Monday, April 24, 2017

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

"Rear of tenement row from alley between 6th and 7th"
Vaughn Arnold collection
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Leafing through a copy of a special section of the "Old Economy - Ambridge Sesquicentennial Edition" of the South News, published August 15, 1974, I found some information about this photo. Vaughn Arnold, once the owner of Ambridge's Daily Citizen, supplied the photo to the paper, and I assume the description may have come from him.
This is the rear view of a row of apartment houses as seen from the alley between 6th and 7th Sts. The building to the extreme left, in the background, housed a grocery store operated by Shippam and Campbell, who was a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.
I believe the "alley between 6th and 7th" was "Alley No. 3" on old maps, running between Merchant St. and Melrose Ave. The "tenement row" may be some of the still-existing row homes on the west side of the 600 block of Melrose. Could the frame house at the far end of the row be 653 Melrose?

This photo and others from the same era show that when it began, Ambridge was a pretty messy place, hardly the picturesque new Marvel City described in early ads.

As far as the "pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds" goes, the only pitcher named Campbell I've found who played for that team in the appropriate era was Billy Campbell, who was born in Pittsburgh and played for the Reds 1905 - 1909, but I don't know if he ever owned a store in Ambridge. If anyone can positively identify the Campbell referred to in the photo's description, please let me know.

The copy of the special Sesquicentennial section belonged to the late Eddie Dzubak, Sr. Thanks to his daughter, Lesabeth Trzcianka, for giving it to me.

Update April 28, 2017:
Looking at the 1905 Sanborn Insurance map of Ambridge, I think the Shippam and Campbell grocery store was most likely at 654 Merchant St. (The street numbers for that building was 635 in 1905, but Ambridge renumbered the buildings on Merchant in 1917; 635 became 654.)

The large building with the advertising on the left side of the alley was probably a stable.

I've also found that Campbell's first name was "William," which supports his being Billy Campbell, Reds pitcher.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

American Bridge Co. ships 165-foot girder by rail, 1950

Ambridge's American Bridge Co. produced some amazing products. Here's one of them:

Longest Steel Girder
American Bridge Company
Acme press photo
February 14, 1950

The back of this press photo describes it:
Workmen put a protective coat on the longest steel girder ever shipped in one piece from the Ambridge, PA., plant of U.S. Steel's American Bridge Company. The 165-foot, 75-ton girder is bound for use in a Philadelphia railroad bridge. Ten others, just like it, are being made for the job. Four standard length railroad flat cars are needed for the giant girder.
Ambridge's American Bridge Co. plant, once the largest structural steel fabricating plant in the world, was operating by 1904 and closed in 1984.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ambridge memorabilia: Ambridge Hotel receipt 1909

As much as I'd like to, I usually don't buy much Ambridge memorabilia due to budgetary restrictions. But this Hotel Ambridge receipt was an exception. I bought it for two reasons: 1. As brief as it is, it taught me something about the Hotel Ambridge/Ambridge Hotel that surprised me; and 2. It amused me. Quite honestly, mostly because it amused me.

Hotel Ambridge receipt
Sept. 11, 1909

The receipt is on 8 1/2" x 6" now-fragile lined paper. It says:

 "Received of C. A. Lockwood 1.50 for Electric Current to run Fan for One Month. Gus C. Frank."

Can you imagine what current* hotel bills would look like if guests were billed separately if they used a room's electricity to charge all their technology--cell phones, ipads, laptops, and the like?

You can read about the history of the Ambridge Hotel and see photos of it in my April 27, 2014, blog post, "The Ambridge Hotel."

* I probably shouldn't admit this, but I didn't intentionally write "current" as an electrical pun, but I like it, so let's pretend that I did.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 1958, below Crestview Village hill

This photo, taken on Easter 1958, belongs to my mom, Agatha Bohinsky. It was taken in the backyard of 1522 Beaver Rd.

Nancy, Kathy, and Paula Bohinsky
April 6, 1958
courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

I remember hunting for the eggs we'd decorated the day before on Easter morning, and later eating a breakfast with the food Father Rostas had blessed the day before at Divine Redeemer Church. The blessed food would have included homemade sweet bread and nutroll, kolbasi, decorated eggs, horseradish, salt, and butter. My mom would press the butter into a fancy little glass bowl, then use a knife to decorate the top; the center was always a cross.

And, of course, we always went to mass.

When we were old enough to take communion at church, because of Catholic rules about fasting before communion, breakfast would have to wait until after we got home from mass.

