Sunday, November 18, 2018

Old Economy Hotel, 14th and Merchant Sts.

"14th St. showing Old Economy Hotel, Economy Pa."
postcard circa 1907
photo circa late 1880s

This postcard shows the intersection of the streets that are now 14th and Merchant Sts. looking west, so towards the river. The large three-story building on the left is the long-gone Old Economy Hotel.

The postcard was never mailed, so there's no postmark, but a postcard like it in the Old Economy Village Archives was dated and mailed in 1907.

Built by the Harmonists, the hotel was one of the oldest buildings in the new borough of Ambridge.

Old Economy Hotel ad
Ambridge-Economy Citizen
December 16, 1904

In its day, the hotel was well-regarded by visitors to Economy and a stopping point for travelers and bicyclists. A number of famous people stayed at the Old Economy Hotel including Lafayette, Rudyard Kipling, and about-to-be President William Henry Harrison on the way to his inauguration. In Christiana F. Knoedler's book, The Harmony Society, she says, "The Economy Hotel was noted for its famous chicken-and-waffle suppers. It was also a haven for sleighing parties organized by young Sewickley people on snowy winter nights."

Oddly for a such a widely-known landmark building, exactly what happened to the hotel remains a mystery, even to the experts at Old Economy Village. Sarah Buffington, the OEV curator, told me that the hotel was either destroyed by fire or simply razed "perhaps in 1905."

But I found that as late as 1906, the hotel was fighting the loss of its liquor license in court. At the time of the court case, liquor could only be served in the Economy section of Ambridge--the area north of 8th St. The part of Ambridge south of 8th St. was legally dry. The court decision notes that until 1905, the Old Economy Hotel was the only licensed hotel in Ambridge. However, in 1905, two new hotels were built and given liquor licenses. Those were the Ambridge Hotel and the Grand Hotel. That decision rested on the fact that the Economy area only needed two licenses, and the public would be better served by giving those to the "modern" new hotels rather than to the more than 50 years-old Old Economy Hotel. (McCrory's License, Pennsylvania Superior Court Reports, Vol. 31)

I've wondered if the Old Economy Hotel's loss of its liquor license led to a drop in business resulting in its closing and eventual demolition.

In the late 1960s, the Pennsylvania Museum Commission proposed rebuilding the hotel on its original site. A photo identical to the above postcard's was published in a March 29, 1968, Beaver County Times article about the state's plan. The caption for the photo said that it was taken in the late 1880s. The plan to rebuild the hotel was never carried out.

I'm still hoping to find more information on what happened to the hotel and when it disappeared from 14th and Merchant.

At present, Elderberry Court, an assisted living facility, is where the Old Economy Hotel once stood.

Update November 21, 2018: Here's a scan of the reverse of the postcard, showing it has an undivided back. This type of postcard, which did not permit a message on the address side, was allowed by U.S. Postal regulations beginning December 24, 1901. Postcards with divided backs were allowed beginning March 1, 1907.

Reverse of postcard

The Old Economy Village Archives has at least three postcards with the same photo as the one at the top of this post..

Two are black-and-white. As mentioned in the article, one is dated and postmarked 1907; the other has an undated message on the front, but the address side isn't shown, so I don't know if there's a postmark or not. However, OEV gives the date of this postcard as 1906 - 1908.

The third postcard has the same photo, but it's been hand-colored. OEV says this postcard is also from 1906 - 1908.

In addition, the OEV Archives has an undated black-and-white photograph of the scene on the postcard. The only difference I can see is that the photo shows more of 14th St. above Merchant St. in the foreground. [End of update.]

[Update November 25, 2018: I don't know (yet) when the name of the hotel was changed from Economy Hotel to Old Economy Hotel. It might have been in the late 1880s, the era attributed to the postcard's photo by the Beaver County Times. However, I have found a series of ads in the Pittsburgh Press from the late 1890s promoting the Old Economy Hotel. Here's one of them:

"Notice to Cyclists"
Old Economy Hotel ad
Pittsburgh Press
September 2, 1896

The original print in the Press is very small, and enlarging it only made the text blurry, so here's what it says:
NOTICE TO CYCLISTS--Cyclists and others will find good roads and superior accommodations at the Old Economy hotel: for summer we offer to families pure air and home comfort, and to the tired business man, the delights of a country residence within a few miles of his business, railroad facilities unsurpassed; chicken and waffle suppers specialty.--ALF. M. McCashey, Proprietor
End of update]

Monday, September 3, 2018

After the 1933 Spang-Chalfant strike violence, the immediate aftermath

This blog post is a continuation of the story of the October 5, 1933, Spang-Chalfant anti-strike violence in Ambridge PA. If you haven't yet read about it, I recommend you read my blog post telling the story, illustrated by a number of photos and a newsreel: "Ambridge 1933 anti-union strike violence at Spang-Chalfant." If you have already read it, consider re-reading it. It's a shocking and sad story appropriate for Labor Day.

