The accent was on education. New Kensington was listed as third in the county for the number of school children between the ages of six and sixteen. Passage this year of the compulsory school law necessitated appointment of a committee of directors to enforce the law and election of a truant officer. W.L. Johns was the first to hold this position, beginning his work on October 11, 1897. More new industries sought locations in the New Kensington area. A new flour mill, a drilling company and a bolt and nut works were headed for the community, Miss E.A. Mainwaring moved her millinery shop from Leechburg to New Kensington. As business moved into town the streets had to be paved. The first paved street was Fifth Avenues between Ninth and Tenth Streets. Paul Voelkel laid 130 feet of pavement bricks on Fifth Avenue in one day.
The call to arms was heard in the borough as men were called to war against the Spanish in Cuba. In mid-Aril, it was evident that the U.S. would be at war with Spain, and many New Kensington's sons began enlisting in the state militia. Battery D, consisting of men from New Kensington, was stationed at Chickamauga before being shipped to Cuba. Patriotic flags were raised all over the borough, with a huge one flying over the town hall, and Burgess Shaffer leading a chant each day when it was raised. In September, the heroes were welcomed home by thousands who gathered to witness their arrival. The soldiers' pale faces and stooped shoulders told a tale of terrible hardship. While the war was moving at a rapid pace, so was New Kensington. The industrial boom continued. The German Plate Glass Company announced that it would build a factory to employ about 125 men, and the W.A. Cochran Foundry was to begin operations which would employ 45. A mill was erected on 14th Street, and the Adams Drilling Company began construction of its second building, adding 75 more jobs. A new railroad station was built at Valley Camp. The New Kensington Milling Company began operations milling tons of flour each day, and one of the towns newest industries was New Kensington Brewing Company, which made "Kensington Ale." A disastrous fire, causing and estimated $50,000 damage, consumed the New Kensington Opera House and ten homes. Lack of water hampered fireman's efforts at the opera house scene, which was at the site of the present "U.S.A. Today" offices on Fourth Avenue at Tenth Street. T.A. Mellon, one of the owners of Burrell Improvement Company, carried on a four-month war with Council to get an ordinance adopted to allow street car service down Fifth Avenue. Flooding took its tool, with the Allegheny on its own warpath, delaying mails and halting general traffic. Termed the worse flood since the spring of 1884, it spurred discussion of construction of a dam at Springdale to control the river.