Town-Talk about Towns in Washington County PA
CENTER OF TOWN - MAIN STREET FROM
THE TRUST BUILDING GOING SOUTH
This pages gives a first-person perspective and
about some landmarks in the City Of Washington.
Rather than fact-only (and often boring) information, these pages give impressions and experiences of some landmark places in Washington. Strictly history type information can be easily found on other Washington County, PA websites. My previous first-person accounts have inspired others to send me their memories as well. The following was sent by Missy Bright Andrews in September 2010, just as today's children were starting back to school...
CENTER OF TOWN - MAIN STREET FROM
THE TRUST BUILDING GOING NORTH
by Judith Ann Florian
Washington County Courthouse, Washington City Jail, Washington Trust Building, The Annex Lunch Counter, The old G. C. Murphy's five & dime store, Basil Theater (later the Uptown Theater), Caldwell's Building, George Washington Hotel (Apartments), Taylor's Pharmacy and Soda Fountain Shop, Roller Rink, Shorty's Hot Dog Shop, Union Grill, The David Bradford House, The LeMoyne House, Greyhound Bus Station (old, older, oldest), B. & O. Train Station on South Main St., Library (old & "new"), Post Office (Old and New), Washington Park, Washington Hospital, The Washington Hospital School of Nursing (with picture), and the Trolley Museum....
Here are my personal perspectives of the Uptown Area, focusing mostly from 1960s to 1980s and giving some current information.
CENTER OF TOWN - MAIN STREET from the Trust Building going South
Washington Trust Building:
This old building is quite imposing to youngsters, yet also interesting. The corner closest to East Beau Street has a revolving door entrance into the bank (see old postcards on other sites). Countless children have gotten stuck in confusion for real - and for play - going round and round in that door! I remember enjoying going through that door as a child, and never could understand my mom's frustration - until I became a parent and had to coax my own child from playing in the door. Worse though was when she was in a stroller and I was trying to navigate the stroller into the doorway in just the right position to be able to push the revolving door forward; it was best to catch the metal on the lower portion of the door.... (but that's a story for another day).
Pittsburgh National Bank was there when I was growing up, with other banks preceding it. Inside the door is a foyer with chairs on both sides of the entrance (where I used to sit while mom did banking). Shoes resound on the marble floors going towards the tellers on the left; on the right are large windows overlooking East Beau Street, with the high counter-like tables where patrons can write a deposit slip. Further back is the banking officials' area, with the old polished wood short railing (with gate) separating the desk area from the public. From here you can see the huge bank vault in the rear (I always wondered how far the vault extended toward the back?). At these desks, employees approve loans, open banking accounts (oh, I remember when I opened my first savings account - do you?), and once you open a safety deposit box, this is the area where an employee checks your signature card and walks to the vault with their key in their hand, your key in yours.
The Washington Trust Building has gone through probably more or as much history as anywhere in the City, seeing the comings and goings of private and business people with hopes for a better financial picture. But, also, the building has seen the changing of enterprises since it was built. Through a glass swinging door on the side, inside the bank, you enter a whole other foyer. (This can be reached also by a regular glass door from Main Street with a small step up from the sidewalk.) Immediately in this small foyer you see the two old and narrow-door elevators leading to upstairs. To the right of the elevators is a narrow set of stairs leading up. Those stairs turn at angles as they ascend floor to floor, with a wooden door at the landing on each floor. These doors are heavy wood.
Upstairs, oh, how to describe it? Every floor has offices (some taking several suites so that not every door is an entrance. Some are rich colored, heavy wood doors; others are part glass (some clear glass, others have opaque glass). Doctors, dentists, chiropractors, attorneys, title companies, and jewelers have had their businesses on these floors.
My worst visit to the Trust Building had to be to a dentist (need I say more?), when for injections they still used the heavy glass, reusable silver syringes, with a silver plunger that had a hole for a thumb at the end. The dentist would lay the syringe in a long silver tray lined with a white hand-towel (the thin linens we used as kitchen towels at home). I won't describe more of my visit - I'm already remembering too much!