Strikebreakers on patrol after ending the strike at Spang-Chalfant
AP photo
October 6, 1933

Here's the Associated Press description on the back of the above photo:
Guard Steel Property: Deputies Sheriff are shown patrolling the railroad lines beside an Ambridge, PA., steel plant, around which there has been sporadic warfare between pickets and officers for several days. Tear gas and rifle fire have been resorted to by officers to halt the activity of pickets. 
Since I first started researching the story of that strike, I have been struck by how the workers who were trying to unionize were not only beaten, shot, and teargassed by deputized strikebreakers, but also I've frequently been taken aback by the number of local officials who led, condoned, or were complicit in the violence against the strikers, including the Beaver County Sheriff Charles J. O'Loughlin, County Detective Robert Branyan, Ambridge Burgess P. J. Caul, and county District Attorney, A. B. de Castrique, as well as local police.

But the mistreatment of the workers, or those suspected of being union sympathizers, didn't stop when the strike did.

A 1995 article in the Buffalo Law Review * describes some of post-strike incidents:
The next day, three carloads of police patrolled the streets breaking up groups of three or more at gun point, even on the steps of their homes. Many were routinely searched. Police raided the offices of the strikers to arrest several leaders of the strike, carrying off records and cash, without warrants. Leaders spent days in jail until released on habeas corpus. More than twenty men were fired at Spang-Chalfant. 
"Injured men were also interrogated about their work before treatment."

"Police violently interfered with people going to the funeral of the man killed [Adam Petrasuski], and two women, Edith Brisker and May Ecker, were arrested when they tried to speak to the crowd."

The Law Review article also tells the story of how a community member not involved in the strike was not only shot by the deputies, but also mistreated by the very people who should have cared for him:
Abuse was not limited to pickets, a bread delivery man showed the extent of municipal control.
 I was near Twenty-fourth Street. There were no pickets or strikers there. A bunch of deputies, not among those who came in from the outside but from those who were inside shot at me. They were stationed on the railroad tracks. I did not know what for. I had no stick or anything. I was just watching from a distance what was happening when the fellows from the railroad tracks shot at me hitting me in the back. . . . 
 When I first came to the hospital I had to hang around in the waiting room. I was very sick, so I found a bench and lay down. Pretty soon someone came to me, I don't know whether he was a doctor or who, I was too sick to look up. He asked me "where you work?" I was too sick to reply. 
 The same evening Dr. F.C. Forcey who is on the staff of the Sewickley Valley hospital and who is also the company physician of the Spang-Chalfant Company said to me "You are a red." I said "sure, can't you see all the blood from my wounds." Then he said "You ought to be shot." 
 Then Dr. Boruku, the second day when he went to take the bandage off the wounds, asked me whether I cry. I said no. Then he tore the bandage off my arms, tearing the hair with it. "You must be tough," he said. Then when he started taking the bandage off my head he said "We're going to have fun now." He tried to tear it off. It hurt terribly, tears were rolling down my eyes, but I said nothing. He could not tear the head bandage off, so he took the scissors and cut my hair.
After I collect more information, I hope to write more about what happened in Ambridge in the aftermath of the 1933 strike. Until then, on this Labor Day, think about how people literally fought and died for the employment rights and benefits many U. S. workers have today.

* Casebeer, Kenneth (Winter, 1995) "Aliquippa: The Company Town and Contested Power in the Construction of Law," 43 Buffalo L. Rev. 617

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ambridge streetcar #1, 1906

Ambridge's streetcar #1
(possibly January 1) 1906
courtesy John Dunn collection

Why were all these men and children, dressed for cold weather--and way in the back of the left side of the crowd, a horse--gathered in the 400 block of Merchant St. around a streetcar? I assume it must have been an important event. And where were the women? In the streetcar? Not invited? Too busy to come?

While local historian Bill Bowan left some notes on the back of the photo about the area where it was taken, he didn't include an explanation of the reason the group posed with the streetcar, which if you look closely, has a number on the front--"1."

I believe that the photo may show Ambridge's first streetcar on the day it began service. But I have no confirmation of that identification.

