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   Column #344  –  July 2, 2005

 

 

Detailed Look At Buildings In

Brownsville’s Neck Continues

by Glenn Tunney

 

 

        In today’s third article in the series Brownsville’s Neck – Its Past, Present, and Future, we will continue our shoe leather search for the answers to several questions.  Utilizing information available from the Fayette County Assessment Office and other sources, we are ascertaining the ownership of each building and evaluating whether each building is currently in use.  With the help of interviews with local residents and consultation of reference materials, we are also briefly describing some of the businesses that once occupied these buildings.  This information may be useful to any reader trying to form an opinion about what should be done with the Neck, the formerly vibrant but now decaying downtown section of Brownsville. 

        Last week, our armchair walk along the “river” side of Market Street began at the Cast Iron Bridge.  We learned about the buildings from Autenreith’s through G. C. Murphy’s, which is where we paused.  That is where we will resume our walk today.

        Beyond Murphy’s are two vacant buildings owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett.  Next to Murphy’s is a two-story, light brick building known as the Gottesman building, named for its former owner, Mrs. Edward Gottesman.  It was the one-time home of Solomon’s meat market and was built on the former site of the Opera House. In later years its narrow left-hand storeroom housed the Ash Hat Shop, and the wider right-hand storeroom housed the Nolla Shop.  The Gottesman building is owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn Liggett.

        Next to the Gottesman building is 21 Market Street, the former location of the George E. Winner jewelry store (in the left-hand storefront) and Kart’s Fashion Center, a ladies’ clothing store.  Kart’s occupied the larger right-hand storefront plus the entire second floor of the building.  Kart’s closed in the early 1990s, and the building was purchased by Manor Investments Ltd. in 1994.

        Kart’s Fashion Center is the fourth in this stretch of four consecutive buildings owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett or their affiliated entities.  The next four buildings are not owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett or their affiliated entities. 

        To the right of Kart’s is 25 Market Street, a three-story brick building that formerly housed Sidler’s department store.  Mrs. Sidler made her home in an apartment on the second floor.  Next to Sidler’s is 27 Market Street, also a three-story red brick structure, which once housed the M&S shoe store.  Both buildings are owned by the late Albert Bates and his wife Rita of West Brownsville, and both buildings’ storefronts are occupied by B & R Discount, a variety and grocery store that is open for business daily.

        To the right of B&R Discount is 29 Market Street, the former Trumper’s men’s wear store.  It is now the home of the Brownsville Christian Fellowship Healing Rooms, a storefront church owned and operated by Donald and Patricia Harris of Uniontown.

        Next we reach one of the Neck’s architectural gems, the pastel-colored Odd Fellows Building.  This historic structure at 31 - 33 Market Street is the second oldest building in the Neck, second only to the Flatiron building.  It was purchased last year by BARC from the disbanding local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

        The Odd Fellows building has two storefronts separated by a door to the stairway leading to the second and third floors.  The left-hand storefront once housed Trumper’s men’s shoes and was accessible from the adjacent Trumper’s men’s wear store through an opening through the common wall.  This storefront is now being remodeled and will house offices, including that of a building code enforcement officer and secretary.  Located in the right-hand storefront of the Odd Fellows building is the Henry Vulcan Insurance Agency. 

        The second floor of the Odd Fellows building contains two large meeting rooms, an office, and a kitchen area.  The top floor contains the large (30’ by 48’) beautifully appointed Odd Fellows meeting room and is the site of the ongoing reconstruction and installation of the Plaza Theater’s 1927 Robert Morton theater organ.

        The four remaining buildings on this side of Market Street between the Odd Fellows building and the Flatiron building are all owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett or by Manor Investments Ltd. 

        To the right of the Odd Fellows building is 35 Market Street, currently housing Eckerd Drugs.  A door on the right end of this storefront leads upstairs to the former offices of Wilbur D. Johnston Insurance and Dr. A. M. Silverstein.  The upstairs is now vacant.  The building has been owned by Manor Investments Ltd. since 1994. 