My strangest visit as a child in these upstairs offices was to a chiropractor. Unlike the other offices where you could look out the large windows on the outside walls, the chiropractor's inner office was pitch black. I don't know if they had painted the walls black or maybe they used heavy fabric or black curtains, but the only light in the room was a 20-watt desk lamp. They used a special pen to make marks on back muscles, and used a special light in the dark room to see the markings . Totally weird. I would have run if my mom wasn't with me. But, every Halloween, I used to think of that office!
But my best visit to the Trust Building was when I was a teenager. In old jeans and a sweatshirt, I knocked on the glass security door of a fine jewelry company and was permitted entrance. The professionally dressed man reminded me of the high security; he seemed to watch every tiny movement I made. An elegantly dressed woman moved behind the counter to "assist me," although she could see I would not be a paying customer. But, one by one, the woman allowed me to "try on" expensive diamond necklaces and bracelets, and the shiniest gold chains I'd ever seen, all with price tags in the thousands. But, what fun it was!
Do you remember when businesses used to have promotional contests and used the roofs of downtown buildings to let loose a bunch of ping-pong balls (think they were ping pong). They landed on the streets, sidewalks and alleys in the uptown area. The goal was to find a specially marked one - or one with a certain number - and collect your prize. I never found the special one, but I collected quite a number of those balls as a kid.
The Annex Lunch Counter - The Annex Cafe was the little diner/lunch counter located on the first floor, rear, of the Trust Building. We used to go in there from the 1960s to early 1980s. Back then, it had several booths along the side wall (Beau St. side), with a short counter no more than a few feet away. The counter area was simply packed from before lunch to about 1pm with the busiest time the noon hour, of course. Simple meals of hotdog, hamburger, and other sandwiches, fries, and drinks were made as fast as the short-order cook could manage. A candy counter faced the hallway into the Trust Building. Today it is called Crystal's Cafe; they took over the site about 4 years ago.
The Annex Pharmacy - The Annex Pharmacy is no longer there. In the 1970s, an older pharmacist and older woman were the only workers there. The woman wore classy dresses, nice perfume and didn't mind when I asked to try a squirt from a sample bottle of fragrances that lined one counter-top area. Here you could find "this n' that" that our mothers and grandmothers had used, and medical products that were long out of common circulation or would now be considered home remedies. But, the store carried other classy type older products, alongside newer over the counter medicines and merchandise. Here is where I bought my mother dusting powder in large round and fancy containers, every one tied with a color-coordinated ribbon on top. Inside the container was a huge powder puff, with a strap on the back to slip over the palm & back of the hand. The powder containers were mostly for show, and could be refilled with another scented powder.. Another time I bought mom a fancy-back hand mirror and vanity set from the Annex Pharmacy. Remember the old vanities that had a mirror attached, the front of its top cut so one could pull close, sitting on a padded vanity stool? Two drawers on each side -front drawers - could hold extra bottles and make-up. But, on top of the vanity, almost as though a display, one could put the fancy looking perfume bottles and other make-up, and a hand-mirror, brush and comb set laying on one side.
My mom had a heavy wood vanity with a gold fancy stool. She didn't use it much for make-up and such. My godmother, Wanda Casper, who lived catty-corner from us, had a pine-colored wood vanity with a short piano-type bench where she sat each morning and night to brush her short-permed hair. Her vanity held a few of the fancy powder containers I'd bought for her years past. By the time I was a teenager, these were largely considered very old-fashioned as were vanities, which started showing up in used furniture shops and auctions.
Someone told me that the Annex Pharmacy closed within the past few years. An co-op artist shop occupies that space today. [Annex - formerly located 30 E. Beau St., rear of Trust Building, first floor.]
Caldwell's Building - This is in the block of the oldest buildings on the top of Main Street, across from the Courthouse. I believe, but I may be mistaken, that Lang's dress shop had been in the Caldwell Building. (?) Lang's was mostly considered a high-end shop that sold very fashionable clothing to teens to older women.
