Downtown Kittanning Eatery

With the population nearing its peak in Kittanning and before corporate restaurants took over, plenty of Kittanning families provided home-cooked meals to the busy downtown area. One such place was G. F. Walker’s Restaurant. This would be one of the first business that you would’ve seen as you came across the Kittanning Bridge. It was located at the current location of Allegheny Real Estate on the corner of Market and South Water St.

Originally form Sykesville, PA. George F. Walker first occupation was providing home cooked meals in Kittanning.  Prior to the Restaurant business he was listed as a motorman for the trolley, then living in Wickboro. A 1904 directory lists 932 rear Orr Ave. as his residence. I’ve located a newspaper article stating that he resigned form the trolley company in 1910. Then in a 1911 advertisement in a School Directory, an ad was placed for his Restaurant business located below. (George F. Walker is wearing an apron with the suspenders in the photo)

George F. Walker’s Restaurant Located at Market and S. Water Street (Photo from Diane Wolfgang Ross)

The angled door entrance would have been right on the corner of the sidewalks at Markets and S. Water Street as shown below where the Allegheny Real Estate sign is located.

Same Location as Restaurant (Photo by Pete Harmon)


1911 Adverstisment


Having several occupations during his lifetime, George F. Walker was born in Skyesville, PA in 1871. From around 1900 till 1910 he worked for the Kittanning and Leechburg Railway Company in Kittanning which was established around 1890. The trolley would have run in front of his Orr Ave. residence.

George F. Walker’s brother-in-law prior to 1900 established a Cafe.  Alvin George was the owner of George’s Cafe, at that time located at Market and South Mckean Street about 2 blocks away the current location of Dizzy Lizzies. Did Alvin George have an influence, or did his Alvin’s wife Mary? Mary (Walker) George was the sister of George F. Walker and was also running George’s Bakery besides her husband Alvin running the Cafe. This was in the same block as G. F. Walker’s Restaurant on Market Street. You would have to be sure that the George’s expertise would have been of a great assistance in starting a new venture.

No doubt the Restaurant would have been short lived, as the fire of 1915 at  the Eagle House Hotel placed the building out of commission.  A mystery remained if the G. F. Walker Restaurant actually was located at this place due to the fact that early photos don’t show the angled corner of the Eagle House building, only a square enclosed corner.  But, a large panoramic photo commonly on display shows that it was likely. A small portion of the photo zoomed in shows a glass structure on this corner. The photo also appears to show a possible damaged roof, but no conclusion of how much it burnt at that time is known. There are newspaper articles that stated the structure remained intact for a few years, to what degree is unknown.

Eagle House West Kittanning View

At some point George F. Walker then moved to Applewold and continued to live the remainder of his life, becoming Superintendent 0f Water and Streets in Applewold Borough.

Trolley man George F. Walker at 932 Orr Ave rear which still stands today. (Photo from Harry Bonner)

During the early late 1800’s till 1915 the Eagle House Hotel was located here. It had the advantage of sitting next to the river, which would have been ideal as riverboat traffic arrived frequently. This was a very large structure that took up nearly the entire half-block of the block of 100 Market St from Water Street to Water Alley.  As stated, the building was taken by fire and never was to be in operation again. Most of the structure remained for several years, but plans to rebuild and/or to revise it never came to fruition. Here are some photos of the Eagle House Hotel in it’s heyday and after removal of the structure.

Looking East from the Bridge in the 1800’s. (Photo from Rita Gill-Crawford)

1921 Debris of the Eagles House, 100 Blk of Market St. South Side. (Photo from Linda Mockenhaupt)


A Picture is Worth… least 1 Word

Everyone I am sure at some point has heard the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. This famous quote is believed to have originated in a December 1921 article which appeared in an advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink. The article by Fred R. Barnard was entitled, “One Look is Worth A Thousand Words”, referring to advertisements on the sides of streetcars. Here is a picture that is only worth one word, but the word was priceless to me.  That one word helped me to solve a ten year old mystery.

For many Kittanning historians, this is a familiar photo that depicts several early fire apparatus from Kittanning. Most people recognize the dark toned fire truck to the front of the photo. It is Hose, Hook and Ladder Company Number 1’s first motorized fire truck. Ordered in 1912, this Lange Chemical and Hose Truck is believed to be the first motorized piece of fire apparatus located West of Harrisburg in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Of the $3,600 plus dollars the truck cost, Kittanning Borough paid for $1,000 with the remaining balance was paid by members of the department. It was at that time that Borough Council offered $1,000 each year to the other fire departments to help in the purchase of such equipment.