The French Point Street Railway Co. made its first run on January 1, 1906, over still unpaved Merchant St.  Going south, the two-car line's route was French Point to 4th St., then west to Maplewood where it turned south again until 1st St., turned east and looped back to Merchant St. for the trip north. (Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory, 1956)

To provide the power to run the system when it began, the operators, rather cleverly I think, temporarily used the boilers and engines still in the former Harmonist laundry building, with the addition of electrical generators and machinery. A permanent power system was planned for the spring of 1906. (Ambridge-Economy Citizen, Dec. 28, 1905)

Future plans for the French Point Street Railway Co. also included:
  • connecting the south end of the French Point line to the Pittsburgh Railways Co. line in Leetsdale, eventually connecting Ambridge with Pittsburgh, and  
  • connecting the north end of Ambridge's line to the Beaver Valley Traction Co. lines in Baden via the newly completed Duss Ave.--once the new steel viaduct over Legionville Hollow was finished. This connection would allow riders to travel between Ambridge and Beaver.

In 1934, the Beaver Valley Traction Co., then operating the streetcars in Ambridge, replaced them with buses. (Daily Citizen, March 31, 1939) The old streetcar tracks on Merchant were covered with blacktop in 1958 (Beaver Valley Times, July 29, 1958), but reappear from time to time during resurfacing.

The area of 5th and Merchant Sts.

The tall building you can see behind the streetcar is the razed Ambridge Savings and Trust Co. building on the northeast corner of Merchant and 5th Sts.

Here's what Bill Bowan's handwritten note on the back of the photo said:
About-1906--Ambridge Pa. Looking North toward 5th St. on Merchant.
Empty Lot on corner became "Regent" Theatre and Goldstein's Clothing Store downstairs.--2nd Flr. Andy Labenz has 12 Bowling Alleys--Duckpins, and Pool Tables. Regent Theatre became "Penn" Theatre. Witmeyers Drugs--became Freymark Drugs. M. Libermans Mens Furnishing Shop became Heberlines Jeweler-Optician and Musical Store--Wm. J. Bowan -73.
Between the occupation by the Regent and Penn Theatres, another theater was in the building eventually built on the southeast corner of 5th and Merchant--the Senate.

Freymark Drugs was at 513 Merchant, so perhaps the building with the ad painted on the side?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Stangl Baking Co., 1920

Stangl Baking Co.
Wagner and Merchant Sts.
courtesy Lorianne Stangl Burgess

In 1920, Paul Stangl, Sr. opened Stangl Baking Co. at the corner of Wagner and Merchant Sts. After Paul Stangl, Sr. died in the late 1930s, his son Paul Stangl, Jr., who had been operating his own business at 572 Merchant, took over the company.

I've enlarged the lower right of the photo to better show the people in the photo:

The man standing next to the bakery truck is Paul Stangl, Sr. The little boy in the truck is his son, Alfred Stangl. The women in the doorway are unidentified, and if you look very closely, there's someone standing behind the women, probably Paul Stangl, Jr.

Here's what the interior of the bakery looked like in 1920:

Stangl Baking Co. interior
Wagner and Merchant Streets
courtesy Lorianne Stangl Burgess

Lorianne Stangl Burgess who owns the current Stangl's Bakery at 572 Merchant is the great-granddaughter of Paul Stangl, Sr.

You can read about the history of Stangl's Bakery here. If you haven't read that Ambridge Memories article yet, check out the collection of vintage Stangl's photos.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Ambridge memorabilia: Ambridge Hotel plate

Ambridge Hotel plate
circa 1905
Bob Mikush collection

This lovely Ambridge Hotel porcelain plate is 6 1/2 inches across. I wrote about the history of the Ambridge Hotel, built in 1905, on April 27, 2014.

Here's a closeup view of the plate's center:

According to the information of the back of the plate, it was made in Germany for the Ambridge News Co. 

I have very little information about the Ambridge News Co., including how long the company was in business. While I've found ads mentioning the Ambridge News Co. in issues of the Pittsburgh Press from 1905, 1906, and 1911, and another in a 1938 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, no address or other information was provided.

However, the company was the publisher of many early Ambridge postcards. One bit of information about the business comes from the temperance march postcard in my blog post about the 400 block of Merchant St. It was published by the "Ambridge News Co., Horlick Bros.," which leads me to think the Ambridge News Co. was connected to prominent Ambridge newsdealer Steve Horlick.

