|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?