Hypothetical tour of Bridgeville result of 1893 painting
This is the second half of a two-column sequence reporting on the ninth presentation in the Bridgeville Public Library/Bridgeville Area Historical Society series “Bridgeville Remembered.”
It features a hypothetical walk around Bridgeville in 1893, based on Frank Russell's painting of the community as it appeared that year. Last week was devoted to the left half of the painting, ending up at the top of Bank Street.
This week, we will consider the right half of Russell's painting.
Far to the south one can see Melrose Cemetery, which went into operation in the 1880s.
Prominent houses on the Pike include “the old Donaldson House” at 745 Washington Ave., the Morgan family home and store, the Roach residence, Dr. S. R. Kildoo's residence and office and Mary Jane Lesnett's rental houses.
The houses on James Street were called “Murray's Row” on the painting. Proceeding up Chartiers Street from the Washington Pike, one passes two homes owned by James and John Roach before reaching the bridge over the railroad. This bridge is dubbed “the dry bridge,” and the neighborhood along Dewey Avenue is designated “Dry Town” on the painting.
A Boyce family occupies a house at the corner of Dewey and Chartiers Streets. Wesley McMillen has a home on Orchard Avenue. The large home of Benjamin Hastings is at the corner of Chartiers and Chestnut streets.
We must use our imagination to fill in most of the rest of the community.
Bethany Church and its manse are at the southern end. The Rev. Anthony Mealy replaced Rev. Sheeley in 1892, depriving the local residents of the spectacle of the minister pedaling furiously up the Pike on his high-wheeled bicycle, with his long white beard trailing behind.
In 1894 Roman Catholic Bishop Phelan dispatched Monsignor Steven Walsh to Bridgeville to establish a parish. Their first services were held in a vacant store front at 207 Washington Ave.
Walsh was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Gillen and then by the Rev. Roger Doherty. The priests lived with the Joseph Lutz family, at the corner of Murray and Washington avenues.
In 1892, a new school was built on Washington Avenue at the location of the future Washington Grade School. It was a two-story, frame building.
The first class to complete 11 years of schooling graduated in 1893. A photograph of the class includes Mary Melvin, Grace Lesnett, Mary Jones, Leith Baird and Edna Fryer. Also included is a man identified as A. M. Kelley, apparently their teacher.
At the corner of Bower Hill Road and Washington Avenue was Billy Winstein's store, a popular gathering spot in the building previously known as Murray Hall.
Winstein came to Bridgeville in the 1880s. In addition to his mercantile career, his fiddle playing was the highlight of local dances and concerts.
Another prominent businessman to arrive in Bridgeville was John F. Hosack. He came from Mercer County where he had a successful coal mining career, and purchased the Bridgeville mine from Schulte & Mayer in 1895. He also established a prosperous business selling “Coal, Flour, & Feed.”
The Bridgeville Hotel, owned and operated by Matt Mallory, was well established at this time. Never as elegant as the Norwood, this facility served for many years as a temporary home for newly arrived working families in the community. Immigrants from Europe continued to arrive during the 1890s — Andrew Bonosky, Joseph Browner, Joseph Hollman, Jimmy Lynch, Isaiah Rovesti, Jacob Shadish, Stephen Vosel, John Wolf and William Woodall — and make their contribution to the “melting pot.”
Three miles south of Bridgeville, on Chartiers Creek, the institution that would be known as Mayview State Hospital was opened by the City of Pittsburgh in 1893 as a replacement for their almshouse.
It was originally called Marshalsea, named for the famous London debtors' prison. The negative connotations of the name resulted in its being changed to Mayview in 1916. A haven for the indigent, orphans, unwed mothers, the mentally ill and for folks suffering from tuberculosis, the institution served 340 inmates in the 1890s.
By the end of the 19th century Bridgeville had become a self-sufficient community with a well- developed business district and residential neighborhoods popping up.
The leading businessmen were busy promoting a plan for Bridgeville to leave Upper St. Clair Township and become an autonomous borough.
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.