Incorporated in 1838, the Borough has established a rich heritage over the years. For over 150 years, New Brighton has been a home for all generations. In addition to the available online text history below, the New Brighton Historical Society has a wealth of historical information available to interested citizens. Additional information about the New Brighton Historical Society, including a contact section, is available online at www.nbhs.info.
The Borough of New Brighton is located on the East Bank of the Beaver River, about two miles from its junction with the Ohio River. New Brighton’s early settlers were of English and Western European stock. Many were skilled tradesman drawn here by good factory sites, water power, and the demand of their special talents. Others sought religious freedom and economic opportunities. By the U.S. Census of 1890, the population of New Brighton was 5,616. In 1900, the population was 6,820. The current population of New Brighton is 6,854, according to the 1990 Census.
In 1788, 27 years prior to the town being laid out, Col. Joseiah Harmer built a blockhouse with the help of troops from Fort McIntosh on the present site of New Brighton, on the west side of Third Avenue below 14th Street. In 1815, a plan of lots was laid out by two English engineers, the Constable brothers. For their work, they were granted the privilege of naming this new town, which they called Brighton, after their old home in England. The citizenry soon popularized the name to New Brighton, and as such, the new town was incorporated by an Act of Assembly in 1838.
New Brighton saw early prosperity with the opening of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1834. Then, in 1836 manufacturing and industries in the area began to flourish, including flour mills, carriage works, foundries, a horseshoe-nail factory, lumber and paper mills, pottery works, brick yard and quarry, and glass companies. The success of these industries was due in large part to the abundance of water to furnish power, and the close proximity of New Brighton to the Ohio River for transporting finished products. The coming of the railroad opened a new era, and when the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad was completed, the canal was no longer a necessity. New Brighton was the terminal of the P.A. and Ohio Railroad until 1853. A large railroad car shop was operated here. Wrought iron passenger cars made by Merrick, Hanna, and Company are believed to be the first metal railroad cars ever manufactured.
By 1907, the Traction Company had created a power station for its trolley line in Junction Park. It had over 35 miles of track and 41 cars. Eager to increase its off-hours ridership, the company built an amusement park at Junction Park. It consisted of harness racing, a roller coaster, dance hall, and baseball field among other attractions. The year 1937 brought bus transportation to the town. Due to parking and heavy traffic, the glorious “Broadway” (the former name of 3rd Avenue) was narrowed. With the new millennium, the town saw plans to create a new streetscape to enhance the small town atmosphere of our community.
Banking in New Brighton began with the establishment of a branch of the U.S. Bank in 1831. The National Bank of New Brighton was organized in 1884. It succeeded the National Bank of Beaver County, and for years, it was the only National Bank in Beaver County. Beaver Trust Company, Union National, Beaver County Building and Loan, New Brighton Building and Loan, and Home Protective Savings and Loan were all located here at one time. Currently, in 2001, New Brighton is serviced by four banks including Reeves Bank, Peoples Home Savings Bank, Sky Bank, and R-S Bellco Federal Credit Union.
Our Post Office was established in 1849. Prior to that, Fallston supplied New Brighton with its mail service.
Many educational institutions flourished in New Brighton during the 1800s. From 1833 to 1855 various private schools and female seminaries were established and helped to give character to the town and the reputation of being one of the finest educational places in the state. The first public school was built in 1835. In 1857, a three-story brick building was constructed on the corner of 9th Street and 5th Avenue; this was the first “graded” school in the county. Four other schools were opened between 1884 and 1895. In 1951, a school jointure of Pulaski and Daugherty Townships was formed, with Fallston becoming a part in 1962 to established a united district with New Brighton. The Joint School Board planned for a new Jr. High School, which was completed in 1958 on a site that adjoined the 18-acre Dawes-Meyer property, given to New Brighton in 1944.
The former New Brighton High School, White property, and the majestic Dawes Gymnasium were sold and converted to the E.B. McNitt Apartments, a senior citizens complex. A new elementary and high school complex was built and dedicated in 1973. The complex included the Sunrise Pool, which has a removable roof making it accessible in both the summer and winter for use by the community and school. New tennis courts were added in 1977 across from the Middle School. The area used to have one private school, the Beaver Valley Christian School, which until the year 2000, was located in the old Kenwood School building.
New Brighton’s war record is a long and honorable one. Two veterans of the Revolutionary War are buried in Grove Cemetery, which was incorporated in 1859. During the Civil War, New Brighton was a transfer point for soldiers going to the front by canal boats from as far as Erie. They then transferred to the railroad from the old station at 11th Street. The town sent two companies, Company H and Company C, to the front for three years service.
Following W.W.I., veterans returned to a prosperous community. The town continued in this fashion until a series of events, in the late 1920’s proved disastrous. The Great Depression came, and with it the loss of many businesses, industries, and massive unemployment.
New Brighton’s ability to balance the old and the new can be seen at 610 Third Avenue. This address marks the location of the armory that was constructed in 1908. After a complete renovation and move in 1979, the armory was transformed into our municipal complex, which houses police and borough offices.