George Washington Hotel (at one time turned into private apartments
and senior assisted living):
My parents always conveyed a certain "reverence" towards the G. W. Hotel, as being a grand place frequented by the more well-to-do. This was back when the Hotel still had a doorman at the entrance, who not only opened the door for you but also would sometimes inquire of teens as to what their business was or who they intended to see. I still can see a blurry picture in my mind of the man... I think he wore a dark blue uniform and cap, and both had red trim. You could see the red carpets just inside the lobby...
Although my parents had held their wedding reception in the ballroom of the G.W., I personally never went inside the Hotel until I was a teenager and was quite prepared to break any "rules" my parents had set years before. But....what I found did not quite measure up to what I had thought I would see. True, it has a certain grandeur, but by the mid 1970s, it was an aging grandeur. It was obvious that maintenance sought to fight against signs of wear.
The lobby always seemed deserted, except for the front desk is to the right, inside the lobby. Just past the desk are stairs which I took many times to the old Pioneer Grill (it obviously had changed quite a bit from the pictures in old postcards of the late 1800s-early 1900s ;-). Businessmen were often present, cocktail in hand, as they made alliances in town or spent time talking with colleagues.
I regret that I never asked to see the ballroom where my parents spent their special day. Postcards show a truly spectacular hall, one that was probably much more impressive than now.
By the 1980s, the G.W. had converted to apartments; no longer did their rooms offer respite for the wearied traveler. The Interstates that came in the 1950s & 60s, along with the increase in businesses including motels around the two Malls (one on Rt 19 off Murtland and the other on Rt 40W), had long ago siphoned the traveling public away from Main Street. Located diagonally across from the Courthouse and on the short leg of The National Road that goes through town, The George Washington Hotel has always been at the heart of the comings & goings of town. But, by the time my teenage curiosity took me inside the G.W., time had already begun to make changes to the old Hotel.
Taylor's Pharmacy and Soda Fountain Shop: One reason I'd go through the G.W. was because it was a short-cut from the Alley to Main St. (minus 1/4 of the hill -- or from Main to the Alley minus 20-30 more feet of hill), to the soda fountain shop facing South Main Street on the ground level of the Hotel building. I'd go through the back hallway of the George Washington and through the back door of Taylor's. Inside was a real soda fountain, where mixtures of flavored syrup were jazzed with its carbonated counterpart... their cola tasted nothing like the "Coke" in the short green bottles! They had the paper cups, pointed at the bottom, which were inserted into an silver outside holder-cup. Over half the drink was ice. But, for the price, a teen could get a "soda" and chips and be quite content to sit at one of their small tables. During busy lunch-times, everyone was crammed inside, all the stools filled at the counter, and every table taken. The tables were so close one did not need to do a thing to hear everyone's conversations. But, between the fast service, the convenience, and being able to browse their "store" section," the shop had been busy every day it was open.
Of course, it was called Taylor's Pharmacy because it was a pharmacy. That area was in the far back, left corner. In front were two long rows of shelving and displays with old and new products. The back wall (near the back door) was also lined with products. Need a heating pad? Those were laid on the bottom shelf, along with other merchandise sold in original boxes. Above were the items you'd expect to be sold singly without boxes, unless it was aspirin where the bottle was packaged. Here and at Herd's Drug Store was where you could expect to find an infinite supply of old-fashioned hair nets that school cafeteria workers wore, and various types of regular and large sized hair pins and orange-sponge curlers. They had a good supply also of new-born gifts, pacifiers, glass and plastic baby bottles, receiving blankets and a selection of newborn sleepers. As well they had a selection of gift-items for birthdays and anniversaries, and a card rack for all occasions. Under the racks, in drawers, was where extra merchandise could be pulled out as soon as a sale was made. Taylor's not only supplied a quick lunch to business persons working at the Courthouse or businesses (mostly lawyers' offices and their staffs), but the store section supplied a quick gift selection for employees and bosses to purchase a gift during their lunch hour. And, while standing in line to pay the tab at the register/counter in front, patrons could grab a candy bar or snack for afternoon munchies.
