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.