Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Ambridge Hotel

The Ambridge Hotel which once stood at the northwest corner of 8th and Merchant Streets was, in its day, one of Ambridge's landmark buildings, and one of its most photographed. The hotel, built in 1905, the year Ambridge was incorporated, was also one of Ambridge's oldest non-Harmonist buildings.

Ambridge Hotel,
1910-1920s era?
Original source unknown

The photo above came from Baltimore County History online. Unfortunately, I could not find the original source or date of the photo. Note the electric poles and wiring. It's hard to tell, but I think there are street car tracks on Merchant Street (the street with the car).

[Update, June 5, 2014: The snip below came from Ohio Architect and Builder, May 1904:

The text reads: AMBRIDGE, PA., April 5--Semple, Crawford & Gibson, 847 Linden avenue, Pittsburg, have been awarded the contract for brick work on the three-story brick hotel to be built for W. H. Reed, of Braddock, from plans drawn by C. E. Willoughby, Bank for Savings building, Pittsburg. General contract was awarded to Martsolf Bros. Cost. $12,000.]

Here are some postcards of the "Hotel Ambridge" from the same era for comparison.

"Hotel Ambridge" postcard

I cannot tell if the postcard above is a tinted photo or a drawing, but I know that it dates from the 1910s. Note no electrical poles or wiring.

"Hotel Ambridge" postcard

I also cannot tell if the above postcard is a tinted photo or a drawing. Note the streets look unpaved, but there are streetcar tracks on Merchant Street. The lot next door is clearly vacant, and you can see the houses on Maplewood Avenue.

"Hotel Ambridge" postcard

This postcard, also from the 1910s, does appear to be a photo. It shows the same poles and wiring as the first photo does, plus the backs of homes on Maplewood Avenue.

"Hotel Ambridge" postcard

Now compare the postcard directly above with the previous photo and postcards: no electrical poles or wires, but a stop light. And a nice sign on the building not apparent in any other drawing or photo of the hotel that I've found. This postcard appears to be a drawing, not a photo, and I'm always wary of the accuracy of these kinds of postcard drawings which tend to "pretty up" scenes. I'm not sure of the date of the postcard. From the cars, maybe early 1920s?  The postcard also shows a good view of the back of 800 Maplewood Avenue which is now an Anglican Church office.

The Old Economy-Ambridge Sesqui-Centennial Historical Booklet says that the Ambridge Hotel was "formerly know as the Grand Hotel," but I have found nothing to confirm that, and I have my doubts.

There was a Grand Hotel in Ambridge, which I wrote about in my post "The Grand Hotel and the Moose," but it was on 13th and Merchant Streets, where Franzee's-Javy's currently is.

Every source I can find refers to the hotel on 8th and Merchant Streets as either the Ambridge Hotel or the Hotel Ambridge, including this mention of the building while it was still under construction in The Metal Worker, Plumber, and Steam Fitter, Volume 64. September - October 1905.

The note says, "Chandley Bros., Beaver Falls, Pa., were the successful bidders on the new Ambridge Hotel at Ambridge, Pa."

According to an article about Beaver County libraries on Beaver County History Online, on "August 6, 1920 the Ambridge Hotel became the new home of the Ambridge Free Library." Later, the library moved to the beautiful Laughlin Memorial Library on 11th Street.

The hotel was advertised in travel guides as a good place to stop while traveling on the Lincoln Highway, which at one time went through Merchant Street, at a time when roads and cars were slow, and drivers had to make overnight stops on a road trip of any length. For $1.25, why wouldn't you get a room with a bath? Or was a room with a bath the "up"? (h/t to my co-blogger Robert Giles)

Hotel Ambridge ad,
Automobile Blue Book 1920 Standard Road Guide of America

But the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other more direct routes surely must have made an impact on the hotel's business.

Here's an ad from 1956:

Ambridge Hotel ad,
The Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

The building already wasn't looking very appealing, and over the years, the interior of the hotel became dated and worn.

[Update May 5, 2014: The large sign on the second floor above the main entrance was that of the Sportsman's Bar and Grill. Update: January 27, 2016: Fats Domino appeared for a week at the Sportsman's in November 1953.]

