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