A Town of its Own – Wick Boro

November 20, 2013 in Business District, Industry, News, Nostalgia, Wick China Company by Pete Harmon

Time spent in East Liverpool, Ohio by John Wick ended up having a significant impact to the area north of Kittanning. At that time there wasn’t much development north of Chestnut Street. East Liverpool was the pottery capital of the world and there wasn’t much of an enterprise of this kind in Pennsylvania then. After spending time as a store merchant in the pottery capital after leaving Kittanning, John Wick Jr. learned the ins and outs of the pottery trade and contemplated bringing the industry back to his home. Not only did he learn the trade, he became one of the largest industrialist in the pottery trade.

This is Ford China Company that became Eljer. Wick China was similar in design and also isolated on N. Water Street which is the present location of the YMCA. The area would appear the same before the lots where laid out and houses built.

Hard to imagine at one time that a little area was pretty much self-sustaining for the family needs. When Wick Boro was formed around 1900 your families life events were within a couple block area. In this locale was your school till 8th grade which was 4th Ward School on Wilson Avenue being the 1100 block. Several churches dotted the neighborhood and you either work at the Wick Pottery or Kittanning Plate Glass Co. in the 1200 block of N. Water St. What was considered the Wick Boro business district  located in the 11oo block of Orr Avenue and Montieth Street were some of the following business until at least the 1920′s. The main focal point was the Orr Ave Hotel 1103 Orr Avenue, Rambach and Caplan Grocer at 1101 Orr Avenue, Arthur Donaldson’s Restaurant, 1119 Orr Avenue, Foulis Pharmacy 1046 Orr Avenue, E.E. Ritchey’s Store 1048 Orr Avenue. Even a bowling alley and billiards by Harry Rumbaugh at rear of 1106 Orr Avenue with Gus Kirscht having a barbershop in the front. This was located across form the Orr Ave Hotel. The trolly car ran through the center of Orr Avenue to town, and eventually to Lenape Park south of Ford City.

Orr Ave Hotel – one of the hubs in the business district of Wick Boro. Rambach and Caplan had a grocery store at the corner building.

 

This truly was the meaning of community, newer forms of transportation later give us the ability to go elsewhere for our needs, but maybe it wasn’t so bad when ours needs came to us instead. Several of your social events took place in your community also. The 4th Ward Ball Park which had a grandstand was at the location of the Kittanning High School. Nightly games just a  few steps from your house. Square dances and old time fiddle players entertained at the fire halls. Some of these events were held as fundraiser for local needs.

 

E.E. Ritchey Store & Foulis Pharmacy – 1048 & 1046 Orr Avenue. Adjacent corner to Orr Ave Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Bill Cousins)

Recently I was visited by John Wick’s Great Granddaughter who was generous to share and give me several pictures and artifacts regarding the life of John Wick Jr. It was remarkable to discover that he truly believed in Kittanning and and was progressive in it’s development. When you read of accomplishments in history regarding industrialist, like Andrew Carnegie in Pittsburgh for Steel Development, John B. Ford in Ford City for Plate Glass Production, John Wick Jr. was one of the most responsible individuals regarding the development of upper Kittanning(Wick Boro).

John Wick Jr was one-time president of Kittanning Council

John Wick Jr. continued into the Theatrical and Movie Entertainment business later in life. In 1913 he oversaw the building of the of the Wick Opera House which later became the Columbia Theater. His ownership of the building saw it rebuilt from two major fires, one in 1926 and the other in 1932.

Columbia Theater located at 318 Market Street

 

 

Edgewood, Then and Now

March 5, 2013 in History, Industry, News, Nostalgia by Pete Harmon

EDGEWOOD

Edgewood Intersection from 1970′s to 2012 era (Photo by Karl Swigart and Pete Harmon)

Mention the name Edgewood Intersection and most drivers from around the Kittanning area will most likely identify it as the traffic intersection at the bottom of the Indiana Pike hill. The present day configuration of the Edgewood Intersection was not its first. During the initial relocation of the Edgewood Intersection in 1934, several houses would be razed to relocate the intersection by creating the railroad overpass and the buildup of the roadway from the railroad overpass down past Kings Lanes, all the way to the Kittanning Bridge, thus creating South Water Street. Then around 1972-73 approximately another 32 homes would need to be razed in order to change the Edgewood Intersection into its present day configuration. The following description along with accompanying photos will hopefully help to describe and show, those whom have heard the name Edgewood mentioned and what it looked like, prior to the houses being razed and the intersection restructured around 1972-73. 

View from across the river showing the Steel Plant, Typewriter Works, and Edgewood to the right (Old Kittanning Postcard)

Edgewood till the end was a tight knit community of lower to middle class inhabitants. In its earlier days many of the men from the Edgewood and Typewriter hill area where employed by the Kittanning Iron Works, as well as other local business that helped to support it. Edgewood was also called “Slabtown”, supposedly derived from some of the houses being built from wooden slabs of lumber, possibly deposited along the river bank after floating down the river from lumber mills operating up-river or from discarded crating discarded from the Kittanning Iron Works.

Coming north from Ford City on the “Old Road” Route 66 approaching Edgewood Intersection showing the current Park n’ Ride and how it appeared in the 1970′s. (Photos by Pete Harmon and Karl Swigart)

  Today its hard to imagine situated along and below old State Traffic Route 66 Kittanning to Ford City road once stood approximately 11 houses. These houses sat directly across from the present day Edgewood Intersection’s “Park and Ride” parking lot and was down over the hill a bit between the present day highway guard rails, and the former Pennsylvania Railroad tracks (now the Armstrong Trail). Where the Park and Ride is located today once stood two businesses, James Ward Thompson’s Garage and the Thrifty Oil Co. Gas Station. 

Today there are no signs of what was there for the generations of families that called Edgewood their home. These additional lanes were cut into the hillside eliminating the homes. (Photo by Pete Harmon and Karl Swigart)

Running parallel to and along the right side of the Indiana Pike hill (going towards Indiana) were another 17 houses and one business, Mary Carter Paints. They were separated by a small alleyway, which ran from old State Route 66 up through this grouping of houses and eventually exited at its upper end back onto the Indiana Pike roadway, just below the grouping of two homes and Kibuk Cycle Sales Inc. on the left side of the Indiana Pike hill. These houses and one business (Mary Carter Paints) were located directly across from the present day Ace Hardware store. There were an additional three houses located above old State Traffic Route 66 on the hill behind the Park and Ride. Today the area where they stood is now the excavated cut in the hill made for the new roadway going from the Edgewood Intersection toward Ford City. (Article by Karl Swigart)

This is just a short series of Edgewood that Karl will be sharing with Kittanningonline readers. He has amassed quite a bit of information regarding that area and is anxious to share, Thanks Karl.