Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sixth Street and Melrose Avenue, 1904

Sixth Street and Melrose Avenue
photographer Major E. A. Weed
collected by Louis Vukovcan
photo courtesy of Stacey Brock
used with permission

The above photo of Sixth Street and Melrose Avenue came from the collection of the late Louis Vukovcan via his granddaughter, Stacey Brock. The photographer was Major E. A. Weed.* Based on the hill in the background, I believe the top of the photo is east.

On the left is the J. F. Brown Meat Market. I don't have any information on that store.

On the upper right there's a building that appears to be a church. Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church now sits at the intersection of Sixth and Melrose, but it is not the church in the photo.

Ss. Peter and Paul didn't have a church building before August, 1907, when local Ukrainian Catholics purchased the Methodist Episcopal Church which then stood at Sixth and Melrose. That Methodist church was built in 1904, the first church built in Ambridge, so it must be the church in the photo.

[Update February 28, 2015: Here's a photo of that Methodist Episcopal Church obtained from Ss. Peter and Paul by Maria Notarianni. The photo was included in Ss. Peter and Paul's 100th Anniversary book, Yesterday, today and forever: the first 100 years, 1907-2007.  Unlike Major Weed's photo, the photo below shows some of the front facade of the church which faced Sixth Street, the street in the foreground. Like Major Weed's photo, it shows the rose window on the west side of the church's steeple and the steps that led from Sixth Street into the church.

Methodist Episcopal Church
Sixth Street and Melrose Avenue
erected 1904
photo from Yesterday, today and forever:the first 100 years, 1907-2007
Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church

End of update.]

About 10 years after Ss. Peter and Paul moved into the former Methodist church building, it was razed to build the larger church which still stands on that corner.

Ambridge was just getting started in 1904. The American Bridge Company had started building on former Harmony Society land only the year before. The Borough of Ambridge wasn't incorporated until 1905. In the photo, it looks as though the streets in that area were still unpaved, sidewalks hadn't been built, but a storm drain had been constructed.

Here's what the building on that same corner looked like in May 2015:

600 Melrose Ave., 6th St. view
May 2, 2015
credit: Nancy Knisley

I thought the meat market building might have been the deep, yellow brick building at 600 Melrose shown in the 2015 photo above, but the part of the current building (or buildings?) nearest to Melrose (left side of photo), with its double windows on the second floor, doesn't appear to me to match up with the photo of the meat market. There is a rectangular section of the 6th St. side's current brickwork that is noticeably different from the other bricks, and I was hoping it would match the meat market's window. But the location of the second story windows don't match those above the market's large window. I guess it's possible that the building has had a number of changes to its facade, as there are several other areas with obvious differences in the brickwork. 

However, the back part of the current building--the part with the dormer, side entrance, and four second-story windows--resembles the building to the right of the J. F. Brown Meat Market in the 1904 photo with a dormer added. But I'm not sure whether the second story windows' location match. On the other hand, it looks to me like evidence of the two first-floor windows to the right of that building's door in the 1904 photo exists in the current building: one bricked over; the other now the location of another door. 

Update December 2020: The building at 600 Melrose Ave. has been razed. 

*A Major E. A. (Edward Augustus) Weed was a famous bicyclist at the turn of the 20th century, noted for his bicycling travels. I do not know enough about the life of Major Weed to say that he was the photographer of the photo above, but it is an intriguing possibility. I'm attempting to contact Major Weed's great-grandson to try to get more information.

Update: February 24, 2015: I have exchanged several emails with the great-grandson of the famous bicyclist Maj. E. A. Weed, and based on Dave Weed's information, I think it's almost certain that the photographer is the bicyclist. And he definitely had more of a connection with Ambridge than just taking some photos while biking through it. Note the entry "Sometime in 1906" below. Neither Dave Weed nor I have found information on an "Ambridge Socialist Local." If you know anything, please leave a comment.

