into their present building on West Washington Street, a building with only a sanctuary and steeple.
TURN RIGHT ON BEAVER STREET.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church
124 North Beaver Street
A small number of Catholics settled on farms in the vicinity of New Castle at an early date in its history, about the year 1831. In 1852, a Father Reid built a frame Church, about 40 feet in length by 20 feet in height, on the side of the river west of the Town, and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. In 1866 the cornerstone for the present Gothic-inspired church was laid on a large lot purchased for $4,000 on the corner of Beaver and North Streets. Five years and $15,000 later the sanctuary was ready for services.
TURN RIGHT ON NORTH STREET. TURN LEFT ON JEFFERSON STREET.
First Presbyterian Church
125 North Jefferson Street
The first settlers in 1798 in the vicinity of what is now New Castle, mostly of Scotch-Irish descent, began meeting for the worship of God near a spring up the hill north of Grant Street, between Locust and the intersection of Elm and Grant. For the preacher there was a “tent” which was an outdoor pulpit roofed over and partly enclosed on three sides. The people sat on logs and stumps in the open air. In 1804 the first house of worship was built of round logs in a dense thicket near a tannery a little east of the present intersection of West Falls and Shenango streets. This was the first church building in New Castle. At that time there were only two log cabins in downtown New Castle. The congregation’s first brick building was constructed here in 1825. The fourth church for the Presbyterians was located here in 1845 and served almost 50 years until it was replaced with the current Richardsonian Romanesque styled brick-and-stone church in 1896. It was designed by S.W. Foulke, a leadingpractitioner of the Romanesque style throughout the Ohio Valley and Appalachia; he had planned that the main tower should be about ten feet higher than it is, but the financial panic of 1893 drained enough funds that the church was completed with the tower at its present height.
230 North Jefferson Street
The Municipal Building features a stylish Art Deco facade that harkens back to New Castle’s glory days of the 1920s.
330 North Jefferson Street
This Queen Anne mansion constructed of coursed, rock faced limestone was built in 1892 for Leander Raney, who owned the Raney & Burger Iron Works and Raney Milling Company. Also designed by S.W. Foulke, it features a round tower in the south bay with a conical roof, a square turret and a main gable wood with decorative patterns. The house was purchased in 1907 by David Jameson, one of the founders of Citizens Bank and through whose efforts the Jameson Memorial Hospital was established. The castle was badly damaged by fire in May 1998.
408 North Jefferson Street
The residence was built in 1904-1905 for George Greer, Lawrence County’s Tin King. Frank Foulke designed the three-story, rectangular plan Colonial Revival residence on a rock-faced coursed limestone foundation. It has a full front porch with clustered and fluted Ionic columns on limestone piers, with a short open balustrade. It was lived in by the Greer family until 1965 and was donated by the subsequent owners, the Clavellis, in 1982 to the Lawrence County Historical Society and is now a museum.
TURN RIGHT ON LINCOLN AVENUE.
The Scottish Rite Cathedral
110-120 East Lincoln Street
The Scottish Rite Cathedral was constructed in 1924-1925 for the FreeMasons Lodge #433 at the cost of $1,750,000. It is a Neoclassical design by R. G. Schmid Co. of Chicago. The foundations consist of 916 concrete piles, 20 to 28 feet long. The main facade on Lincoln Street is two stories and nine bays wide. It has two-light windows in frieze, the architrave with “Scottish Rite Cathedral” and monumental engaged stone Ionic columns. The Cathedral is perfectly placed on the crest of the hill. The interior contains a ballroom, banquet room and theater, as well as Masons’ lodge rooms and various smaller chambers. The theater seating capacity is 3,240, consisting of the main floor and two balconies.
northwest corner of Lincoln Street and Highland Avenue
Thetwo and one-half story Queen Anne residences with patterned masonry was built in 1895 for Mathias Holstein Henderson, vice-president of the Lawrence Savings and Trust Bank. The prominently situated, ivy-coated mansion is most notable for its distinctive red tile rooting.
208 East Lincoln Street
The house was built in 1899 for Edwin Newton Ohl, an executive with Republic Iron and Steel. He later became president of United Iron and Steel (1906), president of New Castle Portland Cement Company (1908) and was a director of the First National Bank. The two and one-half story Queen Anne mansion has a coursed limestone foundation and running bond brick walls. It sports a high hip roof, a tower with conical roof located in west bay, and prominent gabled roof dormers.
RETURN TO HIGHLAND AVENUE AND TURN LEFT TO WALK DOWN THE HILL BACK TOWARD DOWNTOWN.
318 Highland Avenue
The home was built for George W. Johnson in 1901. Johnson was a leading local industrialist involved in limestone, iron and bronze production. He was principal owner of the American Car and Ship Hardware Company in 1901, which he later purchased and renamed Johnson Bronze. The home was designed by local architect Harry W. Wirsing who created an symmetrical Colonial Revival mansion of bowed bays with prominent, classically inspired roof dormers with open pediments, Ionic pilaster and decorative round top windows. There is a central stained glass window at the second floor with stained glass circular windows to each side.
328 Highland Avenue
John Bower was a local merchant and tailor and pioneer home builder in the historic North Hill district. This Second Empire mansion dates to 1889. Noteworthy are the mansard roof with slate shingles and paired brackets under the eaves and the spindle woodworking on the porch.
312 Highland Avenue
This Queen Anne frame residence was built for industrialist William Reis. Many members of the Reis family lived in the house including politician William M. Brown, a Pennsylvania Senator and, in 1902, the Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth. A turret is located in the south bay with a conical slate roof and a small elaborate spindle balcony in the North Bay. There is a veranda with spindle work, open balustrade and frieze.
Trinity Episcopal Church
212 North Mill Street
The first Protestant Episcopal services were held in New Castle in 1843, at the home of Dr. A. Andrews, who had settled here in 1834; the parish was organized five years later. The present handsome church building was erected in 1902, and is the only stone church in the town.
New Castle Lodge, No. 69
127 North Mill Street
This classically inspired lodge hall was built for the fraternal organization, the New Castle Lodge, No. 69, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, founded in 1887. It features symmetrical proportions and Doric columns, both large and small.
CONTINUE DOWN MILL STREET TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.