Thursday, November 12, 2020

Laundry day, Ambridge's Marshall Alley homes, July 1938


Laundry hung between some Marshall Alley homes
"Housing conditions in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, home of the American Bridge Company"
Photographer: Arthur Rothstein
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 1938

It must be laundry day in some Marshall Alley homes. 

This is another of a series of photos photojournalist Arthur Rothstein took in July 1938 as part of a project for the Farm Security Administration, documenting life during the Great Depression. 

Most of the photos Rothstein took in Ambridge focused on the First St. area. The iconic photo of the Dead-End Pool built by First St. children, and the frequently shared photo of a girl in a wash tub, were taken by Rothstein.

The Marshall Alley projects consisted of three rows of homes, only two of which were on Marshall Alley. The third row faced First St. The rows ran between Merchant St. and Maplewood Ave. They were built circa 1904 and housed some of Ambridge's poorest families.

Location of Marshall Alley homes
snip from 1923 Sanborn Insurance map

Because the homes which were actually on Marshall Alley faced each other, as shown in the blog post "The children of Marshall Alley," and this photo shows the backs of two rows, it must have been taken behind the First St. row of homes. So in a Marshall Alley alley. 

Those are not outhouses attached to the back of the houses. I've been told that
 the additions were meant to help keep out the cold and dirt. I'm not sure how successful they were. Although the homes did not have a bathroom, each had a toilet in the basement. Someone who lived in a Marshall Alley home as a child remembered the basement as a dark and scary place, with rats scurrying past when someone came down the stairs. 

Laundry would probably have been done in big metal tubs like the one in the "girl in a wash tub" photo, with water heated on the stove, and perhaps scrubbed on washboards. 

The Marshall Alley homes were razed in the 1950s.