A History Lesson
The original Centennial school, once called "one of the finest structures in Western Pennsylvania" received its name from the centennial celebration held just years before it's initial construction in 1894. J.L. Lohman was the architect of the original building. The dedicatory exercises of Sept. 19th 1895 were called "impressive" by local journalists. Articles from the time outlined events including musicians, speeches and appearances by local officials.
The construction of the original Centennial school was to be completed for the 1894-1895 school year but the school did not actually see use until the 1895-1896 term.
The original school stayed in operation with up to 800 students enrolled before it burned to the ground on December 29th of 1919 due a fire of "mysterious origins". It was unknown at the time whether the fire had started from faulty electrical wiring or from a furnace in the basement meant to keep the halls warm and prevent pipes from freezing in the winter.
The cost to rebuild was originally projected to be around $400k-500k. J.M. McCollum was the architect of record for the new structure that still stands at 1601 Beaver St. today. Originally, before any additions the new school was intended to be 24 classrooms and 2 play rooms. A vote later decided to turn the once boys & girls play rooms into additional classrooms at an additional cost. Moveable chair desks were specified as the furniture for the new school whereas in the past they had more permanent fixtures. The construction had completed and the new school was finally ready to be utilized in November of 1921. Initially one seventh grade class and the entire eighth grade which had been more recently utilizing facilities at the South Park School were transferred into the new construction.
For more research on this topic, please visit the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center at
1832 Arboretum Dr.
McKeesport, PA 15132.