Because the plate was made for the Ambridge News Co., and not the Ambridge Hotel, I believe it was made as a souvenir and not for the hotel's use. That belief is supported by other information on the plate's back: "Wheelock" was a major U. S. importer of souvenir china from the late 1890s until WWI.

Mark on back of Ambridge Hotel plate

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ambridge memorabilia: Ambridge Savings and Loan Association passbook

Ambridge Savings and Loan Assoc. passbook
savings account of Eddie Dzubak, Sr. and Marie Dzubak
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

Once upon a time, customers of banks and similar businesses kept track of their deposits, interest earnings, and withdrawals with a passbook like the one above. This Ambridge Savings and Loan passbook belonged to the late Eddie Dzubak Sr. and his wife, Marie Dzubak, also deceased.

Ambridge Savings and Loan: the answer to that frequently asked question: What was between Davidson's and Economy Bank?

Ambridge Savings & Loan
506 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
March 4, 1970

The former Ambridge Savings & Loan building is now the location of WesBanco Bank.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The first Ambridge High School

Ambridge High School
740 Park Road
Daily Citizen supplement
August 10, 1929
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives

The first Ambridge High School was built on Park Rd. in 1913-14, back-to-back with Second Ward School (later the Ambridge Recreation Center) which faced Maplewood. The High School opened in September 1914.

Before the first high school was built, high school students shared grade school buildings with younger students.*

Both junior and senior high students attended school in the Park Rd. building until a new Jr. High School was built on Duss Ave. in 1925. After the Jr. High opened, only Senior High students continued to attend school in the Park Rd. building until a new Senior High School annex was added to the Duss Ave. Jr. High School building. That addition opened in 1938.

Ambridge High School
740 Park Rd.

After the Senior High students moved to Duss Ave., the Park Rd. building became an elementary school called Park Road School.  In 1972, the Ambridge School Board closed Park Road School, and the building became the Ambridge Area School District Central Administrative Offices. In 2011, it became the location of the Center for Hope.

First Ambridge High School building,
later Park Road School,740 Park Rd.
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

At one time, Ambridge had eight school buildings crowded with students: First Ward, Second Ward, Fourth Ward, Harmony, Liberty, the first Ambridge High School (later Park Road School), Ambridge Jr. High School (later Ambridge Jr. - Sr. High School), and Anthony Wayne Elementary. Only two of those school buildings are still standing--the first High School/Park Road building and Anthony Wayne (although much altered from the original structure). Neither building is still used as a school by the Ambridge Area School District.

* Information on the different Ambridge school buildings where high school students once attended classes is somewhat conflicting. As I continue to gather more information about the history of the Ambridge schools, I hope to accurately resolve the conflicts.

The 1955 Ambridge Golden Jubilee Program gave these dates:
  • 1904 - 1912: Fourth Ward School;
  • 1912 - 1913: First Ward School;
  • 1913 - 1914: Harmony School.

The 1944 Bridger yearbook provided this information:
  • 1904 - 1911: Fourth Ward School;
  • 1911 - 1914: First Ward and Harmony buildings.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Women walking south on 400 block of Merchant St., circa 1905

Women walking south on west side of 400 block Merchant St.
circa 1905
courtesy Ambridge Borough

This early Ambridge photo shows two unidentified women walking south on the 400 block of Merchant St., still unpaved. The photo is undated, but based on the buildings already constructed on Merchant, I'd put the year around 1905.

On the right, behind the group of three men, are the buildings that I believe were 454, 458, and 462 Merchant St., now razed. According to a 1905 Sanborn Insurance map, those buildings were then occupied by a grocery, "news" (perhaps Jacob Henrici's book store?), and drug store respectively.

In the background, you can see the 5th St. side of the original Ambridge Savings and Trust Co. building. It's the building behind the two women's hats. It also was razed and is now the location of the drive-through of WesBanco bank.

For more vintage views of the 400 block of Merchant, check out the blog post, "400 block of Merchant Street: vintage views," from October 30, 2014.

When I posted the photo, I wondered where these women might be going to or coming from.

My first thought was "church." The three men across Merchant from the women are wearing suits. And so many churches held services in the Ambridge Savings Trust Co. building early in their history.

There doesn't seem to be much activity on Merchant. There may be a carriage or wagon peeking out between the two women. There are a few other walkers: in addition to the two women and three men that are easy to see, there's another man in front of the buildings on the right. And there are more people on the sidewalk in the far background.

But I don't really have anything else to go on right now.

I also wonder if this photo was taken the same day as the one of two men at the top of the October 31, 2017, blog post, "400 block of Merchant St., 1904, 1909, 1910, and 1915." That photo is dated 1904. Some of the same buildings are in both photos and the street is unpaved in both.