Hose Company Number Three was the first to put their bid in for 1913. After having demonstrations from several truck companies, the members of Hose Company Number Three decided to purchase an auto truck from the Adams Truck Company of Findlay, Ohio. This truck was built on the 1 1/2 ton chassis with a 35 horse power engine, capable of 40 miles per hour. The truck was painted white with gold leaf embellishments. A large exhaust whistle was installed on the truck to help alert citizens of the trucks movements when traveling to a fire call. The truck also carried axes, ladders, chemical tanks, fire extinguishers, and an electric search light, capable of being directed in any direction. The fire truck was completed on October 29, 1913 and arrived in Kittanning the first part of November. This truck is the furthermost away from the photographer in the picture.

The truck located between Number One and Three’s truck was built by the members of Hose Company Number Two. To date, I have not been able to unearth the model of the truck. In a May 1915 newspaper article, states that two members went before borough council to request $1,000 to purchase a new fire truck. Council did not grant them $1,000 for another fire truck as they had a truck ‘built out of a second hand high power automobile’ which cost $600. There was one mention in an early Kittanning newspaper from the 20’s, that the truck was referred to as the Grey Ghost. Both Hose Company Number Two and Three have disappeared into the pages of the past, and only few individuals even remember of hearing about these two departments.

The Adams Motor Hose Truck for Hose Co. Co. 3 taken in front of the Findlay Fire Department November 1913.

So now the question is… Where was the picture taken? It doesn’t take much for anyone to determine the building was some sort of repair garage, tire shop or auto dealer. Since there are many homes in the background, one can determine that is located in a mostly residential neighborhood. Three other noticeable features in the photo are also important. The first is presence of many flags and buntings draped and flying from the buildings. The other two items of interest are the extreme narrowness of the street and fullness of the tree on the street. It seems clear that the firemen are present for a parade, such as for Independence Day or a Firemen’s Convention. Once can also assume that it was taken during the peak summer months and they are located on a side street.

For the past ten years, I have studied this photograph, made many visits to several older citizens of Kittanning. I have spent hours scouring over every historic map that exists of Kittanning.  It certainly became clear to me that the photo was not taken in Kittanning.  In more recent years, I have used the extensive cyber technology to visit neighboring towns and study every street carefully using map sites. With each attempt, I am defeated in conquering the task to identify the location and exact year of this photo. As with any obstacle I come too, I always am conscience that someday, somewhere, I will stumble upon something that will reveal the answer.

Well,… if you have guessed it by now, ONE word did just that. Two weeks ago, I was making my searches on e-bay and an individual posted an original image of this photo. The individual was not aware of the location or date of the photo, but he pointed out the garage sign, the name Lange on the first fire truck as well as the name Kittanning. He also pointed out that on the corner of the building was a street sign. On his original photo you can see the name. The sign states that the side street is Lavic. I immediately used the search engine BING, which also offers map searches. I simply typed Lavic St., PA for my search criteria. In the second that is took BING to perform the search, suddenly in front of me was Lavic Street, located in Sharpsburg, PA. Immediately, I clicked for a close-up bird’s eye view. As I felt the blood move through my veins, and the hair on my neck stand on end, there stood the same brick building nearly unchanged after all these years. In fact, most of the houses on what I learned was Middle Street were still there.

The corner of Middle and Lavic Street in Sharpburg, PA from Google maps.

I could hardly contain myself, with the excitement that felt like it was electrifying every portion of my body. A decade old mystery, solved in just minutes as the result of a single word. My next endeavor was the narrow to time when the picture was taken. With the knowledge about the fire trucks in the picture, I knew it had to be taken between 1914 and 1918, since it was 1918 that Hose Company Number Three disbanded. I also was 100% certain that it was taken for a Firemen’s Convention. The following day, I made a telephone call to the office of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association. The secretary was very pleasant on the phone, as I told her I had a very unusual question. With her assistance I discovered that the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Conventions are always held the week after the first Tuesday in August. I also discovered that Sharpsburg was host of the 1915 Firemen’s Convention. I know not only could give a year for the picture, but I could nearly give what day it was taken in August. The secretary could tell my excitement as I thanked her and politely said ‘good-bye’.

It is intriguing to imagine the ‘boys’ from Kittanning traveling in 1915 on the road to Sharpsburg on a hot August afternoon to the annual firemen’s convention. It certainly would be nothing compared to the making with our modern cars and road of today. Now as I glance on the wall at my large print of this great picture, a large smile appears on my face as I know I closed another chapter in my trek to learn about our past, and wait eagerly for the next one.

Sources –

Newspaper research conducted over ten years, The Leader Times & The Daily Times

Assistance from the Hancock Historical Museum, Findlay, OH.

Historical document, pictures and newspaper clippings

Original photo copied from William Gordon Baum (deceased of Kittanning, PA)

Assistance from the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association

Wikipedia site

Current image taken from My places on Google Maps