Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church's landmark parsonage razed

Zion Lutheran Church's parsonage being razed
8th St. between Park Rd. and Maplewood Ave.
Daily Citizen
November 2, 1948

Daily Citizen caption:
The former Zion Lutheran church parsonage on Park Rd. near Eighth St. is being razed. Constructed some 47 years ago, it is a landmark of the community. The residence was vacated when the congregation erected a modern home for their pastor, Rev. Frederick B. Haer and family, on the corner lot, Maplewood and 8th St.
If the parsonage was built in 1901, as the caption indicates, that means it was standing before there was an Ambridge, predating the building of the American Bridge plant. And it would have been older than the first Zion Lutheran Church, for which construction started in 1904. No wonder it was a landmark.

Although the caption describes the parsonage as being "on Park Rd. near Eighth St.," it actually sat very close to 8th St., about half way between Park Rd. and Maplewood Ave.

An article about the new parsonage in the September 16, 1948, Daily Citizen, said that the plan was to sell the old parsonage, but it was demolished less than two months later instead. Perhaps the congregation, thinking ahead, decided to retain the property so it might eventually build a new church building there?

Here's a photo of the replacement parsonage, still on the corner of Maplewood Ave. and 8th St., after construction was completed, and the pastor was getting ready to move in.

"Zion First Lutheran Church Parsonage Completed"
Daily Citizen
September 16, 1948

Sunday, April 5, 2020

500 block of Maplewood Ave. circa 1907 - 1913

These two vintage postcards show the 500 block of Maplewood Ave. from 5th St. looking north.

The upper card is the older of the two scenes. If you compare the two postcards, you'll see this first scene doesn't have the trees planted along the street that are shown in the lower card.

Note the horse and wagon way down the block, left side of the upper card.

The upper postcard with the older scene was never mailed, so there's no postmark to try to date the scene. But since the later postcard was mailed, and postmarked 1913, the scene on the older view must have been earlier.

More clues as to the date of the older postcard: Both postcards have divided backs on the address side, a style that the post office only allowed to be used beginning in 1907, so I know that the older postcard dates from after 1907. And before 1913. *

500 block of Maplewood Ave. looking north from 5th St.
circa 1907 - 1913

Compare the scenes in both postcards with this "now" photo taken by P. J. Shotter. Most of the houses shown in the two postcards are still there. As far as I can determine, the modern flat-roofed building on the right side of the photo, 510 Maplewood, was built on the last empty lot on the block in the 1950s. A podiatrist is there now. Earlier, it was was a dental office for many years.

500 block of Maplewood Ave. looking north from 5th St.
March 8, 2020
credit: P. J. Shotter

There's one other difference I see between the two cards: there's a house not in the older scene that's shown in the later one: 517 Maplewood, the third house on the left side of the later scene with the peaked roof and brown shingles at the top.

500 block of Maplewood Ave. looking north from 5th St.
postmarked 1913

Beaver County property records say 517 was built in 1916 which isn't possible. The house has to be older since it appears on a 1911 Sanborn insurance map** and the postcard mailed in 1913.

The yellow brick house with the pointed roof on the left side of the street in the "now" photo is also 517, so brick veneer may have been added after 1913. Better guess (maybe): although the postcard was mailed in 1913, the scene on the postcard predates 1911, since the 1911 Sanborn insurance map indicates the house was veneered. Either that, or the coloring of the houses on the postcard isn't accurate.

Here's the latest Google Street View of 517 and the neighboring houses on both sides:

515, 517, and 521 Maplewood Ave.
Google Street View
July 2019

Most of the street trees shown in the later postcard scene are now gone, although a few remain nearer to 6th St.  I wonder if they were some of the 200 - 300 trees planned for Ambridge for which the "shade tree commission" was accepting bids in 1908. (Daily Citizen, August 25, 1954)

Personal memory: I spent many happy visits to 517 Maplewood when my Uncle and Aunt, Pete and Helen Gause, lived there with my three cousins.

* And yes, I realize that just because the postcard was printed in 1907 that also means the scene on the card is from 1907. But the October 1905 Sanborn insurance map shows more empty lots in the 500 block on Maplewood than the scene appears to show. So 1907 seems to be a good approximate date of the earlier scene.

** On the 1911 Sanborn map, the address of the house that is now 517 Maplewood house was 508. Building addresses in Ambridge were changed in 1917, making Ambridge history involving old buildings so much more fun.

