Founded in 1912 by the Polish National Alliance and dedicated by U.S. President William Howard Taft, Alliance College was one of the nation's first nationality colleges. Its mission was to provide educational opportunities for everyone, but especially to those of Polish descent. Located on the Rider Hotel site, it was first an academy, then a technical institute and later a liberal arts college. Alliance College included Polish arts, language and history as part of its curriculum and campus culture until it closed in 1987.
Cambridge Springs is home to the once prestigious Alliance College. Founded in 1912 by the Polish National Alliance, it existed for 75 years and officially closed in 1987.
Early in its life, Alliance College was the chosen home for an officer training program for the Polish Army. Established in 1914 by the Polish National Alliance, the officer training program trained approximately 500 Polish Americans and 220 non-Poles to fight in General Jozef Haller’s Army. The trainees would fight in World War I alongside allied forces in France. Future officers and enlistees were housed in the old Rider Hotel and trained on the Ross Avenue field. Many enlistees came from Pittsburgh, thanks to a large population of Polish immigrants in that area. Many of the Polish individuals were not even U.S citizens at that point. Yet, the enlistees were eager to fight for their new country, while also fighting for the independence of their home country, Poland. Haller’s Army first saw action in France during the Battle of Champaign. Fighting alongside U.S soldiers, that was the first time that the colors of Poland and the U.S flew together during battle. In 2017, Poland honored General Jozef Haller for his efforts in fighting for Poland's Independence.
Near the end of Alliance College’s 75 years, enrollment started to dip and funding was low. The PNA decided it was time to close the college, and in 1987, Alliance College officially closed their doors. In 1990, the campus was sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who then turned it into a women's penitentiary, which it remains today. Alumni and community members were appalled to hear how Pennsylvania planned to use their former campus. Any indication of Alliance College was stripped. The monuments were taken down and sent away, the Polish imported fir trees that once lined the campus were cut and replaced with barbed wire fencing, and the once beloved pond was drained. The sale left a bitter taste in the mouth of Alumni, and the removal of once beloved items was painful. The memories of Alliance College still remain, though. Alumni hold reunions regularly, and have a Facebook page where they share pictures and fond memories. Although the college is officially closed, it lives on through memories and rich history that impacted individuals far beyond Cambridge Springs, PA.