The information below is posted with Dave's permission:
Nancy,What a joy to hear from you, and thanks for contacting me!  A quick review of the chronology I have assembled on my great-grandfather indicates that he arrived in Pittsburg PA on October 4, 1904 after rattling around the East Coast and central states by bicycle for a few years.  He was giving the occasional illustrated lecture on his travels in Mexico back in 1897-99.  As you figured out, his full name was Edward Augustus Weed, with the ‘Major’ designation coming from a brevet promotion gained during the Civil War.
 Gus (I use that name to distinguish him from his son and grandson, both named Edward) traveled with a camera, so it makes perfect sense that he would have taken the photo you’ve posted.  He was definitely in the area at the time.  He was also one of only a couple of men referred to as ‘Major E. A. Weed’ I have ever run across in the 20 years I have been researching his life (my only hobby).
Looking further into my records, which are a little thin in this time period, I find the following info which brackets Gus’s time in your area:
October 6, 1904- Arrives in Pittsburg, ending a journey taken primarily by bicycle that has taken him from Portland OR to Mexico City, Cuba, and around the east coast and mid-west.  He racked up a total of 49,735 miles on this trip, and I’m guessing some 20,000 miles of this was actually pedaling. 
December 19, 1905- He separates from his third wife.  She later lived in McKeesport PA.  (Great story here, I’ll pass that along some day) 
Sometime in 1906- He’s the secretary of the Ambridge Socialist Local, so he must be living in the area.  He had dabbled in early progressive movements for years. 
September 3, 1906- He’s in Castle Rock PA.  He attended a socialist gathering there on Labor Day with the intent of shaking the hand of Eugene V. Debs, a well-known labor-rights activist.  (Turns out that Gus was a US Deputy Marshal in Chicago during the Pullman riots of 1894, and at some point was assigned to guard Debs while that gent awaiting trial in a local jail)
December 8, 1906- He’s reported to be in New York. 
May 17, 1908- Gus is awarded a medal by the Continental Road Club of America for riding 112 miles in one day on a fixed course in Long Island NY.  He was 67 years old at the time.  He departed on his bike for Maine, then on to California, two weeks later. {Gus also traveled through the Pittsburg area back in 1892.  He was the manager of a rail car sent out by the state of Oregon to advertise for new immigrants.}

Dave also sent along photos of Major Weed:

Major Edward A. Weed
"Champion Long Distance Bicycle Tourist of Portland, Oregon,
 who is Now Representing the Police Gazette on the Road"
January 5, 1901
photo courtesy of Dave Weed
used with permission

Major E. A. Weed
San Francisco Labor Day Parade
September 5, 1910
photo courtesy of Dave Weed
used with permission

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Croatian Fraternal Union 1924 20th Anniversary

20th Anniversary
Croatian Fraternal Union, St. Nicholas Lodge No. 304
photo courtesy of Robyn Hrvoich Cubakovic
used with permission

Immigrants established some of the earliest organizations in Ambridge. Each sizable ethnic group had a club, or more than one.

This photo shows the members of Ambridge's Croatian Fraternal Union, St. Nicholas Lodge No. 304, at the organization's 20th Anniversary celebration in 1924.

Robyn Hrvoich Cubakovic's cousin, Danica Hrvojic, who was a two-year-old toddler being held by her father, Stjepan, when the photo was taken, gave her the photo. She's the little blond girl in the upper far left.

I don't have an exact date for the photo or the address of the building. The building in the photo is not either of the two addresses I have for the club: 1236 Merchant Street, then more recently, the now-empty 303 Fourteenth Street. I tried to find a building with the same brickwork, but was unsuccessful. There's a wallpaper business in the building to the right. Does anyone know where this building is/was? If so, please leave a comment.

Update March 5, 2015: The building in the photo wasn't in Ambridge according to this comment left on March 4. Thank you, Rob!:

"The original Croatian Home Lodge 304 was at 327 Merchant St. The original picture is at the CFU Home Office in Wilkins Twp.

Rob Keber, Vice President CFU Lodge 304"

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Economy's Lover's Lane

Lover's Lane, Economy, PA
State Library of Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village archives

The Harmonites, noted for their celibacy, may have refrained from sex, but that doesn't mean they refrained from romance. And apparently romance was common enough that 14th Street between Duss Avenue and Beaver Road became known as Lover's Lane.