Here's the address side of the two postcards:

Address side of 1907 postcard

Address side of 1913 postcard

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Ambridge's Harmony Hotel. And the other Ambridge Harmony Hotel

"Harmony Hotel"
Manuscript Group 354: Old Economy Village Collection
Photo Number 635b
courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Old Economy Village
used with permission

Just a short distance northwest of the well-known and highly regarded Economy Hotel,* once located on the southwest corner of what is now 14th and Merchant Sts., there was a smaller, less impressive hotel. The Harmony Hotel, sometimes belittled as the "Tramp Hotel" or the "Hotel of the Unfortunates," hasn't been in business for many years, although its building still stands at 277 Fourteenth St.

Why those disparaging nicknames? According to Sarah Buffington, Old Economy Village curator:
"The guests at the Economy Hotel were told to arrive promptly at 4:30 for supper, so as not to keep others waiting. The staff was fed after the hotel guests, and then the 'tramps' were fed afterward. These homeless people were allowed to stay for one night, but were then told to move along. The Harmony Society kept track of them so that they wouldn’t overstay their welcome."
The date of the photo above is uncertain, but it probably dates from the late 1800s, before there was an Ambridge, or early 1900s. The building dates from much earlier, back to the establishment of Economy, and wasn't originally used as a hotel. Although it doesn't look like the typical, brick Harmonist house, it was the early home of Frederick Rapp, adopted son of George (Father) Rapp. Frederick Rapp later moved to a brick house that is on the grounds of Old Economy Village.

The three people in the photo are unidentified. but according to Buffington, the woman and girl may be Carrie Staples, a widow, and her daughter Katherine. Staples was a boardinghouse keeper there at the time of the 1910 census. 

The photo below shows a recent Google Street View of the former Harmony Hotel building:

277 Fourteenth St.
Google Street View
October 2013

What is not visible from Fourteenth St. is a large addition--that appears to me to be at least as large, or maybe larger, than the original house--built on the back of the building, probably around the time it became the Harmony Hotel. Buffington said the addition "is very much set up like an old hotel." You can see the addition from Boyleston St. Here's a satellite view of 277 Fourteenth St.:

277 Fourteenth St.
Google Satellite View

The other Harmony Hotel in Ambridge

To confuse Ambridge history more than it often is, there was another Harmony Hotel, across town from the one on 14th St. This Harmony Hotel, at 300 Merchant St., was built and operated later than the hotel on 14th St., but was also viewed as disreputable, especially by the American Bridge Co.

This Harmony Hotel was the bane of the American Bridge Co. for years. The company didn't want its employees drinking, and so devised deed restrictions that said that the area within the original boundaries of Ambridge was supposed to be "dry"--alcohol free--for 50 years. However, the Harmony Hotel, mere blocks from the company's plant and office, sold liquor. Legally. That was possible because the Harmony Hotel wasn't in Ambridge; it was in Harmony Township, at that time, just a walk across Merchant St. from Ambridge. Which I'm guessing made its site a very attractive spot for a

The building shows up on the 1911 Sanborn Insurance map as the location of the planned "Hotel May," named for its builder. Sometime between then and 1915, the name was changed to Harmony Hotel. The battle between its owner and American Bridge Co. over the hotel's liquor license appears to have begun early. Here's part of the remarks made by F. T. Cadmus, the plant superintendent, from the Daily Times, October 22, 1915:

The liquor license battle continued in 1916 when the hotel was owned by George T. Davis. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 14, 1916, Davis' attorney claimed that the American Bridge superintendent, Cadmus, had warned employees of the company that they would be fired if they were seen in the barroom of the Harmony Hotel.

So American Bridge must have been pleased by this announcement in the January 2, 1917, Daily Times:

A "temperance hotel" may not have proved to be as popular as the barroom at the Harmony Hotel may have once been, because in 1920, Divine Redeemer Church, across Merchant from the hotel building, bought it and converted it into a parochial grade school. After the church built a new school in 1961, the building was sold to the Karnavas Vending Co.

Karnavas Vending Co.
former Harmony Hotel
former Divine Redeemer School
300 Merchant St.
Google Street View, Oct. 2017

*Later renamed the Old Economy Hotel in the late 1800s.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Gene's Coffee Shoppe & Dining Room, Thanksgiving Menu, 1929

Gene's Coffee Shoppe & Dining Room
Thanksgiving Menu
Daily Citizen
November 27, 1929

Gene's Coffee Shoppe & Dining Room was in the long-gone Ambridge Hotel, located from 1905 to 1964 on the northwest corner of 8th and Merchant Sts. The restaurant's address was not printed in the ad. I guess everyone in the area knew where it was.