Ambridge Hotel,
late '50s?
photo courtesy of Ambridge Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Tile City on ground floor of Ambridge Hotel,
Beaver County Times,
July 30, 1964

Tile City was the main tenant in 1964 when the decision was made to raze the aging hotel to make room for a much better business for the property--a Boron station. Yay? Looking at the above photo makes me think of an aging actor who, despite formerly having been a star, now takes wretched roles in tacky movies just to survive.

[Update January 27, 2016: Here's another photo of the hotel. While it's undated, I believe it may have been taken shortly before the hotel was razed. The Tile City signs are gone, but some of the "Moving" ads in the windows appear to be the same ones as in the Times photo above. Thanks to Jackie Vukovcan for allowing me to put this on the blog, and Maria Notarianni for borrowing and scanning the photo for me.]

Ambridge Hotel
Louis Vukovcan collection
photo courtesy of Jackie Vukovcan
used with permission 

The building was razed beginning in August, 1964. In an article announcing the razing, the Beaver County Times said:
In the horse and buggy days, residents of the lower valley stopped at Ambridge Hotel overnight while traveling to Pittsburgh. It lost its reputation as one of the area's better hotels many years ago.
Here's a photo of the razing in progress:

The razing of the Ambridge Hotel,
September 1964
photo courtesy of Bob Mikush, used with permission

The Boron station was built, but also has since been razed, and the corner is now a gravel lot next to Mikush Maytag Home Appliance Center which is now at 811 Merchant Street, the former location of Jay's Floor Covering.

Here's the latest Google street view of 8th and Merchant Streets where the Ambridge Hotel once stood:

8th and Merchant Streets, northwest corner
Google street view


  1. Great post, research, and photos, Nancy. Thank you for the wonderful timeline and details.

  2. jd aka john domansky

    have not seen this pic before, our family mom dad 2 sis & me lived there late 1930s, the window right in back of the white car was my bedroom looking out at ambridge hotel. large building on left side (red brick ) was a docs office, it was a cold water flat. bach entrance, 3 rooms i think, used to play in back & run under trees & climb them too. the alley behind led over to 7th st & a shoemaker shop, italian family 2 kids boy & girl, used to have rock fights across 8th st. behind shoe place lived twin boys, named by me wrong elsewhere here, the mihala twins, curly black hair & grad AHS 1950, good friends for a while. after graduating, a weight lifting club was in the basement of hotel, went there for a while & built up a scrawny 120 lb body to 135, already was in good shape tho , was a high school wresler for 2 seasons at boys town in omaha. 49 & 50, went to the bar 1 time, too classy for me, ha ha. i would go shop for an older lady living upstairs, & she gave me movie money a dime. for the times i could not sneak in the back door,

    1. jd again
      in center of pic is that big red large bricked church, a beautiful church in a town of churches. hills in background are on aliquippa side of ohio river & where we went camping hiking & hunting & shooting when hunting season was over, the place where this dumbo shot a 22 at a shotgun shell to see if it would shoot off, it did & a fragment came back & hit me in the left cheek, had to see a doc & get a shot, & that made the Citizen paper & mom found out that way, did i catch it, about 1952.

  3. After reading this I have this feeling of sadness due to the slow decline and eventual downfall of the hotel, but even though it declined they should of kept it standing. It was a beautiful and historic building and they chose to tear it down. Now there is nothing but an empty lot in it's glorious place. It's such a shame.

    1. My mom's uncle, Joseph Schlegel (1893-1950) was the proprietor of the Hotel's restaurant for more than 10 years, 1926-1937 or later. I have some articles from if you are interested.

  4. Nancy, how do I contact you? Sorry I didn't see this.

    1. On the bottom of the left side of this blog, there's a section called "about me." At the bottom there's a link to "View my complete profile." If you click on that there's a section that says "contact me." Click on "email" and an email form with my email address pops up.

      Also, you can contact me via the blog's Facebook page or Twitter. Links to those are at the bottom of the page "About Ambridge Memories."

      Looking forward to hearing from you!