Lover's Lane, Economy, Pa.
postmarked January 22, 1909

The December 26, 1916, Daily Times, explained how Economy's Lover's Lane got its nickname:
On Sundays in the olden time the young people of the village were not allowed to leave the town, not even to visit the farmers on the outlying districts and so by degrees they began to appropriate this grassy, shaded lane, where they strolled by twos, dreamed dreams, and said pleasant nothings fraught with much meaning as has been the custom of lovers for centuries and so "The Lane" became "Lover's Lane." 

Lover's Lane, Economy, PA
State Library of Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village archives

The 1924 Economy Centennial Souvenir Program, Economy of Old, Ambridge of Today, compiled by Elise Mercur Wagner, described Lover's Lane: "Heavily shaded on both sides with trees, with a wide path of well-trodden grass between, it was the favorite walk of young people at eventide."

That program says that Lover's Lane's real name was "Mulberry Lane." Among their many industries, the Harmonites had a silk mill, and mulberry leaves from the trees they planted were used to feed the silkworms they raised. But the mulberry trees weren't well-suited to the area's climate, and the "cocoonery" was shut down in the 1850s.

Apple trees replaced the mulberries in the Lover's Lane area, and Mulberry Lane became Apple Lane. The handwritten note on the photo below says, "Apple trees planted in the 1870's to replace a row of mulberry trees (Morus Multicaulia) east of the silk factory at 14th St."

Apple Lane, Economy, PA
State Library of Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village archives

Apple Lane, Economy, PA
State Library of Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village archives

The 1916 Daily Times article says that once Economy was sold, and the Liberty Land Company opened the formerly-gated Apple Lane as a street in 1903, "the old apple trees began to decay and become scraggy. Now they are nearly all dead."

The newspaper mourned the end of Lover's Lane which it called "one of the historic old land marks of Economy":
"Lover's Lane" in Economy carries with it more than historic interest to many who resided in the village before the modern spirit of progress had transformed a beauty spot into an ordinary city street.
The paper said Ambridge's street commissioner was in the process of removing the trunks and broken limbs, noting, "The street is nearly all built up now."

Update December 19, 2018: I'm aware that the people in one of the photos above are not wearing Harmonist clothing. But even before the Harmony Society sold its property in Economy, it had hired workers who lived in the community, but were not Harmony Society members. And Sarah Buffington, curator at Old Economy Village, told me that the Harmony Society did not prohibit visitors from strolling in Economy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Freymark Drugs

Every once in a while when I do historical research, I come across an old ad that probably wouldn't be run today for one reason or another. This 101-year-old ad for Ambridge's Freymark drug store is one of them:

Freymark The Drug Man ad
Pittsburgh Gazette Times
February 8, 1914

Although the address for Freymark in the ad is 513 Merchant Street, it was on the east side of Merchant. In 1917, Ambridge changed its building numbering method, and as a result, the east side of Merchant, previously the odd numbered side of the street, became the even numbered side. As far as I know, 513 Merchant became 520 Merchant.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hidden between the walls

The razing of an Ambridge building can reveal some long-hidden surprises.

612 Merchant Street
The Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

When the former Timney's furniture and appliances store at 612 Merchant Street was razed in July, 2013, two huge ads painted on the wall of 610 Merchant Street were revealed.

Painted ads
610 Merchant Street
July 2013
photo credit: Carolyn Dunn Ries
used with permission

The left ad was for Wrigley Spearmint Perfect Gum; the one on the right was damaged and only a small area remained. Can you help identify the product in that ad?

[Update October 20, 2015: This update is much belated as Maria Notarianni provided this information way back on February 11:
Second ad solved! It actually is not a separate ad but an extension of the Wrigley Spearmint Gum advertisement. The symbol reads, "United profit sharing Coupons". [the partial word "rapp" is wrapped] See the symbol in this newspaper ad along with explanation of the coupon.

Wrigley's gum ad
The Miami News
March 29, 1915

Looks like Wrigley's gum was one of several companies that offered "United Profit-Sharing Coupons" in at least the mid-1910 to 1920 period.]

The two ads were only visible for a short while. Within a few weeks, they were re-covered by the wall of the new Dollar General store.

