Lawrence County, Pa Places
City of New Castle
In 1798, John Carlysle Stewart, a civil engineer, traveled to western Pennsylvania to resurvey the "donation lands" resurveyed lands, which had been reserved for veterans of the Revolutionary War. He discovered that the original survey had neglected to stake out approximately 50 acres (200,000 m2) at the confluence of the Shenango River and the Neshannock Creek, at that time a part of Allegheny County. Claiming the land for himself, he laid out what was to become the town of New Castle. Stewart laid out the town of New Castle in April 1798. It comprised approximately 50 acres (200,000 m2), in what was then part of Allegheny County. New Castle became a borough in 1825, having a population of about 300. The city later became a part of Mercer County. On April 5, 1849 the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania signed an act creating Lawrence County named in honor of U.S. Navy Captain James Lawrence. New Castle became a city in 1869 and was headed by its first Mayor, Thomas B. Morgan. At that time, the population had increased to about 6,000.
In 1849, a group of Old Order Amish by families from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania settled just north of New Castle in New Wilmington. Later migrations from Holmes County, Ohio would make this Amish community one of the largest in Pennsylvania. Approximately 2,000 Amish live and work presently in the townships north of New Castle.
Business in New Castle began to flourish in the early 19th century with the construction of the canal system, which made its way through the city. Numerous manufacturing plants became 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. New Castle's 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 and nearby limestone quarries, particularly from Italy. Italian laborers of the era were frequent victims of the Black Hand society, which employed blackmail and extortion to rob the workers of their pay. In 1907 the headquarters of the Black Hand for the entire region was discovered in the village of Hillville a few miles west of New Castle. By this time New Castle was one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and with the construction of the largest tin plate mill in America, the city became the tin plate capital of the world. The tin plate industry marked a new increase the city's prosperity.
In 1908 New Castle was linked to Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler and New Castle Railway, an interurban trolley line. 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. Other ceramic factories produced bathroom fixtures and industrial refractory materials.
In the 1920s, New Castle enjoyed its greatest prosperity. The landscape of the city was transformed with the building of many beautiful structures, some of which still stand, such as The Cathedral, St. Mary's Church, and the Castleton Hotel. The city also established its identity. New Castle is known both as the "hot dog capital of the world" and the "fireworks capital of America." Its chili dogs are the product of Greek immigrants who came to New Castle in the early 20th century and established restaurants along with their homes. The notoriety for fireworks is credited to two local fireworks companies of international stature, S.Vitale Pyrotechnic Industries, Inc. (Pyrotecnico) and Zambelli Internationale.
In the 1930s the city, along with most cities of America, suffered tremendously during the Great Depression. As many businesses closed, members of the community lost their jobs and homes. During this trying time, the federal government established the Works Project Program (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These programs offered jobs to many displaced workers. Many of the stone walls built by the WPA and the CCC still stand as a reminder of the historic demise of the economy.
During World Wars I and II, and the Korean War, industry enjoyed a temporary reprieve. In 1950, the population peaked at 48,834, but rapidly dwindled with the fall of the industrial age to 28,334 by 1990. The present population is about the same. New Castle is the County Seat of Lawrence County which has a population of approximately 100,000.
In 1998, the City of New Castle was a host city for the History Channel Great Race. Over 15,000 spectators gathered downtown for the festivities. The city also proudly celebrated its 200th birthday in 1998 with a downtown fireworks festival that attracted over 30,000 people.
The first fireworks manufacturer in New Castle was Leopold Fazzoni, who owned and operated the Fazzoni Brothers Fireworks Company. Mr. Fazzoni came to New Castle from Italy in 1886 and worked in the tin mills to earn enough money to start his own business. Mr. Fazzoni was issued the first certificate for fireworks manufacturing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Of the people who worked with the Fazzoni family, many founded their own businesses, such as: Paul Rozzi, Jacob Conti, Constantino Vitale, and Joseph Zambelli.
Over the past 40 years, New Castle has been transformed from its primary reliance on industry to a well balanced economic base consisting of manufacturing, retail, and service related business establishments. Many buildings and old stately homes are being restored by developers and families.
The Lawrence County Historical Society, chartered in 1938, has its purpose to preserve the history of Lawrence County and to educate the public. The historical society is located in the elegant 19 room Joseph A. Clavelli mansion, which overlooks the City of New Castle. Several exhibits are displayed for public view in the mansion.
New Castle gradually became an industrial center, due in part to the construction in the early 1800s of a canal system. 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. At this time, New Castle boasted the largest tin plate mill in America. 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. Other ceramic factories produced bathroom fixtures and industrial refractory materials.
Despite recent economic challenges, the city continues to serve as the headquarters of Pyrotecnico Fireworks, the winner of the Gold Jupiter, awarded at the world's most prestigious fireworks venue: LaRonde in Montreal, Canada. Started by Constantino Vitale in Italy in 1889, Constantino immigrated to New Castle continuing his business there in the 1920s. Five generations of the Vitale family have transformed the company. In the 1990s the company's name was changed to Pyrotecnico and has grown to be an world leader in the industry. Also located in New Castle is Zambelli Fireworks, which was founded in New Castle and is one of the world's leading fireworks and pyrotechnics companies. The city is regarded as the "Fireworks Capital of America," and opened Zambelli Plaza (actually a park with a light-up fireworks display) catty-corner from the Cascade Center in 2007 in honor of the Zambelli family's accomplishments.
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