On the other hand, the street and sidewalk look cleaner in today's photo. Plus the west side of the street looks somewhat more developed, since I can see the fronts of the buildings that once had balconies.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A memory: My dad and me, 1952

Me and my dad, Paul (Rusty) Bohinsky
backyard of 1522 Beaver Rd.
August 1952
courtesy of Agatha Bohinsky

I was two years old when this photo of me and my dad, Paul (Rusty) Bohinsky was taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in, 1522 Beaver Rd.

My dad would have been 31 then. He had red hair and was heavily freckled from face to foot. He was a WWII vet and a fitter at American Bridge Co. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and bowling and loved his children fiercely. He died in 2006.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ambridge memorabilia: Martsolf Furniture Co. advertising postcard, 1912

Martsolf Furniture Co. advertising postcard
postmarked 1912

This lovely postcard, mailed in 1912, advertised furniture, and seems to be directed primarily towards newlyweds.

Marsolf Furniture Co. was one of the earliest businesses in Ambridge, opening in 1904 at a new building on the southeast corner of 8th and Merchant Sts. After the store closed, its building became the location of Caplan Wholesale Grocery.

Here's the back of the postcard:

Back of postcard above

Thursday, May 17, 2018

S.P. Kristufek and his stores

Stephen P.  and M. A. Kristufek's store
intersection of Merchant and Beaver Sts.
circa 1903
courtesy of Karl Urda

In 1903, Stephen (Stefan) Kristufek, a Slovak immigrant, moved to the new community of Ambridge and opened a store at the no-longer-existing intersection of Merchant and Beaver Sts. I'd previously written briefly about S. P. Kristufek's stores in an article about the series of "Triangle Buildings" at that intersection.

The photo at the top of this article is of that first store.* I don't have identifying information about the people in the photo, but I'd guess that they may include Kristufek and his wife, Mary, and that the children are some of their eight children who survived infancy.

Josh Selley, S.P. Kristufek's great-grandson, gave me some information about this store:
On November 27, 1903 he bought the corner lot there at 120 Merchant street and built a four room and then increased to a twelve room store. It first started out as a clothing business and then he increased to groceries, meat, hardware and furniture
You can also see Charles Kristufek's General Store, 300 First St., in the photo's background, right. Charles, a prominent Ambridge businessman and builder, was Stephen's older brother. It was Charles Kristufek's grandson, the late Karl Urda, who shared with me the rare photos at the top of this article and immediately below. (In the rest of this article, "Kristufek" refers to S.P. Kristufek, the owner of the Triangle stores.)

S.P. Kristufek's first store, interior
circa 1903
courtesy Karl Urda

The early ad below shows Ambridge's "Big Store" included a restaurant and offered boarding and rooming.

S. P. Kristufek's Store
Ambridge-Economy Citizen
December 16, 1904

This first store was destroyed in a fire on September 6, 1908, in what was called the worst fire in Ambridge's young history. Ambridge mythos has long linked the fire to S. P. Kristufek's receipt of a "Black Hand" extortion letter the previous winter, demanding $200 protection money, which Kristufek refused to pay. However, the Aliquippa Standard of September 11, 1908, reported that Kristufek said he didn't believe the fire was connected to the Black Hand letter, although he didn't offer a theory about how the fire may have started.

The Standard also reported that the bakery of Christopher Damakos (note different spelling of last name by the Gazette Times in quote below) was in the same building and damaged in the fire.

The September 7, 1908, (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times article about the fire said the fire began in the bakery. The article begins:
The first landmarks of the new town of Ambridge with four horses were burned early yesterday morning, despite the efforts of the Fair Oaks, Economy, Ambridge and American Bridge Company's fire departments. The loss is $7,500, cover by insurance. "Triangle Square," the pride of the new steel town, went up in smoke because of an overheated oven in Christopher Damak's bakery, which occupied one building. Several persons narrowly escaped with their lives. 
Undeterred by the fire, Kristufek built a second store. The history of the construction of that second store is a bit murky as of now, and I'm still looking for more information. Selley told me:
That same year he rebuilt the store and it was all wood, no brick. On November 26, 1908 he contracted to have the store made to be brick $4.50 for 1000 bricks. It took 100,000 bricks.
Maria Notarianni found a photo of the second store being constructed--or maybe having a brick facade added to a wooden building--in The Lather, a 1909 publication of the Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers' International Union.

