History Transcends Through Time

Recollection of a Location, 100 Years Apart

Sometimes ones curiosity about a place may have them ponder a little deeper about it’s historical significance. This was the case with Kevin McIlwain, who spent time in a place that had more historical meaning than he even thought. Kevin’s era at this place was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Also, there was something very important happening at this place in the 1860’s, which by then 100 years had past. This is Kevin’s recollection of his time spent there in his era, and then someone a few generations back recalls her time there.

Taylor House
1904 Directory indicates Benjamin Taylor resided here at 420 S. Jefferson St. He was a foreman at the Steel Works located across the street from his residence.

Having known Pete Harmon for quite a few years I asked him if he had any information or pictures of a house that I knew to be my grandparents’ at the southern end of Jefferson St. It was a red brick house that sat on property that abutted the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was my impression that it was a railroad hotel.


The house had a large yard with a garage that was long enough for several cars parked behind one another. The house had 4 rooms and a bath on the second floor. The rooms ranged from very large to very small. One was used by my aunt Anna Lee and the smallest was used by my grandmother as a sewing room. The first floor had 3 rooms and a large kitchen, which is where my grandmother spent her waning years after not being able to climb stairs.
The house was drafty and several of the rooms upstairs were closed off, but still had beds in them. The center hallway that had the staircase was also closed in by a carpenter later on, in an effort to keep from heating the whole house unnecessarily. The original source of heat was a coal furnace, and the basement always had a large pile of coal in in it, coal trucks would back in across the lawn to dump their loads in the chute. The banister of the stairs had a bend in it large enough that a person could start all the way at the top and slide the whole way. My sister taught me that, and with a little waxed paper, we had some great times on it. There was a large steel pipe in the yard that had the highest TV antenna I can remember in the neighborhood. We would typically watch the 3 Pittsburgh channels (2,4, and 11) but if you wanted to change the direction we had to go out with a pipe wrench and turn the bottom which also turned the top.
The neighbors were Clair Bowser’s North American Van Lines warehouse and Dean Phipps warehouse too. I would visit the loading dock of the outgoing trucks at Dean Phipps frequently. Les Simpson of Wick City was the foreman of this area.
My aunt sold the house to The Urban Redevelopment Authority in Kittanning after Gram passed away and she moved to the northern end of town. It was a nice house and I remember many happy times there with the family. I did go back once after it had been sold and was sitting empty, the grass had grown so tall that it had fallen over, the back door was standing open, so I ventured inside and had a look like before, but obviously there was no one home. Just goes to show a house needs a family before it can become a home.

By Kevin McIlwain

Showing Kittanning Brewing Company

The residence shown in the bottom center in a 1913 Sanborn Map. The Kittanning Brewing Company now is the location of the truck parking lot of Noel Ford.

2015 Location of Former Residence at 420 S. Jefferson St.

Looking north from S. Jefferson St. towards town from the front of the residence former location.

Taylor house


In 1922 an article was written in the Simpson Daily Leader Times of this same residence. Describing it at this time the railroad just came to Kittanning in the late 1850s, and as stated right at the edge of town not through it. This made me think of other historical journals regarding the accounts of the Civil War soldiers in Kittanning which I thought were interesting. One of them was the fact that for soldiers entering the service from the farms and country side, this would be their first time of ever seeing such a things as a train. It must have been an awe inspiring experience to see a complicated piece of machinery. From television accounts we don’t comprehend Civil War soldiers being in Kittanning, but with Camp Orr being south of the current YMCA, this is were several prepared before leaving by train from Kittanning.

Below is an early map of Kittanning showing the residence at 420 S. Jefferson St. which is listed as occupied by C. Rider. Without the date of the map, it is unknown which time period this is, but more than likely later than 1867 after the Reiters moved to Rosston, and due to the completion of the railroad tracks continuing through town.

Map of Lower Kittanning before the 1900’s with the C. Rider residence. The Rolling Mill was in the area of the current PennDot building. The rolling mill remained in Kittanning till 1926.

Note – All photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.

2 new pieces of Wick China added to my collection

This week our mailman that happens to be female, delivered a long anticipated package from an individual in Ohio.  It was so exciting to receive the phone call at work that a large box arrived in the mail for as I knew exactly what was carefully wrapped inside.  Inside this box nestled in those irritating packaging peanuts and taped in bubble wrap were pieces 73 and 74 for my collection of china manufactured by the Wick China Company.  I couldn’t wait to get home and place these two items with the other 72 pieces that were all made before 1914.

The Wick China Company was a commanding presence over the Allegheny River.

Once I arrived home from work that evening, I carefully removed each from the box and eagerly unwrapped their protective covering, I could see the beautiful blue tone floral print on each piece.  Both these pieces were at one time part of a toiletry set that possibly graced some ladies wash stand in her chamber.  The greatness that these two pieces were part of a set are not what has thrilled me as much as the pottery mark on the bottom.  This will be the first in my collection to contain the KNOBLE T W C Co. on the bottom.

The newest additions to my collection of Wick China.

The KNOBLE mark from the Wick China Company.

My collection up until acquiring these pieces, consisted primarily of the two most common marks which are the Aurora China mark and the one with two horses flanking a coat of arms with The Wick China Co. underneath.  I also have another rare mark, a mark that I have never read about in pottery books, nor have I ever seen on another piece of Wick China.  Due to the distortion on the bottom of the plate it is stamped on, this mark is somewhat illegible, but a portion can be read.  It appears to be Marseillies or something close to it.  The rest of the design resembles the Aurora Mark.

The mysterious "Marseillies" mark from a Wick China Plate in my collection.

Over the past year, I have had several individuals inquire about the pottery that once stood along North Water Street, where the new YMCA facility is currently being build.  Many people are looking for the same information.  How can you tell if it is Wick China?  Do you know who worked there?  How can you tell what year certain pieces come from?  All these questions are certainly important.

The truth is, after the storm destroyed the plant, and W. S. George purchased it, there is little to no documentation on the company.  Beers History of Armstrong County briefly overs some insight about the company.  The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Kittanning, dating from 1903, 1908 and 1913, do offer a glimpse to the layout of the pottery.  These maps show the kilns, painting and decorating areas, as well as offices, and a host of other areas that Kittanning and Wickboro residents earned a living.  There are also a handful of pottery books on the market that have made reference to the company, as well as offer a few images of the marks to identify it as Wick China.  Other than those records, nothing else has been discovered.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from 1908 offering some insight as to the layout of the pottery.

This past summer I have started to extract names from the Kittanning Borough and Wickboro 1910 Federal Census Records of those listed as being employed by the pottery.  Currently, I estimate that I have complete about one quarter search.  This will be the only known list or partial list of employees that punched the time clock at the pottery.  I hope to create a database or table of these names and their residents and available information from the Census.

One of two best known pottery marks on Wick China, Aurora with T W C in the center.


1908 Sanborn Map & Publishing Company, Limited, 117 & 119 Broadway, New York, NY.

Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U. S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, 1988 By Lois Lehner.

Grandma’s Tea Leaf, by Annise Heaivilin.

Wick China Company photograph from Pete Harmon

Pictures of Wick China and markings from the collection of Christopher Anthony.