Herd's Drug Store - Herd's (new-1970s) Drug Store did not have a lunch counter, but had installed coolers with bottles and cans of pop to go with snack cakes and candies they sold. The new store was probably double the square-footage they had in the old store (mid block on the right, half-way between Beau and Chestnut Sts., next to Pine Alley. The new store was located half-way down the 1st block of South Main, between Beau St and Cherry Alley, and pretty much directly across from the courthouse. The only competition in that block was the small, narrow news stand beside the Trust Building's Main Street entrance. Merchandise-wise, they had no competition. The new store was stocked almost entirely with new merchandise, every type of health care product one might need, for all ages, as well as store merchandise, gifts, toys, books, magazines, newspapers, perfume etc. It had probably 6 aisles down the store from mid-front to back near the pharmacy. Aisles had double-sides shelving / displays, except for the side walls where one set of shelves went from floor level to about 6 feet high. The store was extremely well-lit by overhead florescent long lights. It reminded me of a brand-new grocery store, and at the time this would have been considered a large store (but medium-size in comparison to stores in malls). In phone calls to Washington PA during the first week of December 2005, no one born in the 1980s knew or remembered either Herd's or Taylor's pharmacies.
Note: Herd's used to be across from the Trust Building on Beau and Main the the 1950s. A second location in the 50s was half-way down Main between Chestnut St and Beau. Both locations had the old wood and glass pay phone booths, where you could sit down, close the door, and make a phone call in private.
Union Grill - This small seemingly ever-present bar and restaurant was opened in 1967. It wasn't until high school that I discovered it, down the stairs on Wheeling Street in the basement. It had rich cherry wood throughout, the bar area immediately upon entering and the restaurant going toward the front of the building (toward Main St.). Friends and I would stop there for late-afternoon lunch, some study and long gab-sessions. Booths lined the sides, with small tables in the center. We always grabbed a booth, with often 3 or 4 of us squeezed in on both sides. Better yet, though, were the 4 to 5 booths in the back, partly separated from the rest of the restaurant by a wall with an open doorway at both ends. Back there was a feeling of privacy and intimacy, especially good for those occasional girl-talks we didn't want anyone to hear.
An older woman worked there when I was a teen. She moved quickly about the restaurant, and it was very evident that she was an experienced waitress. Her thin arms balanced several plates at once, a tray of drinks perched on her upturned palm. Her regular customers would call to her by name, and she'd nod to say she'd be right over. The Union Grill was packed during the lunch times, serving a number of the workers from uptown.
WJPA Radio Station: Hearing the current pop-rock hits was a highlight of teenage life in Washington, PA. Located at the corner of 98 Main and Wheeling, right above the Union Grill, WJPA Radio Station delivered the Billboard's Top 40. Devoted listeners called the request hotline at 222-2110 to ask for special songs, with messages to be put on the air. In the early 70s, the DJs included Dave Allen (David Oriskovich who hailed from Allegheny County), Chris Young ("Chip" Ewing, a local guy), Randy Flick, and a guy named Bill Williams. Chad Chandler worked afternoons, and mornings had Jack Alderson.
I was dating Dave back then, and Dave, Chip, Randy and Bill all came to my house one summer evening in 1972, the year before my mother died. We had a nice organ and Dave happened to be a wonderful musician (as was Chip). Dave ended up entertaining my mother with about 50 songs that night, including her favorite hymns. Dave, of course, was enjoying all the percussion and other settings on the almost-still-new 1969 model Wurlitzer organ with double keyboard and more levers and buttons than we could figure out how to use. I think he played for mom until almost 3 am that Saturday night.
The radio station was 98.3 FM and 1450 AM but both went off the air at midnight every night. Inside it had one DJ booth, and a news/engineering booth, along with an un-used studio. A long hall connected the front area to the studios at the rear. The radio tower for the station is out near Trinity Point, off Locust Avenue, and many a date-night Dave would be called to go fix something at the tower; I went along of course. Dam No. 4 was a favorite picnic spot, or just to drive through especially in the Fall when all the leaves were changing.