New S. P. Kristufek's Department Store
120 Merchant Street
The Lather
Vol. 9, No. 7
May 1909

Original text: 
The above illustrates S. P. Kristufek's new triangular store, which is being erected on the site of one burned last fall. Mr. Kristufek will be seen in the foreground. This work is in Ambridge, Pa. and is being done by local 263's men. Brother Linhorn as foreman, Warren, Buckles and Skinner.
The photo below shows the second S.P. Kristufek store, sometimes misidentified as the Kristufek store that burned down.

The man in the apron is S. P. Kristufek.* the woman on the left side of the store wearing an apron is his wife, Mary; daughter Rose, Selley's grandmother, is standing near Mary. Kristufek's mother is standing in front of the building.

S. P. Kristufek Department Store
intersection of Merchant St and Beaver Rd. (now Beaver St.)
William Bowan collection

The 1912 photo was featured in a September 12, 1983, Beaver County Times article, "Nostalgia--Marketing returns the good old days" by Joe Tronzo, Beaver County Times staff.

Tronzo wrote: "Kristufek's sold meat, groceries, paints, varnishes, clothes, furniture, carpets, and everything from flypaper to wedding gowns." 

Tronzo noted the stable behind the store on the Beaver Rd. side and the horse and wagon used for deliveries. And that dark sculpture-like thing at the intersection's point?  That's a three-level water trough: one bowl for humans, a big one for horses, and the lowest one for dogs.

The Nov. 24, 1913, Pittsburgh Press reported on a Kristufek's store employee, Mary Susineck, chasing, then tussling with a burglar at the store:

Kristufek's store burglary article
Pittsburgh Press
November 24, 1913

In 1914 Kristufek enlarged the store building to 20 rooms and then 30 rooms, according to Selley.

The well-located department store was an enormous success. In November 26, 1916, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article said that the S. P. Kristufek Department Store, "known throughout the district as the 'Big Triangle,' is one of the busy centers of the community."

Look at the wide variety of items once sold in the Kristufek's store.

Envelope with advertising for Stephen P. and M. A. Kristufek's store
circa 1903 - 1918
courtesy Josh Selley

According to Selley, Kristufek sold the Triangle building in 1919, and bought another at 133 Merchant St. before moving back to Pittsburgh where he restarted his business. He died on February 22, 1934.

In 1930, a store at The Triangle, then reportedly operated by Abraham Redlich, and owned by his mother, Mary, was destroyed by a fire. (The Daily Times, March 17, 1930). I think this may explain what eventually happened to the second store built by S.P. Kristufek, but I haven't yet verified that the Redlich's store was then operating in the building built by Kristufek.

The Stephen P. and Mary A. Kristufek family:

S.P. and Mary A. Kristufek and children
circa 1911
courtesy Josh Selley

Top row left to right: Phillip, Mary, Stephen E. (eldest), and Jeanette;

Middle row left to right: Lydia, Mary A., Stephen P., and Rose;

Bottom row left to right: John and Charles.

Another child, Katherine, died in infancy.

Stephen P. and Mary A. Kristufek
in front of their Pittsburgh home
circa late 1920s - early 1930s
courtesy Josh Selley

* The angle of the photos of Kristufek's two stores make them look extremely narrow. However, because the lot where the stores were built was triangular, the width of the buildings increased as the width of the lot increased.

Here's a snip from a 1905 Sanborn Insurance map that shows the shape of the first Kristufek store. It's the building labeled "Hotel Kristufek."

Kristufek General Store
"Hotel Kristufek"
Sanborn Insurance map

And speaking of shapes: Does anyone know what the triangular frames on the roof of the first Kristufek store are?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A memory: My mom and me, 1952

My mom, Agatha Bohinsky, and me
backyard of 1522 Beaver Rd.
August 1952
courtesy of Agatha Bohinsky

I don't know why my mom, Agatha Bohinsky, and I were all dressed up and wearing hats that day in August 1952. Maybe church?

The photo was taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in, 1522 Beaver Rd.

My mom, 91, still lives in that house.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Eleventh and Merchant Sts. circa 1935 - 36

Ambridge Post Office under construction
circa 1935 - 36
courtesy First Baptist Church of Ambridge

I had never seen this wonderful photo showing the construction of the Ambridge Post Office before the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ambridge, Rev. Matt Klenk, showed it to me. Rev. Matt found it in an old storage box at the church.

In the foreground, the foundation for the Ambridge Post Office, 1020 Merchant St., is being built. Although the photo isn't dated, ground was broken for the post office on Nov. 25, 1935, and the building was dedicated Aug. 15, 1936.