That $1.25 is equivalent to about $19.40 today. Still an attractive price for a complete Thanksgiving meal, but when the average steelworker was making less than $0.68 an hour, and taking home even less, perhaps beyond the budget of the average steelworker's family,

And no pumpkin pie!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Mohn's Grocery, Clover Farm Store

Mohn's Grocery
Clover Farm Store
location unknown
Old Economy Village archives, MG-332
used with permission

The above photo came from the Old Economy Village archives and was sent to me by Amy Andre who asked me if I had any information about the Mohn's Grocery store. An "Ambridge + four-digits" phone number is on the store's sign, but was the store in Ambridge and if so, where? Or perhaps was it in an Ambridge-area community that had phone numbers on the Ambridge phone exchange, like Fair Oaks (Leet Township) or Leetsdale?

Amy wrote:
I am a descendant of the Mohn family and was doing research at the Old Economy historical society on the Henry Mohn/Melina Feucht family and found this photo.
In a later email, Amy provided the following information:
There are still Mohn family members in Ambridge and Leetsdale but I don't know any of them, even though they would be cousins of mine. Henry Mohn's wife Melina Feucht was associated with the Harmonist's Society. Her father and sisters were members of the society. Melina's father is buried in the Harmonist's cemetery at Old Economy Village. It would be interesting to find out which Mohn owned the Mohn Grocery Store. 
My line of the Mohn family is Frederick Mohn and his wife Esther Keck. Frederick was born in Germany as was his wife Esther. The Keck family settled in Doreyville, Allegheny, PA. Frederick's children were born in Haysville, Leetsdale and Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh's North Side. Frederick did have some siblings that came with him to America and settled in the same areas.
Unfortunately, I have exhausted all the research materials I have at hand and have come up with nothing helpful. Can anyone help?

Here are two clues to narrow your search if you start one:
Clover Farms, a cooperative grocery chain, began in 1926.
It appears from ads that the "Ambridge + 4 digits" phone numbers began to be used in the 1940s.

I know there were once Clover Farm Stores in Ambridge: one was at 798 15th St. but I don't know the grocery's name; however that building looks nothing like the store in the photo. The Csurny's Clover Farm store was at 6th St. and Glenwood Ave. and Grosdeck's Clover Farm Store was at 290 - 292 1st St.

Update June 8, 2020: The location of Mohn's Grocery has been found! The grocery was hiding in plain sight, with an exterior so altered, it would be impossible to identify--unless you knew where to look.*

Turns out I was right when I wondered if the store might have been in Leetsdale.

Here's what Mohn's Grocery looks like now:

175 Broad St.,
Leetsdale PA
May 28, 2020
credit: Thomas Beerman

Thomas Beerman, the current resident of the building, recently left a comment about this post:

"This is the house I now live in ! It is located on broad st in leetsdale, still have the old meat hooks, our kitchen was the meat cooler!" In a second comment, he added that his family had lived in the building since the Mohn's Grocery closed in the 1950s.

Those comments were later followed by several emails in which Thomas told me that he had come across this blog post about Mohn's Grocery while he was looking for information about the furniture store that was once next door, now a warehouse. And he sent me the above photo of the former grocery as it looks today.

He said his mom and dad, 
Jean and Leo Beerman, bought the store in 1947 while it was still operating, but the grocery "went out of business when the steel mills went on strike! [My dad] turned [the building] into 2 apartments and then one house when times were rough." He added that the store's meat hooks that once were in his kitchen were now in his garage.

After I told him I would be interested in seeing what the meat hooks now looked like, he was gracious enough to send me a photo:

Meat hooks from former Mohn's Grocery
garage at 175 Broad St.
Leetsdale PA
May 28, 2020
credit: Thomas Beerman

I love when an history mystery gets solved! Especially since this one has a happy ending in that the Mohn's Grocery building still exists.

Although I still don't have any information about whether the Leetsdale Mohn's Grocery was owned by someone related to Henry Mohn, whose wife had connections with the Harmony Society.

* In the past, I've come across other old buildings "hiding in plain sight," for example Ambridge's Kingdom Hall or Blaine House, an early home of George (Father) Rapp, later used by the Harmony Society as a school.