After stints at other stations, Chip still is involved in music, playing bass in the Mansfield Five, a group who performs for-hire at many clubs and for events in PA, OH and WVA. Dave is with one of the Clear Channel Radio stations in Ohio. Randy was living in the Pittsburgh area with his family and is undoubtedly still in radio. I've no idea where Bill ended up.
The station went country for a number of years. Now WJPA is listed as an oldies station.
Water Works Dam No. 4 Washington PA
Post Office - old and new
Old Post Office - The old post office was on Maiden St. where the City Hall moved to after the Post Office built a new building on Jefferson Avenue. Postal carriers drove to the back using the right side drive-way, and out the left side. At the rear of the building, they'd park with the back end up to a loading dock area. Each carrier was responsible for "casing" their route's mail, which means that by hand they would sort that day's mail into mail slots that stretched across their work area, about 10 slots up and down and maybe 30 slots across. Once the mail was sorted, the mail from each slot was bundled with a "gum" band (rubber band) and stood long ways in the grey-colored "case" or tray in two rows of mail. Each case was then stacked atop each other in the smaller carrier vehicles, from floor to (low) ceiling in back and a few on the passenger seat. (Remmber, the driver sat on the left in these vehicles.) My dad had a walking route until he was injured, then did a driving route off and on until his death in 1970. [Old location was 55 West Maiden St., current location of City Hall.]
New Post Office - The new building was a necessity because of decreased space in the old building to handle increased mail loads. The new building, though, was not welcomed by many in the area. It was built on the corner of Jefferson and Chestnut Streets, facing Jefferson. But there was no on-street parking on Jefferson, so that door was not used a lot at first. There was parking on a roof built over part of the lower level of the Post Office. The roof caused many problems for employees from leaks into the downstairs building. And, it was a nightmare to pull out from the parking lot back onto Chestnut. They finally made it a no-left-turn because the roof-entrance was so close to the top of Chestnut hill, making it hard to see oncoming traffic - more than one person tried lifting their butt off the car seat in order to see better, but it didn't help much.
A side door from the parking lot led past P.O. Boxes to the a side entrance (corner of building closest to Chestnut St.). Entering the inner door, a long counter was to the left where employees handled selling of stamps, weighing packages and taking care of special mailings. Here was where pick-ups were made, with the customer moving to the far end of the counter to wait after presenting their pick-up notice.
Most of the men who had worked with my dad at both locations have now retired or are deceased. My father would have been 77 this year (2005). At the old building, the postmaster in the 1960s was John R. Braden.
The David Bradford House: Sounds like something that should be on an Estate, huh? No, the David Bradford House is actually a small, rather unimposing house on South Main Street. One can see by its stone front with white trimmed windows that it is old. A small gate is to the right of the door, with a brick walk leading to the back. Other than the fact that it is a house on the main drag of town, it looks similar to the other aging buildings up and down this stretch of the original National Pike.
But, it isn't the same.
It's history. It's part of the Whiskey Rebellion, one of the biggest parts of Washington County history. It was also probably considered a mansion when it was originally built, with parts shipped from the City of Philadelphia to the frontier land of Washington County. But, to me, even bigger than the Whiskey Rebellion is how the Bradford House gives a glimpse into the way people lived in the 1700s.
I used to work as a volunteer at the House. Every year it opens for tours. Volunteers dress in period costumes, leading guests through each room of the house. It's been a number of years, but these are some things that standout to me. First are the stately, well-worn hardwood floors. There's something about wood... in general, wood seems to retain the sound of footsteps, calling forth ghosts of times and people long gone. One enters the front foyer through the wide front door, and the guests' footsteps join those of long-ago.
The foyer is on the right of the house; rooms are to the left. Stairs of solid mahogany are immediately ahead; along the stairs is a hall to the back, past the dining room, to the kitchen. The first room on the left, easily seen near the foyer, is what would be today's living room. It's bright in the room; no curtains adorn the windows. The room has some period furniture and artifacts of the times.