But while an early photo of the post office's construction is nice, I think it's the inclusion of the buildings in the background that make this photo special.

The photo was shot looking northwest from the Post Office.

The building with snow on the roof is the First Baptist Church, 300 Eleventh St., not looking much different than it does today. The church was built in 1917.

Peeking out to the church's left is Laughlin Memorial Library, 99 Eleventh St., dedicated in 1929.

The long building in the background on the right side is now the location of the Tick Tock. According to Beaver County real estate assessment records, the building at 1101 Merchant St. was built in 1920; however, there are no buildings on the northwest corner of 11th and Merchant shown on a 1924 insurance map, so I'm puzzled. I'll keep looking for more information, including the name of the business that was in that building in 1936.

And look! There's already a gas station on the southwest corner of 11th and Merchant. I wish I could read the name on the station's sign. There's a BP and Ambridge Mini Mart on that corner now.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

S. Jurkowski Beer Distributor

S. Jurkowski Beer Distributor ad
Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

Paul Jurkowski (AHS Class of '67), the little boy second from the right in the photo, was able to provide the names of the Jurkowski family members standing in front of the beer trucks, but not the other people. If you know who they are, please let me know.

Left to Right:

Rusty Jurkowski (died 1999),
Raymond Jurkowski (St. Veronica HS, 1967),
Stanley Jurkowski, Sr (died 1962),
Paul Jurkowski (AHS 1967),
Stanley Jurkowski, Jr (died 1973)

Paul sent me a brief history of the distributorship's locations:
The business was originally at 545 Eighth St. (now a vacant lot on the west side of the Kasper funeral home) prior to moving to [606] Duss Ave., and then 1154 Merchant St.  The primary customers were the ethnic social clubs in Ambridge, the 1956 trade directory lists the great majority of them.
An aside, I once delivered a barrel of beer to the wrong Ukrainian club!....only in Ambridge!
Here's a more recent photo of 606 Duss Ave. Ross Auto Body shop was in the building for a long time. Does anyone know what, if anything, is in the building now?

606 Duss Ave.
March 30, 2014
Credit: Nancy Knisley


For a list of Ambridge's ethnic social clubs, see the Ambridge List of Lists on this blog. The list may not be complete, but it is extensive.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Ambridge view from a hill, 1905

I remember seeing the postcard below before I became so interested in Ambridge history and wondering back then if the photo was really of Ambridge. It's hard to identify old buildings from the sides, backs, and roofs, especially when the photo isn't sharp. Nothing looked familiar to me. And I couldn't see any of the familiar landmarks that would tell me "this can only be Ambridge," like the Old Economy church tower or the American Bridge office building. Is it possible the town might have been misidentified?

I know I wasn't the only person wondering about the identity of the town in the photo, because I've been asked "Is this really Ambridge?" several times. But I can now say with confidence, yes, it is Ambridge, because I have learned enough in the past several years to identify a few of the buildings. And a postcard message from 1905 helps too.

I've numbered the buildings I have IDed on the postcard. To see a larger view, click on the card:

Ambridge looking northwest from hill
circa 1905

While I've numbered the buildings from left to right, I'm going to start with #4 on the far right side, because, several years ago, that's the first building I thought I could identify.

#4. First St. Veronica Church, 8th St. and Glenwood Ave. Since razed.

St. Veronica Church
circa 1906

The next building I identified was #2, near the center:

#2. The long building with five single windows on the top floor, then groups of windows on the floor below, looks to me like the Ambridge Savings and Trust Co. building, once on the northeast corner of 5th and Merchant Sts., now also gone. The roof line is right.

Ambridge Savings and Trust buildings
5th and Merchant Sts.
circa 1920s
Louis Vukovcan collection
courtesy Jackie Vukovcan

#1. Based on the distinctive roof line with a cube on each end, I believe that #1 might be 439 Merchant St.  Vintage colored postcards show that building as red brick, with second and third floor balconies. It's the third building on the left side of the postcard below. That building still stands, but it's now painted white and its balconies are gone.

400 block of Merchant looking north

439 Merchant St.
October 3, 2014
credit: Nancy Knisley

3. The identical, closely spaced row of roofs are probably the houses on Melrose Ave. They're still there more than a century later.

"Melrose Avenue Looking West, Ambridge, Pa."
500 block of Melrose looking north
postmarked September 28, 1911

The message on a mailed copy of the postcard below clinched the identification for me, plus provided some interesting facts about early Ambridge I hadn't heard before--including why the postcard scene might be as hazy as it is.

