|J. C. Penney Co.|
601 Merchant St.
Daily Times supplement, August 10, 1929 ?
Louis Vukovcan collection
courtesy Jackie Vukovcan
Many of us have fond memories of the J. C. Penney store at the corner of 6th and Merchant Sts. shown above circa 1929. But that wasn't Penney's first Ambridge location. Before the 601 Merchant St. building was built, Penney's did business at 531 Merchant St.
I still don't know when Penney's moved into the 601 Merchant St. building. A January 1917 Sanborn Insurance map indicates that a three-story building was planned for the northwest corner of 6th and Merchant Sts. with two store fronts, a larger one at 601 - 603 Merchant and a smaller one at 605 Merchant. Above the stores, the second floor would have offices, and the third would house a club of some type.
I don't know if the buildings eventually built at 601 - 603 and 605 Merchant were based on those plans, but it took a while for a building to be constructed on that corner. According to an article in the April 4, 1924, Daily Times, the Penney's store was among the building projects, totaling about $1 million dollars, then ongoing in Ambridge. The Penney's ad in the 1924 Economy Centennial program book, Economy of Old, Ambridge of Today, still has the 531 Merchant address.
[Update March 20, 2016, Maria Notarianni pointed out that the 1924 Economy Centennial program book has an ad for the real estate office of John F. Maloney at 605 Merchant. The ad gives information about Maloney's construction of a new building for Penney's. And also some complimentary words about Maloney, which I'm including because they made me smile:
Mr. John F. Maloney, a member of Council and one of our most influential citizens has in the past few years erected more than three hundred homes, which have been sold to people on easy terms.
He opened his first office in 1902, corner Seventh and Glenwood, but his increasing business made larger quarters imperative, and he is now located at the corner of Sixth and Merchant Streets. At the corner, adjoining his real estate, he has now under construction a modern, fire-proof store and apartment building, consisting of a large storeroom on the first floor for the J. C. Penney Co., and eight apartments above, which will have every modern convenience. Each of these apartments will have an incinerator, refrigerator, electric range, tiled bath room with built-in fixtures, Gates' reversible windows, and are finished in a most attractive manner. A feature which will be much appreciated in Ambridge as well as by the occupants of the building will be a roof garden.
As a pioneer in promoting the welfare of Ambridge in every way, Mr. Maloney has few equals.If I'm remembering correctly, in the 1950s and '60s, Penney's sold merchandise in the first two floors plus a mezzanine and the basement. The first and second floors were connected by a large staircase. The second floor was girls' clothes. Susan Bacon Holowaty reminded me that that's where girls went to buy the lovely (yes, that's definitely sarcasm, mine, not Susan's) one-piece gym uniforms we had to wear in that era. At one time, we also went to Penney's for Girl Scout uniforms and paraphernalia. That's also where my mom bought my underwear, which you didn't need to know, but I thought I'd throw that in.
I loved watching the pneumatic tubes woosh money and receipts between floors, high-tech store entertainment for kids in the 1950s.
If I'm not remembering the store layout correctly, or if you want to add more details about the store that you remember, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.]
Even after Penney's opened a larger, more modern store in the new Northern Lights Shoppers City in 1956, the Ambridge store stayed open for over two more decades. I've been unable to find out when the Ambridge store closed, but it appears ads listing both stores stopped at some point in 1968; after that, ads mentioned only the Northern Lights Penney's. If you know when the Ambridge Penney's store closed, please leave a comment.
This is what the former Penney's building looked like in 2014. Although the sign says Sol's, that business had already closed in January 2014. The building appeared to be vacant the last time I visited Ambridge in 2015.
|601 Merchant St.|
March 30, 2014