When the Charles Men's Store, 541 Merchant Street, was razed after a September 14, 2012, fire, a large, bricked-closed archway was revealed on the wall of 537 Merchant Street:

Bricked archway
537 Merchant Street
March 30, 2014

Here's a photo of 537 Merchant several months after it too was destroyed, in an July, 6, 2014 fire, showing the size of the archway:

537 Merchant Street
October 2, 2014

I have no idea what the archway might have been used for before it was bricked-up. Do you know? If so, please leave a comment.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ambridge parade, west side 500 block Merchant

Before I started doing research on Ambridge history, I didn't realize how often businesses moved from one Ambridge building to another. I have learned that while I may remember or find a business' address at one location, it may have been in other buildings too. If you check my Ambridge List of Lists page, you'll see two or more addresses for a number of businesses.

Another thing I've learned: Ambridge loved parades and held them frequently, including some huge ones, which amazes me knowing how much effort holding just one small-town parade a year takes. Holidays, the start of the Christmas shopping season, the summer playground program, savings bond and united fund promotions, Nationality Days, the start of Little League baseball season, the Soapbox Derby, and sports team victories--Ambridge held parades for them all and more.

In October 1938, Ambridge held a mile-long parade to celebrate the competition of street lighting on Merchant Street and Beaver Road and the resurfacing of Duss Avenue from 14th Street to Baden. The Daily Times reported that officials estimated 25,000 - 40,000 attended the parade (that's a wide spread, but either way, it was a lot of spectators).

The photos below show examples of both Ambridge traditions: businesses that moved and a parade. The photos are from the collection of the late Lillian Turney.

I don't know why or when this parade was held. On the date, I'm guessing 1940s. If you know more about this parade, please leave a comment.

500 block of Merchant Street
circa 1940s?
photo courtesy of Lillian Turney
used with permission

The above photo shows the Ambridge Fire Department and stores on the west side of the 500 block of Merchant: Kinney Shoes, 545 Merchant Street; Thrift Apparel, 549 Merchant; Fashion Hosiery, 551 Merchant; Timney Electric Company, 553 Merchant; and Novice's Shoes, 555 Merchant.

Many of us probably remember Timney's later, large appliance and furniture store at 612 Merchant Street. That building was recently razed and replaced by a new Dollar General store.

Thrift Apparel also had a second address, 410 Merchant, but I'm not sure yet about whether the 549 location was earlier or later. Later, Tamers Feminine Fashion and Health City were at 549.

The building with Novice's Shoes, 555 Merchant, was later Book's Shoes and Terner's Men's Wear. Both of those businesses moved to 555 from other locations.

500 block of Merchant Street
circa 1940s?
photo courtesy of Lillian Turney
used with permission

The above photo shows the same stores as the previous one with the addition of Rand's Deep Cut Rate Drugs, 559 Merchant Street. Later, Herman's Bakery moved there. A number of businesses were in that building before Rand's, possibly including the Colonial and Majestic theaters.

500 block of Merchant Street
circa 1940s?
photo courtesy of Lillian Turney
used with permission

500 block of Merchant Street
circa 1940s?
photo courtesy of Lillian Turney
used with permission

The above photo shows an Ambridge Fire Department truck in front of the G.C. Murphy store that was at 561 Merchant Street. The last time I was in Ambridge the building was vacant. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bird's-Eye View of Ambridge and American Bridge

"Birds-Eye View of Ambridge, Pa.,
 and American Bridge Company Plant on Ohio River"

This vintage postcard shows Ambridge from South Heights across the Ohio River. I believe it's an artist's drawing rather than a photo as nothing looks very realistic. Have you ever seen the Ohio so very blue? I guess a brown river isn't nearly as picturesque.

The postcard that I own was never mailed, so I can only guess at the date. It's a linen era postcard, so 1930-1945. I think that given the still-undeveloped hills in the background, the picture probably dates from the 1930s and not the '40s. The only non-mill building I can identify with confidence is the American Bridge Office on 4th St. and Park Road. The office was built in 1903, so that's not helpful in dating. I don't see anything else in the picture which might help me date it. If you see anything, let me know.

I've been trying to identify that lone tower/derrick at the top of the hill at approximately 5th Street. If you know, please leave a comment.

For those into such things, on the reverse:
Publisher: Minsky Brothers & Co., Publishing Division, Pittsburgh, PA.
"C.T.Art-Colortone" Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.
Place one cent stamp here in the stamp box