"View of Ambridge, PA"
postmarked 1905 

The message on the card says:
My dear Uncle, You can't see the Bridge works in this picture--just a little smoke. We are 25 minutes ride from Pittsburg. Have been here over four months and haven't seen a bright morning yet. Pittsburg smoke covers us up. Like the work but don't like the country. Am going to move pretty soon. Am working on sky scrapers now. 8 hr days with Sat. P.M. off. Wages are good too Living expenses are correspondingly high. Sincerely Rex. (I think its signed Rex, but maybe Ray?)

Here's a scan of the reverse of the mailed postcard immediately above:

reverse of mailed postcard
Nov. 7, 1905

It looks to me as if the card's photo might have been taken from a hill near 3rd St. Any thoughts on the hill's location?

Thank you, Tom Martin, for the unmailed postcard at the top of this post.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

St. Veronica R. C. Church, 1904 - 2004

St. Veronica Church
Glenwood Ave. and 8th St., northeast corner
circa 1906
Good Samaritan Parish Archives

St. Veronica Roman Catholic Church was the first Catholic church built in Ambridge. Construction began in 1904, and the church dedicated in 1906. The church was located on the northeast corner of 8th St. (then called Bryden Rd.) and Glenwood Ave, on land the church's history says was formerly a Harmony Society wheat field.

Catholic mass was offered in Ambridge even before the church was built. On May 8, 1903, mass was held on the third floor of the Ambridge Savings and Trust Building, at the intersection of 5th and Merchant Sts.

Construction of the church began in late 1904, but bad weather caused work to be suspended until the following spring. The bad weather delayed progress on the building even further, because it had caused damage to some of the existing bricks, and those had to be replaced. The replacement of the bricks may explain the change in the color of the bricks near the top of the front of the church, visible in the photo above, but not as apparent in later photos.

In the meantime, attendance at Sunday mass had continued to grow, and in August 1905, Sunday masses were moved to Jenny's Hall, located above a livery stable, on the corner of 8th St. and Merchant Sts. 

As you can imagine, the location above a stable was less than pleasant, especially in the summer months, so services were moved into the still-unfinished church building on Aug. 5, 1906. At the time, not all the church windows were yet in place, and there was no furniture inside the building--but at least there were no horses sharing it.

St. Veronica Church
circa 1906

St. Veronica Church altar
Good Samaritan Parish Archives

Eventually, the parish built a rectory in 1913, a school in 1922-23, and a convent in 1926. The rectory and convent are still standing. The original school building was razed in 1970; its location is now a parking lot for Good Samaritan Parish.

"St Veronica's Church and Rectory"
circa 1913

St. Veronica Church interior
Good Samaritan Parish Archives

St. Veronica School and Convent
postmarked Aug. 27, 1929

St. Veronica parish buildings, looking west
clockwise from lower right: church, rectory, convent, school
Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

As the parish grew, plans were made in the mid-1950s for new church and school buildings, and construction started in 1958. In 1959, after part of the first building was completed, on the corner of 7th St. and Glenwood Ave., church services temporarily moved into what was planned to eventually be the building's gymnasium, shown in photo below.

St. Veronica Church
7th St. and Glenwood Ave.
Archives & Records Center of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

It later became clear that completion of the planned new church would be too costly, and the temporary church became a permanent one. After the closing of the other four of Ambridge's Roman Catholic churches--Divine Redeemer, St. Stanislaus, Christ the King, and Holy Trinity--in 2004, St. Veronica Church was renamed Good Samaritan Church.

In 1962, the original church building was razed to make room for a new grade school building, notable for its round design. That school building still exists as Good Samaritan parish's Jericho Hall.

Razing of original St. Veronica Church
Beaver County Times
January 19, 1962

Beaver County Times caption:
OLD CHURCH RAZED -- Built when Ambridge became a borough in 1905, the old St. Veronica Catholic Church was razed Thursday to make room for a new elementary school. The St. Veronica congregation has been occupying a portion of the new school for over two years as a church.
The photo below shows the former St. Veronica Elementary School building, built where the original St. Veronica Church had been. (That's the first St. Veronica School back right; rectory back left.)

Former St. Veronica Elementary School
now Good Samaritan Church's Jericho Hall
Good Samaritan Parish Archives

When Good Samaritan Parish was created, the school became the Good Samaritan Catholic School. The school closed in 2005 because of declining enrollment and financial difficulties. Among other uses, the former school building serves as the location of the Good Samaritan Parish Archives.