Thursday, June 22, 2017

Luce Hardware & Supply, Metz 22 ad, 1912

I really like vintage newspaper ads and am especially delighted when I find something unexpected--like Ambridge's Luce Hardware and Supply Co.'s 1912 ad for a Metz 22 car. Imagine going to your local Do It Best for some picture hooks, potting soil, and a new car.

Luce Hardware & Supply Co. ad for the Metz 22
Daily Times
March 28, 1912

The advertised 28 - 32 MPG isn't bad, but that "100 miles on a pint of lubricating oil" is a bit of a negative. On the plus side, the Metz 22's guaranteed hill-climbing performance would be a real asset in Ambridge.

As far as I know, Luce Hardware & Supply Co. opened in 1905. I don't know when it closed. I also don't have a street address.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Briola Bros. store, Merchant Street's first grocery

Frank and Michael Briola owned a grocery at 422 - 424 Merchant St., as well as an ice plant on 10th and Melrose Ave. According to the 1924 Economy Centennial book, Economy of Old, Ambridge of Today, the Briola Bros. store was built in 1903, the first and largest grocery store on Merchant St.

The photo below shows what the interior of the store looked like in 1908. I know relatives of Frank and Michael Briola still live in the Ambridge area. Can anyone help identify the people in the photo?

Interior of Briola Bros. Grocery Store
422 - 424 Merchant St.
courtesy Borough of Ambridge

 Here's a 1904 ad from Sewickley's Weekly Herald:

Briola Brothers grocery ad
Weekly Herald
January 2, 1904

And here's an ad, also from 1904, that ran in the Ambridge Economy Citizen:

Briola Bros. groceries ad
Ambridge Economy Citizen
December 16, 1904

You can see part of the Briola Bros. store on the right side of this postcard:

400 block of Merchant St. looking north
dated Sept. 9, 1915

After the Biola Bros. store closed, it was occupied by an OK Grocery, Tile City, and most recently, Tim Cassidy Construction.

This is what 422 - 424 Merchant St. looked like in 2014:

422 - 424 Merchant St.
March 30, 2014

I don't know yet when the Briola Bros. store closed. I'll update this post if I find that information.

I'll write about the Briola Ice Plant in another post.

Here's the reverse of the postcard above:

reverse of postcard above

Sunday, June 4, 2017

American Bridge Co. produces Americans

Beginning in 1903, when the American Bridge Company started building its massive steel fabrication plant on land that would later become part of Ambridge, immigrants poured into the area, first to build the plant, then to work in it. American Bridge became a part of the melting pot which turned the immigrants who worked for the company into Americans.

"Americanization Class of Ambridge Plant School on their way for their 1st Papers"
Courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives
circa early 1900s

While most of the new immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe, in the 1924 Economy Centennial book, Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church pastor, Father Stanislaus R. Labujewski, is quoted (spelling as in original):
Ambridge is the most cosmopolitan town in America. Representatives of various nations reside here, and, probably, no other city can boast of having such a polyglot population. Each of these nationalities below cited, speak their own language, as well as that of their adopted country.  
American, Polish, Scotch, Italian, Slovak, Ukraiian, German, Irish, Greek, Russian, Croatian, English, Lithuanian, Spanish, Belgian, Roumanian, Serbian, Slavonian, Austrian, Canadian, Bulgarian, French, Armenin, Swede, Norwegian, Bohemian, Egyptian, Turk, Portugese, Porto Rican, Argentinean, Danish, Arabian, Finlander, Swiss, Welshman, Brazil, Mexican, Slovenian, Albanian, Negro, Dalmatian, Montenegrin, Jew, Bosnian, Hollander, Esthonian, Hungarian, Chinese, Japanese.

American Bridge offered a variety of classes to its workers and their families, some work-related like drafting, and others meant to turn immigrants, many who could not speak English when they arrived in Ambridge, into Americans.

"Class in English for Foreigners, Ambridge Plant School"
Courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives
circa early 1900s

And then these immigrants who became Americans helped to build America.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ambridge view 1906

This incredible panoramic shot of early Ambridge, looking east, was taken from across the Ohio River in the South Heights area. Given that the Union Company, the Harmony Society's real estate company, didn't start selling off the land that later became Ambridge until 1900, and the American Bridge Company started building its plant in 1903, I think the amount of development by 1906 is amazing.

Ambridge Pa. 1906
courtesy John S. Dunn collection

On the reverse of this photo, there is a description written by the late William (Bill) Bowan, local historian:
Ambridge Pa. 1905 - 1906 
See old Ball Field where Ambridge High School Football Stadium is now. Winding road going up Hillside, Left, was Brydan [should be Bryden] Rd. now Rice Ave. 
House Right of center on Hillside surrounded by Trees is the oldest House in Ambridge. It was occupied By Farm Manager for Old Economites - it is still There, Behind the the (sic) Bldg occupied By "WMBA" radio Station. 
Wm. J. Bowan - 1973
I've numbered some of the details in the photo to help you find them. Click to enlarge.

1. Just above the river is the enormous American Bridge Co. plant, which gave Ambridge its name, and spurred its rapid growth.

2. The large building near the center of the photo is the American Bridge office building.

3. The "oldest house in Ambridge" according to Bowan. The "WMBA" building was at 304 Duss Ave., most recently Action Tire Center. I've tried without success to match the building in the photo with any current building in the area behind 304 Duss. Can you ID it? Thoughts?

4. The wide road leading from below the hills to American Bridge is today's Fourth St.

5. Buildings on the east side of the 400 block of Merchant St.

6. Fifth St.

7. Ambridge Savings and Trust, 500 Merchant St.

8. American Bridge Park that once extended from Fourth to Eighth Sts. just below Park Rd.

9. Crackerbox tenement buildings?

10. Original St. Veronica's Church.

11. Second Ward School, Maplewood south of Eighth St.

12. A bit of the original Zion's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

13. Ambridge Hotel, northwest corner of Eighth and Merchant Sts.

14. "Old ball field" at location of Ambridge High School stadium mentioned by Bowan.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Melrose Ave., 1911 postcard

"Melrose Avenue Looking West, Ambridge, Pa."
500 block of Melrose looking north
postmarked September 28, 1911

I always think of Melrose Ave. as a north-south street, but I'll grant it actually does run somewhat northwest-ish and southeast-ish, especially at its southern end. Some early postcards of Merchant St. also say they look "west," rather than what most of us would call north.

To the best I can determine, the postcard shows the 500 block of Melrose. I say that because of the style of house on both sides of the street. While the 400 and 600 blocks of Melrose have similar homes on the east (even) sides of the street, neither of those blocks have them on the west side, either now or in 1911.

At the far end of the scene, there appears to be a smokestack, and beyond, a tall hill. The hill must be on the other side of the Ohio River, but the smokestack baffled me. I couldn't think of any Ambridge mill that could have been visible from Melrose like that. I've finally decided that it can only be the huge J&L smokestack, also across the Ohio, in the area that would eventually be called Aliquippa.

If you think I've gotten the block and/or the smokestack location wrong, please leave a comment with an explanation.

Here's a scan of the reverse side of the postcard. The information on the far left side says, "No. M 1267. Pub. and controlled by Stephen G. Horlick, Newsdealer, Ambridge, Pa." You can read about Steve Horlick in the December 3, 2016, blog post, "Steve Horlick and his stores."

reverse of postcard

Here are links to other Ambridge Memories articles with early scenes of Melrose:

Then and now: 400 block Melrose Ave.

Ambridge alley between 6th and 7th Sts., 1904