Picture of Bridgeville in the 1890s serves as road map
By John Oyler
Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The ninth presentation in the Bridgeville Public Library/Bridgeville Area Historical Society series “Bridgeville Remembered” series was entitled “The Nineties;” it focused on the rapid growth of the Bridgeville community between 1890 and 1900.
The historical society recently acquired a painting of Bridgeville in 1893; the speaker used a picture of it as a road map for a hypothetical walk around the community in the 1890s.
It began at the southeast corner of Station Street and the Washington Pike, the location of the Fryer and Collins lumber yard in those days.
Later in the decade, Amos Fryer constructed the building that currently occupies that site and sold it to C. P. Mayer. Ultimately the Mayer family used the second floor of the building for their residence.
Proceeding east on Station Street, at the bottom of the hill was a new railroad line – the Pennsylvania's B. and M. (Bridgeville and McDonald) Branch. Constructed in 1892, it prospered by serving coal mines at Bishop, Sygan, and Morgan.
Passenger service on the Branch delivered passengers from Morgan to Bridgeville, Carnegie and Pittsburgh.
Next on Station Street was C.P. Mayer's General Store.
On Jan. 16, 1894, it was attacked by a mob of dissident coal miners from the Carnegie area. Mayer armed a posse of about two dozen men with Winchester rifles; when the posse encountered them, the miners scattered. A few of them were captured in Carnegie and arrested.
The railroad station was on the other side of Station Street and across the main line. By now the Chartiers Branch was quite prosperous. There were 12 trains a day through Bridgeville, including an express, called the Cannonball.
It left Washington at 8 a.m. and pulled into Union Station in Pittsburgh at 9 a.m., with stops at Canonsburg, Bridgeville and Carnegie. The Cannonball was one of the first trains to achieve “mile a minute” (60 miles an hour) speeds. It was clocked at that speed between Hill Station and Boyce Station on several occasions.
Samuel Foster's store, across Railroad Street from the station, was sufficiently successful that he was able to build a large, turreted residence at 727 Station St.
The building is still in existence, as is the Lysander Morgan house two doors away at 737 Station St. Business at the Norwood Hotel, on the other side of Station Street, was booming, with Pittsburghers spending weeks there in the summer and local citizens taking advantage of dinners, recitals, and concerts during the rest of the year.
Beyond the Morgan house was Dewey Avenue. The Donaldson family occupied Judge Baldwin's “Recreation” in an area later generations would call “Greenwood”. Dewey extended only as far as Bank Street in those days. Bank Street's intersection with Gregg Avenue was the location of three homes.
Directly across Bank Street was the residence of Samuel Patton. Mr. Patton apprenticed as a house painter and wallpaper hanger. He married Louisa Poellot in 1887; they built their new home at 701 Bank Street in 1893. Their four children included Leslie and Walter, both of whom had families prominent in the community.
Next door to Pattons was the residence of W. Frank Russell. He and his wife, Jennie Galbraith, came to Bridgeville in 1890, where he became station agent and telegrapher for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1895 he established a livery stable in Dr. Gilmore's barn, on the northeast corner of Station Street and the Washington Pike.
The seven Russell children included Frank, the artist who painted the picture that is the basis for our imaginary walk.
A block farther up Bank Street was Chestnut Street. In 1893 the only house on Chestnut was the residence of Dr. Clarence Spahr.
He came to Bridgeville in 1888 to take over his father's medical practice. The next intersecting street is Elm Street. The only house on Elm Street at this time was the home of Dr. George Shidle. All of these homes are still in existence.
In the painting, Thomas Dell Lesnett's house and farm can be seen in the far distance, along (Old) Lesnett Road. In 1898, Charles and Sarah Godwin purchased a large plot of land from the Bell family and initiated an impressive nursery business.
Space limitations force us to interrupt our journey at this point; it will be continued next week. The 10th presentation in this series, focusing on Bridgeville's secession from Upper St. Clair Township will occur at 7 p.m., July 18, in the Community Room at the Bridgeville Public Library. This date differs from the one originally announced.
John Oyler is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reacxhed at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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