Then finally, we'd bite the ears off the chocolate bunnies which filled our Easter baskets, along with foil covered chocolate eggs, molded popcorn bunnies or eggs, plus a few Easter-related toys.

What's that building on the hill?

The building on top of the hill behind our house in the photo above is one of the Crestview Village buildings. The hill looks pretty much how I remember the hill below Crestview when I was growing up: eroded, rutted, hard brown dirt; a few huge boulders; a few scattered blackberry and jagger bushes; and some grassy sort of plants.

People who lived below the hill would often burn their trash in a large horizontal depression just beyond the alley that ran behind our yards; I set some of the dried grass on fire a few times while performing my chore of "watching" our trash fire burn.

I am amazed at how nature has taken back that hill, slowly over many years. This is what it now looks like before leaves block the view of the hill from the alley behind Beaver Rd.

Crestview Village building
looking East from 1522 Beaver Rd.
April 15, 2016
credit: Nancy Knisley

Friday, March 17, 2017

Martsolf's Furniture Co. and Caplan Wholesale Grocery

The large three-story building that once stood on the southeast corner of 8th and Merchant Sts., which many of us remember as Caplan Wholesale Grocery, is one of the three Ambridge buildings I'm asked about most often; the others are the Slovenian National Home's triangle building at the intersection of Beaver and Merchant Sts., and the Ambridge Hotel on the northwest corner of 8th and Merchant Sts. All three landmark buildings have been razed, but not forgotten.

"Louis Caplan Grocery Co."
798 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

Before 798 Merchant was Louis Caplan's grocery, the building was home to Ambridge's first furniture store, a branch of Martsolf's Furniture, which opened on March 26, 1904, the year before Ambridge was incorporated.

"Martsolfs" Furniture
Ambridge store opening ad
Beaver Times
March 29, 1904

Here's a Martsolf's Furniture ad from 1926:

Martsolf's Furniture ad
Daily Times supplement?
August 10,1929
Louis Vukovcan Collection

I've been unable to pin down exactly when Marsolf's closed, or when Louis Caplan's store moved into 798 Merchant, but it was in the 1930s.

The 1931 photo below, which came from the late Eddie Dzubak, Sr.'s collection, shows a June 21, 1931, flood on 8th and Merchant, according to a note on the reverse. The 798 Merchant St. store in the background still has a Martsolf's Furniture Co. sign on it.

Flood at 8th and Merchant Sts.
Martsolf's Furniture store in background
June 21, 1931
Eddie Dzubak Sr. collection
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

The 1954 ad that accompanied the photo of Caplan's Grocery at the top of this post, indicated the business began in 1927. But as late as 1932, Caplan's grocery was on Duss Ave.

Caplan had moved his business into the 798 Merchant building by 1939, because that year's Beaver County Mercantile Appraiser's Report shows Caplan then doing business there.

People who worked in Ambridge area businesses remember buying a range of bulk supplies, from paper bags to candy and cigarettes, at Caplan's, sometimes having to brave the building's old, rickety elevator to get them.

Here's a photo that shows Caplan's in the background, also from Dzubak's collection. The circa mid-1970s photo was taken from Dzubak's Arco station, across 8th St. from Caplan's.

Caplan Wholesale Grocery across from Eddie Dzubak's Arco Station
circa mid-1970s
Eddie Dzubak Sr. collection
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

According to Louis Caplan's grandson, Glen Russell Slater, Caplan worked in his store until his death in 1988, despite his Parkinson's disease. Slater remembered:
I used to love to work in his store when we visited when I was a kid. I loved being there! My mother, Louise, and my uncle, Ralph, used to work there every day after school. My grandmother, Ruth Caplan, worked as the bookkeeper there. It's really sad that it was demolished, and was replaced by a soulless CVS parking lot. My grandfather, grandmother, mother and uncle's life revolved around that store!
After Caplan's death, at least one other business, Capp's, another grocery business, moved into the 798 Merchant building.

The 798 Merchant building was razed, I believe in 2000, to make room for the current CVS parking lot.

I remember the Caplan's building well, although I remember being in it only twice, both visits in the summer of 1970. One time was to buy supplies for my bridal shower, and the second was to buy supplies for the Ambridge Rec Center's summer playground program's penny carnival. The two events were not related.
The name of the furniture company in various ads and articles over the years is given as: Martsolf, Martsolfs, and Martsolf's.

You can see a photo of the intersection of 8th and Merchant in 1922 in my April 24, 2014 blog article, cleverly titled, "Eighth and Merchant Sts., 1922". Slater's memories are in that post's comments.