Aspinwall High School Class of 1955


by Carolyn "Cari" McQuaid Thomas 1/25/10

As a native (though expatriate) Aspinwall-er, perhaps I can clear up some of the history of Aspinwall High School, Aspinwall Junior High School, and Aspinwall Grade School-Elementary School.

The first "Aspinwall High School" was in the school building built in 1892 on the eastern side of Center Avenue between 5th and 6th streets. A prior, grades 1-8, one-room school (with about 25 students in 1891-92) had been located on the NE corner of the Darlington property. According to the Aspinwall History book of 1967, this earliest school was "one of seven schools in O'Hara Twp at that time."

If you look just above where GUYASUTA STA is printed in this 1876 map [note arrow lower left], you'll see the abbreviation: "Sch Ho," on property owned by W.M. Darlington.)

After the new "Aspinwall School" (grades 1-8) was built, the first classes began in 1893. In 1901 a two-year "high school" course was added, with the "first graduating class in 1903". The "first 4-year class began in 1904" and the first Aspinwall High School football team was watched in 1907. Both girls' and boys' basketball teams came into existence in the 1916-1917 school year. Here's a 1906 map of Aspinwall, which includes that early schoolhouse on Darlington land; it also shows the first Aspinwall High School at 5th and Center. Go to: Historic Pittsburgh Maps

First Aspinwall High School at 5th St. and Center Ave., 1917

The then-newly-built Aspinwall High School at 4th and Virginia was to be the "only public four-year high school in O'Hara and Indiana Townships and Aspinwall, Blawnox and Fox Chapel boroughs" from January 1919 until September 1961. The last graduating class of AHS was graduated in June 1961.

For that same period of 42.5 years, the old school on Center Avenue was known as the "Aspinwall Grade School" and children from Aspinwall and, often, other students from the same surrounding areas were taught in any of the grades: K-6. The exception: classes in woodshop/Manual Training, Mechanical Drawing, and art were given in classrooms at the Grade School, and 7th through 12th grade students had to make the half-mile roundtrip walk from AHS to AGS in fair weather and foul. A Rifle Range was also located in the basement of the grade school, and a high school Rifle Club flourished under Miss McCrum at least since the early 40s.

Prior to September 1961, Aspinwall and the other small school districts opted for a union Fox Chapel Area School District and a new high school was built on Field Club Road in Fox Chapel. In September 1961, the upper grades from Aspinwall High School joined with upper grades from the other school districts to form the first classes of Fox Chapel Area High School. [I started teaching at Aspinwall Junior High School, in the old AHS building, that September; during the next 4-5 years, AJHS had variously 7th & 8th or 7th-9th grade students.]

I believe it was either Sept 1965 or Sep 1966 when the new Dorseyville Junior High School was opened. At that time the AJHS students were moved to the new school; and the old AHS/AJHS building became Aspinwall Elementary School. The old Grade School was torn down and a new apartment building erected in its place at Center and 5th.

When the O'Hara Elementary School was built, on Cabin Lane, the students from Aspinwall Elementary were moved to that school. In the summer of 1983, AHS/AJHS/AES was razed and the physical evidence of 64 years of education at the 4th and Virginia location was gone. I still have a brick from the building as a reminder of my 6 years at AHS as student and my 4-5 years at AJHS as teacher in those Hallowed Halls.

Sources for "A History of the Aspinwall (PA) Schools" by Carolyn "Cari" McQuaid Thomas, January 2010:
  • Cook, Rachel L., compiler, author and editor of Borough of Aspinwall, Historical Book, Diamond Jubilee, A Picture Story, 1892-1967 and subtitled: "Aspinwall 1892-1967: Seventy-five Years of Memories in Photos and Text," 1967; published by the Diamond Jubilee Committee, Aspinwall Borough Council, and Aspinwall Area Civic Association.

  • Historical Subcommittee of the Aspinwall Centennial Committee, author and publisher of ASPINWALL The Town That Pride Built: 1892-1992; 1992.

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    McQuaid Thomas