Friday, January 23, 2015

Ambridge Arena, Fourth Street

Former Ambridge Arena
287 Fourth Street
Circa 1970s?
Laughlin Memorial Library archives
used with permission

The label on the photo says: "1905-Ambridge Arena-Palm Garden Rainbow Garden, Nash Garage" I do not know who the photographer was or who labeled the photo. I also don't know exactly when the photo was taken or what business was in the building then, as I can't read the painted sign on the building.

For at least 75 years, the Ambridge Arena building stood at 287 Fourth Street. The alley to its right ran between it and the back of the building at 401 Merchant street that was once the Nicholas Grill and later The Red Bull Inn. The Arena has been razed and is currently an empty lot.

Empty lot
Former location of Ambridge Arena
287 Fourth Street
September 20, 2014

I do not know the reason the label on the library's photo says "1905." At first I thought that 1905 must have been the year the building was constructed, but 1905 and 1911 insurance maps of Ambridge show an empty lot where this building stood. A 1917 map does show it, labeled "Auditorium Theatre." The April 30, 1978, Beaver County Times says in the article "Forgotten theaters mark passing era" that the building was built in 1907 and was also known as the "Lyceum." But if it was built in 1907, why wasn't it on the 1911 map?

[Update January 5, 2016: The Daily Times of November 29, 1911, has a small notice that I believe may refer to the Ambridge Arena building:
C. R. Doyle has started work on a large auditorium building located on Charles street, for the accommodation of large gatherings. Messrs R. B. McDanel & Sons, of New Brighton, have the contract and it is to be finished early in the new year.
Fourth St. was once called Charles St.

I am still looking for more information on the construction and opening dates.

Also, here's another photo. I don't have a date for it. It's probably from the 1970s just like the photo above.

Former Ambridge Arena
287 Fourth Street
Circa 1970s?
Laughlin Memorial Library archives
used with permission

End of update.]

In its early years, the rather modest-looking brick building was an Ambridge entertainment center. The building once housed the Palm Garden and Rainbow Garden movie theaters, perhaps in the 1920s or '30s.* I'm still looking for information on those theaters. Boxing and wrestling matches were held there, and it once offered roller skating. The 1978 Times article says that political rallies and dances also were held there.

I have been unable to find any information so far on a "Nash Garage," as noted on the label, in this building. However, Barky Motor Sales, which sold Nash autos in the '40s and '50s, was at 287 Fourth Street.

According to Ambridge history buff Bob Mikush, the building was later a workmen's social club, (name forgotten by Mikush and not yet found by me) that some locals simply called "the Commie Club" -- referring to the political leanings of the members I guess. Mikush remembers seeing a large stage and "big ballroom" in the building.

Later, the building was a warehouse for Modern Furniture. T&S Auto Body was in the building in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, the Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club met on the second floor.

Even though the Arena's building is gone, at least part of it lives on. Brian Trapold, whose brother Phil was the "T" in T&S Auto Body, says that when Phil owned the building and wanted more work space for the cars, he and Phil carefully removed the beautiful maple hardwood dance floor, and some of the wood was repurposed as Brian's front porch. Thanks for that great story, Brian!

Update January 23, 2015: Thank you, Eddie Dzubak, for more information about the fate of the Arena's wood floor:
Phil gave me some of the same wood that Brian made his beautiful porch out of. It was 1" thick maple that Phil even helped me install. I remember he found the receipt for it and it was dated from the '20s. The flooring is still in the house we have in the historic district.

If anyone has more information on this building, or about the photographer of the library archive photo, please leave a comment.

*In the August 13, 1964, Beaver County Times article, "a history lesson on movies," Tom Moore, who began working as a movie projectionist in 1916 when the projectors were still hand-cranked, and later worked at Ambridge's Grand, Prince, and Ambridge theaters, said, "When a man showed up at the Palm Gardens with a Victrola and a movie, many people thought that sound would never be a reality. The sound would seldom fit the pictures, and even the pictures weren't very good."

Moore said that the Palm Gardens was one of Ambridge's four theaters in the 1930s; the others were: Idle Hours, Family, and Grand.

The Grand was at 561 Merchant which later become part of G.C. Murphy. I have yet to find any information about the Idle Hours or Family theaters.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Automotive Electric Company,

Automotive Electric Company
Daily Citizen supplement, August 10, 1929

This is another newspaper clipping saved by the late Louis Vukovcan and shown here thanks to his daughter-in-law, Jackie Vukovcan and Maria Notarianni who scanned it for me. Louis Vukovcan indicated that the ad came from a Daily Citizen supplement, August 10, 1929; however, I have not found a copy of the supplement to confirm that date.

I don't have much information on the Automotive Electric Company. The December 12, 1929, Daily Times, said that the Automotive Electric Company, Treasurer Pauline Stewart, had been granted a state charter. The Beaver County Mercantile List of 1930 gives the address of the business as 1196 Merchant Street.

"USL" shown on the front sign was a national car battery brand.

It looks like the building is still there and vaguely recognizable despite a new facade and windows. It's currently a doctor's office. A side-view of the building is no longer possible, as another building was built abutting it. Here's the most recent Google Street View:

1196 Merchant Street
Google Street View

Other businesses that were once located at 1196 Merchant were: C and W Packard, Lang Motors, and Beaver Valley Printing. Later, Central Radio and TV was in both 1196 and 1194 Merchant Street.

The smoke stack behind the building in the ad was part of National Electric Company.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Latimer Avenue at Eighth Street, 1955

My intrepid vintage photo sleuth, Maria Notarianni, was able to borrow and scan some old photos and news clippings from Jackie Vukovcan that had been saved by Jackie's father-in-law, the late Louis Vukovcan.

This Daily Citizen clipping was marked April 5, 1955, by Louis Vukovcan, but I have not been able to verify that that was the date it was published by the Citizen.

Latimer Avenue at Eighth Street
April 5, 1955
Daily Citizen clipping

Original caption:
LATIMER AVENUE is now a one-way thoroughfare. Borough officials decided yesterday to make the move effective on alleviating traffic conditions. Autoists cannot enter Latimer from Eighth St. Shown in the photo are Burgess Walter Panek and Patrolman Harry Knafelc at the intersection of Eighth to see that proper observance is carried out.

In the background is Twins Trailer Sales, later Twin Trailer Sales, which was located at that intersection during the 1950s, a prime location since Ohio River Boulevard, then part of Pennsylvania Route 88, ended at Eighth Street at that time. After the boulevard was extended to Baden in the early '60s, the business relocated further north to the Harmony Township* section of the extension, now part of Route 65. Twin Trailer's former Ambridge location is now the parking lot for John Syka Funeral Home.

Latimer Avenue's name was changed to Kennedy Drive on December 6, 1963, shortly after President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Kennedy's October 12, 1962, route from Aliquippa to Pittsburgh was via that street.

The street is still one way south.

I haven't yet found the date of the opening of Twin Trailer Sales' Harmony Township location, but the August 26, 1965, Beaver County Times says that the business' new home was "expected to be ready before winter."

* The Beaver County Times seems to consistently have given the new Twin Trailer's location as Harmony Township, but ads say "Baden." If the exact municipal location is important, you might want to check.