At one time, there were two schools with the Disston name. The first Disston School was built in the 1880’s and was named for Henry Disston. It was located on the south side of Longshore Street between Ditman and Glenloch Streets. The Mary Disston School, named for Henry’s wife, was later built across the street. The Henry Disston School was used for the lower grades (Kindergarten through Grade 4) and the Mary Disston School was used for the upper grades (Grades 5 through 8).
The current Hamilton Disston School site was built in 1923. It was named for one of the sons of Henry Disston, the owner of the Keystone Saw and File Works. It combined all grades from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. The Henry Disston School was torn down and two story row houses were built on its site. The Mary Disston School was sold to St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic School. It still serves today as a parochial school.
The Disston family donated furniture, books and equipment to the school. Members of the Disston family also donated the stained-glass windows in the auditorium. Mrs. Jane Marsden Dixon donated the beautiful wall murals. In 1970, a new Instructional Materials Center was built to replace the “Lehr Memorial” library housed in Room 204.
The tradition of the Home and School Association in Disston Schools began in the 1880’s with Mrs. Birney as President of the Henry Disston School. It continued in the 1920’s with Thomas Oxley as Hamilton Disston’s first Home and School President. The current Home and School Association is continuing this tradition begun in the 1880’s.
Over these 90 plus years of teaching and learning, students of Disston School have gone into many fields of business and service in Philadelphia communities and elsewhere. Disston Elementary today serves the educational needs of the Tacony area and has expanded to serve the needs of other Philadelphia communities.
Information extracted from Tacony Then and Now, a booklet produced by the 1987 eighth grade class under the guidance of Mr. Alphonse Zarzecki.
Disston School’s Points of Pride
- 2016 and 2017 Design Thinking Philly award winning classrooms
- 2015, 2016 and 2017 Reading Olympics Champions
- 2016 Eagles Playground Build School Site
- One of the 10 Top Contributing Schools for Susan G. Komen’s Pretty in Pig Breast Cancer Event (2015, 2016)
- Disston Dragons
- National Elementary Honor Society (Grades 3 through 5)
- National Junior Honor Society (Grades 6 through 8)
- Annual Penn Relays participants
- Middle Years Sports: Winter – Basketball; Spring – Track and Field
- Monthly College Shirt Days
- Diverse Student Clubs and Organizations (Scrabble, Rock ‘N’ Soul, Floor Hockey)
- We Got It! Mentoring Program