Painting of Bridgeville in 1890s donated to historical society
By John Oyler
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Bridgeville Area Historical Society recently acquired another valuable artifact — a painting of Bridgeville in the mid-1890s by F. R. (Frank) Russell, who produced this painting in 1929, probably mostly from memory.
He apparently gave it to Jimmy Patton, the resident Bridgeville historian.
When Jimmy left Bridgeville at the beginning of World War II, he left the painting with his sister, Jane. It has remained in the family ever since.
Recently, Patty Patton, another sister, donated it to the historical society in memory of Jimmy and Jane.
The painting depicts most of the community east of Washington Avenue, from a vantage point high above the intersection of Station Street and Washington Avenue.
A winter scene, it extends from the railroad station to the “Dry Bridge” that carries Chartiers Street over the railroad.
As an added bonus, someone has identified most of the buildings and streets and identified them on the back of the painting.
The historical society book, “Bridgeville,” features an 1887 photograph of the left half of the same area and a painting from the photograph made by David Rankin.
It is interesting to compare the two paintings and note Mr. Russell's “artistic license.”
His railroad station has a gable over its front door. His painting also shows a house next door to Foster's Store, probably one that was built during the time period between the two paintings.
The trees around the Norwood Hotel are larger in Russell's depiction, and there are more buildings adjacent to the hotel.
A large house behind Foster's on Station Street appears in both paintings; Russell's identifies it as the residence of “Lysander, Maggie, and Caroline Morgan.”
Mr. Russell shows the portion of Dewey Avenue as far as Bank Street, which then progresses “up the hill.”
Beyond Gregg Avenue he shows S. W. Patton's home and his home next door, with Herriott's across the street. Continuing up Bank Street on the south side are residences of S. B. Lyon and “Couch.”
On Chestnut Street is the home of Dr. Clarence Spahr, and on Elm Street that of Dr. George and John T. Shidle.
In the far distance are the house and barn of T. D. Lesnett.
Diagonally across Station Street from the railroad station is C. P. Mayer's Store. To the west, across the B & M (Bridgeville and McDonald) Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad is the Collins and Fryer Lumber Yard.
Prominent in the middle of the painting is “the Haw Tree.” It was a well-known landmark about halfway between the Dewey Avenue/Bank Street intersection and the railroad.
On the other side of the railroad Bank Street Extension is shown as “Buck Alley.”
North of it, along Washington Avenue, were “Mary Jane Lesnett's Rental Houses.”
There was a row of houses on the south side of Buck Alley, as well as on both sides of James Street — known as “Murray's Row.”
Four houses are shown along Washington Avenue, proceeding south from Buck Alley.
First was the home/office of Dr. S. R. Kiddoo, then the home of Winfield and Josie Reed.
Just south of James Street was Morgans' store and home. Finally, at 745 Washington Avenue, was the well-known “old Donaldson House”.
Several houses were shown on Chartiers Street between Washington Avenue and the railroad, including those of Ben Roach and James Roach.
The houses along Dewey Avenue, an area called “Dry Town,” included the Boyce residence on Chartiers Street. It is interesting that the developed area, south of McMillen Street and including Wesley McMillen's home, was connected to Washington Avenue by Chartiers Street, rather than by Station Street.
Farther up Chartiers between Gregg Avenue and Chestnut Street are “Benjamin Hastings' Houses.”
The area between Bank Street and McMillen is mostly open fields with what appear to be parallel hedge rows at Gregg and halfway between Gregg and Dewey Avenues.
In the right side of the painting can be seen the railroad leading south toward Mayview, and the trees around Melrose Cemetery in the distance.
This painting and the identification of buildings and other features on its back provide us with an impressive record of a major part of Bridgeville as it appeared well over a century ago.
John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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