The next room is a small dining room. Its windows, also unadorned, look out on the brick patio outside the back (kitchen) door and on the once garden. There was where the well was, just outside the kitchen door. The table was set, but rather plainly; one shouldn't expect to see grandeur in the home of one of the most prominent historical figures of the town. Expect to see just simple living. Again, this room has artifacts of the time. Tallow candles sit in pewter holders in this room, as in all rooms. These tallow candles are made with an authentic recipe I was told, closely matching the ones David Bradford would have used. They were made by his slaves in his own kitchen a short few steps away.
It's darker going to the kitchen. Actually, the kitchen is probably the darkest room of the home. The unlit fireplace, with heavy and blackened old fittings, just seems to make it seem darker. The floor is stone, if I remember correctly. Old cooking utensils and dishes are on display here, arranged to look like the residents just stepped out moments ago....
It's the same upstairs. Every stair seems to have a different creak from the soles of the family. Only a short staircase leads to a landing where the staircase continues to the left. Peering upward before continuing, the house is so quiet that you wonder if the owners are up in one of the rooms sleeping....or you feel as if they have just gone out after breakfast, due to return at any moment. Like an intruder, you continue to climb, reaching the hallway above. If I remember right, there are two or three bedrooms here. The one closest to the stairs on the right is the biggest, and appears to have been the "master" bedroom. Tall windows without covering overlook the garden. Was this where the owners looked out at the close of a day, or in the morning, surveying the amount of snow that fell as they slept... or knew to expect a humid day from seeing the early morning fog....
These were the imaginative wanderings that the tour guides were encouraged to ponder, as they weaved fiction into factual information about the house and family. In select rooms, we'd also point to aspects of the home's furnishings, like here where the master bed sat facing the windows. We'd talk about the quilts laid atop each other, covering the feather tick mattress that rested on ropes pulled tightly across the wooden bed frame. The old ropes loudly groaned when weight sat on the bed, ropes .. supporting the woman as she gave birth...that supported the sleeping figures night after night through their lifetimes....ropes so dry from age that one wondered why they hadn't frayed and split away....
Back down the half flight of stairs, directly off the landing and through the doorway and down two old steps, a tiny shop had been sep up for sales to the public. Souvenirs of the house, replicas of some period items, tiny pewter candle holders, tallow candles hand dipped downstairs, pieces to remind one of the "feel" of the history they've felt in this house... A little reminder that history is more than dates and facts, it is about the people who lived, worked, wed birthed, fought for progress, fought to survive life's circumstances....and finally died in this home.... in this unimposing house built by David Bradford...
Hear his horse gallop down Main Street.... The click of the door sounds as he enters, as he's already removing his hat and coat... wife and children greeting him at the door.... a servant helps to pull off his boots.... do you see them?
The LeMoyne House (Washington Historical Society) - I find it hard to write about the LeMoyne House because I spent little time inside and now I do not feel any "intimate" type of connection to the place. Located on Maiden Street (at the time, right near the Unemployment Office), I often found it closed at the times when I impulsively wanted to enter. They had regular tour hours, but my timing always seemed to be off. My sister and I had done the tour years before when she had young babies, but we hadn't visited after that. So, maybe someone else can submit something about the house? (Just send me an email to "WashingtonCoPA Webmaster")
Greyhound Bus Station (old): Originally, the Greyhound Bus station was on Maiden Street, on the left side before College (up Jefferson, cross Chestnut, past the Coca Cola plant onto Maiden Street and go across Main Street to the next block of Maiden Street.) This was before my awareness of locations for local businesses, but my brother-in-law, Bud Caldwell, remembers the old-old-old Greyhound Bus Station location. By the early to mid 1970s, the Greyhound fixture was above a doorway on Beau Street. This station was a small, long and narrow area with the ticket counter along the back wall. Package shipments vied with passengers for room inside the door, especially on colder days while the driver loaded parcels and suitcases into the underside baggage compartments. I was still in school when Greyhound was on Beau St., right next to the Bell Telephone Company building.