         To the right of Eckerd Drugs is a vacant four-story yellow brick building that formerly housed the Bell Telephone Company offices upstairs and Levy’s (later Shure’s) clothing store at street level.  This building is owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett. 

        The next building we pass may be the most architecturally intriguing building in the entire Neck.   It is a four-story brick building with much exterior ornamentation, and it was once topped by a cupola.  This building was the turn-of-the-century headquarters of the Monongahela National Bank.  The bank’s street level entrance, which today is rather plain, once featured two pairs of stone columns flanking a large glass window, an impressive facade befitting the importance of the town’s first bank (founded on Front Street in 1812). 

        A few years after the bank moved its offices across the Market Street to its new headquarters (which was later known as the First National Bank building), bank president Charles Snowdon ordered the removal of the vacated bank’s stone and glass first floor facade.  He had it installed on the front of the Brownsville Public Library, which Mr. Snowdon built and donated to the town in 1927.  The bank’s ornate facade is still on the library today. 

        Many years after the Monongahela National Bank moved out of the building we are discussing, that building housed the Claybaugh and Sally shoe store.  The owners of this unique Brownsville building, which is now vacant, are Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett.

        Just past the former bank are two of the largest buildings in town.  First we come to the impressive three-story light brick Snowdon Building (1906).  This building’s front is unusually angled to conform to the curve in Market Street.  It formerly housed the R. S. Goldstein ladies’ clothing store and other businesses.  The vacant structure is the property of Manor Investments Ltd.           

        Finally, our walk down the “river” side of Market Street ends at the most dominant building in the Neck, the Union Station building.  Constructed in 1928 to house the offices of the Monongahela Railway and to serve as a railroad station, this solidly built five-story office building replaced a much smaller structure that had served as the original railroad depot since 1903. 

        The Union Station building is not unoccupied.  The two storefronts to the left of the building’s main entrance formerly housed Reed’s Rexall Drugs and Orsino Jewelers, among other businesses.  One of these storefronts is presently the home of an organization called “Travel With Jesus.”  In addition, near the right rear of the building, there is a small office occupied by “Transcore Radio Repair” that is apparently in periodic use. 

        The bulk of the Union Station building, however, is vacant.  It is owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett, and according to figures provided by the assessment office, it was purchased in May of 1993 for $155,000. 

        As we reach the BARC-owned Flatiron building, we have counted seventeen separate buildings between the Cast Iron Bridge and the Flatiron building, including the Flatiron building.  Based upon data provided by the Fayette County Assessment Office, about half of these buildings on the “river” side of Market Street (nine of seventeen) are owned by Ernest E. and Marilyn K. Liggett or by Manor Investments Ltd.  Two are owned by BARC, two are owned by Rita Bates, and the others are owned by Thomas E. Bizet, Allen C. Dade, Donald and Patricia Harris, and the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority.  

        Next week, we will cross Market Street from the Flatiron building and walk back through the Neck, this time taking a look at the buildings on the opposite (“Snowdon Square”) side of Market Street.  We will begin our walk at another little-noticed gem of a building, the Second National Bank, located directly across Market Street from the Flatiron building.  I invite you to join me next week as we continue our in-depth look at Brownsville’s Neck – Its Past, Present and Future.

 


    These articles appear weekly in the Saturday Uniontown HERALD-STANDARD.  If you enjoy reading them, please let the editor know.  You may e-mail your comments to editor Mark O'Keefe at mo'keefe@heraldstandard.com 

    Readers may contact Glenn Tunney at 724-785-3201, at 6068 National Pike East, Grindstone, PA   15442, or via e-mail by clicking here.  If you would like to receive these articles free each weekend via email, please email your name and present home town to Glenn Tunney by clicking here.

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Copyright © 2005 by Glenn Tunney

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