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

1 comment:

  1. Lovely! Many thanks Nancy.
    Dave Weed (great-grandson of EAW)