Two large rooms on lower South Main St. is the bus station terminal I remember very well from the late-70s or early 1980s . The Station was below Krause's Drug Store at corner of Main & Maiden and below Rungo's Market. I think the old bus station was beneath Duane's Hotel right near Rungo's and before the B&O railroad tracks (if it wasn't Duane's, the building definitely had apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors). The trademark Greyhound sign hung over the door outside. Inside, a long and wide, and low-light waiting room was full of mostly empty chairs, the few people waiting for mostly empty buses. The major run was to the downtown Pittsburgh terminal at 11th street and Liberty, where connections were made to other Greyhound buses headed in all directions across the country.
Not having a car, I spent quite a bit of time in the late 1970s waiting at the Greyhound Station for a bus to Pittsburgh. Other than 2 lines of chairs, and some in the corner, there wasn't much else in the main waiting room. The ticket counter was along the right side wall in the back. The chairs went from the back of the room towards the store-front window. The building had probably been a grocery or hardware store 40 years before. The workers kept the lights off most of the time, especially in summers and daytime, allowing daylight come through the large front windows. In winter months when it was darker earlier, the station was lit. Old-fashioned metal ashtray stands were spaced to about every 5th or 6th chair. A cigarette machine stood against one wall, where you could pump 5 quarters in to get one pack that would cost about 0.75cents at the uptown drug stores. Homeless men, a cigarette burnt to the filter, often sat slumped in the chairs in the back corner, one of the few places they found to sleep or even sit down during the day. Often they would try to "bum" a cigarette from everyone who came through the door, until the ticket agent would warn them to leave the bus customer customers alone. They often picked on young females who came in; since I was one of that population, more than once the ticket agent had to come to my aide in this.
If I had to wait long, it sometimes seemed better to move to the back room, where several pin-ball machines lined the wall. This room, too, was fronted by glass windows, the door covered with brown paper and marked "No Entrance" on the paper that faced out and "No Exit" on the paper to the inside. Small groups of 20-year olds and older would often congregate here, playing, or watching others play. The machines were always set to tilt at the slightest nudge, though, so I only played if I had extra quarters and a very long wait. Even then, play-time was far too short with the machines tilting quickly each time.
Off to the side just past the 3 pin-ball machines was a door: "Employees Only." When drivers pulled in, the agent would unlock the employee door in order to retrieve packages stored inside or to get a clipboard that he would hand over to the arriving driver. Sometimes, large packages and suitcases were stacked on pull-carts close to the exit door that was marked "no exit." When a bus would arrive, the agent would lock the cash register and come into the back room, where he'd unlock the no-exit door and call to the driver from just outside the entrance-way. Then the agent would help the driver move the cart through the doorway, and the driver would load the luggage compartment. On those days, I knew I could do one more quick pin-ball game before going to board the departing bus.
B. & O. Train Station, South Main St.: By the 1970s - 1980s, there were few regular trains coming through on the upper sets of tracks across South Main Street. (Few on the lower tracks either, but they were used by the Plant that was at the bottom of South Main.) The Train Depot Building was closed and unused.
Every day from August 1983 to the end of 1984, I walked from my home on Prospect Avenue, past the block company and grocery, up South Main. With my young daughter in tow, we'd cross the tracks. Often we'd get caught on the lower side when the gate would descend, making us have to wait along with a growing line of cars. The Engineer would lean out his window when the train was still far down the track, checking that no autos were straddling the track. I'd watch as he lifted his arm to sound the whistle. Always the same motion, every trip. Then as he slowly cut across the road, he'd wave at my 4 year old who had been wildly waving already. Their ritual hellos complete, he'd turn to face front in his seat as the second train car came to the center of the street, inching behind the engine. It always seemed the train was going so very slow! (It was.) Some trains were short, but most were very long with car after car loaded with coal and some flat cars loaded with rolls of steel. Sometimes the dang things moved by on their slow trek and it seemed every car was empty (well except the box cars with their side doors shut - who knows if they were carrying anything).
Finally, finally, with a kid fidgeting beside me or filling her pockets with "pretty" rocks she found in front of the tracks, the last car of the train would pass the far edge of the street and sidewalk. But of course, then we all still had to wait until the gates were deactivated, but often the waiting autos and walkers would just start going around the gates.
