St. Marys is a city in Elk County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 13,070 at the 2010 census. Originally a small, Bavarian Catholic town, St. Marys was founded December 8, 1842. It is home to Straub Brewery and the first Benedictine convent in the United States. In 1992, the borough of St. Marys absorbed the surrounding township of Benzinger and incorporated as a city, though much of the city's area remains wild. St. Marys lies in the center of Pennsylvania's elk country. It is one of the few places east of the Mississippi River that allows hunting of wild elk. The area is known for its access to outdoor activities, including trout streams and state hunting lands inside the city limits.
The city's airport is St. Marys Municipal Airport (IATA: STQ) about 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of the city. Currently, it is a general aviation airport; however, commercial airlines are showing interest because of the new terminal building and equipment upgrades. The city's main highway is PA 255. Bus service is provided by ATA.
Public school district:
Saint Marys Area School District has three elementary schools, one of which, the South St. Marys Street Elementary School, is located within the city. It houses kindergarten through fifth grade classes for public school students within the city limits; similar services are provided to residents of Fox Township and Jay Township by, respectively, the Fox Township Elementary School in Kersey and the Bennett's Valley Elementary School in Weedville.
The St. Marys Area Middle School and the St. Marys Area High School are located next to each other on a large complex near the edge of the city. Grades 6-8 are taught at the middle school, and grades 9-12 are taught at the high school. Saint Marys Area School District was ranked 165th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.
Catholic school system:
St. Marys Catholic Elementary School has one building, which is connected to Queen of the World Church. In 2002, an addition was built, adding four classrooms and a gymnasium. It also recently had a playground added. It houses grades pre-K through 5. St. Marys Catholic Middle School, which has one building, was built in the early 1950s and houses grades 6-8. Elk County Catholic High School, known prior to the early 2000s as Elk County Christian High School, has classes for grades 9-12. It was built in 1961.
Until the early 2000s, the Catholic school system's elementary and middle schools, then known respectively as the Queen of the World School and the St. Marys Parochial School, each served all students up through eighth grade who attended their respective Catholic churches, as did the Sacred Heart School. When the school system was reworked into its current format due to declining attendance, the Sacred Heart School was closed.
Decker's Chapel, built by Michael Decker after a back injury, has been called the smallest chapel in America. It is located on South St. Marys Road. St. Joseph's Monastery, home of the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County, is the oldest Benedictine women's religious order in the United States, founded in 1852. Sisters still serve the community today. Straub Brewery, was founded in 1831 in the Pittsburgh area and moved to St. Marys in the 1850s. Tours of the brewery include a stop at the "Eternal Tap," at which a person can drink a free glass of Straub beer.