Sometimes the train would catch us on the way home too at the end of a long day. One of these times, he was using the north most track, but instead of going through the intersection, the engineer stopped just a few feet west of the asphalt of South Main Street. I had stopped walking, waiting at the very edge of the last bit of sidewalk, waiting to see whether I could continue with my child or if the train would start moving again. But the engineer came out of his cab and stood along the engine, talking to another railroad worker. Seeing us standing there, the Engineer interrupted his conversation and motioned us forward. But as I started to steer my daughter towards the front of the train to go in front of the Engine, the Engineer crouched low to the ground and asked "Would you like to see the train?" And of course, my daughter was thrilled. He picked her up and put her on the first step, then held both her hands onto the hand rails so she didn't slip. In minutes, he had her sitting up in the high seat. She must have asked about the whistle because I jumped about 5 feet when it sounded right beside me! I always wished I had a camera with me that day to record the few minutes my child spent with the Engineer. Although we saw the same man every day for a year, that was the closest either of us had gotten to the train. But, everyday, they continued their hellos-ritual.
My brother-in-law tells me that there are even fewer trains moving on this track nowadays, maybe once a week or so now, instead of several times a day. So much has changed with the decline of coal mines and steel plants in Washington County. Today there are few whistles sounding within City limits of Washington PA, unlike in Greene Co., where Bailey's Mine remains very active and trains move almost hourly.
Washington Park - If your family didn't have at least one family gathering at the Washington Park, then you must have lived out of town. Many, many reunions and family picnics were held at the park. And the Park was the home of Pony League baseball. In Summers, the entrance off Maiden Street was very busy. The intersection had no light, but one was installed later and they also widened the entrance. A new pool was put in just up from the entrance on the right.
Past the pool was the one lane road familiar to most people. It led first to the lower pavilion where folks in days long past held dances or large gatherings. It is a 2-story structure that has eavesdropped on the tales of too many families to count. Just a little ways down were the huge swing-sets, holding up to 6 or 8 swings. Baby swings were installed also, with safety seats that held children in. The merry-go-round was encircled by a path of dry dirt, the grass worn down from thousands of feet as the children (or adults) pushed round and round and round. Like my parents did with me, I placed my young daughter into the center, instructing her to hold onto one of the rails that made separate spaces on the ride. And, then round and round I'd push, making both of us dizzy.
|Down the lane was the old log cabin that
could rented also for reunions. I believe it
had a fireplace.
|Up another lane brought you to the stone pavilion. Here, with swing-sets to the right, is where the Lane family sometimes held their reunions. Picnic tables were lined up under cover and outside. Two sets of oversize swing-sets are to the right of the pavilion, where thousands of kids have worn dirt depressions from scuffing their feet and pushing off. My male cousins liked to pus someone on the swing and make the swing go higher and higher and... Or they, hold the swing - and person - aloft, give a heave forward on the swing then run underneath the swing as it went forward!|
Off behind the swings is a wooded area where teens liked to roam, out of sight of parents and adults. This was especially true of the teens who had dates come along to the reunions. But, much too often, little sisters and brothers ruined the teenagers' plans by tagging along! Of course, the sibling was much nicer in saying "Go away!" because they didn't want their date to see them get rude! Even when told nicely though, the younger kids would go tattling to their parents.
Somewhere in those woods was a dirt road that some used as a "lover's lane" at night.
*One type of bat used in the Pony League
The main lane of the Park runs in front of the stone Pavilion, going up around a curve to the left as you go up the hill. Then, from the pavilion, the lane goes downhill, levels out, goes downhill again. Down the lane further (and closer again to the Park entrance) was the Pony League baseball field. When season came, the teams and families lined the lane with their cars, reducing the roadway to just fit one moving vehicle. WJPA has been the announcer for the games for about 50 years.
* Use of this picture is not an endorsement but used for creative effect only.
Uptown, I remember G.C. Murphy's where the best grilled hamburgers were made behind the lunch counter. The Washington Restaurant saw quite a bit of foot traffic, especially from people employed in uptown businesses and at the Court House. Who can forget the man who sold the chewing gum on the street?
Isaly's... that was quite special. I remember mom taking us in there when
were little and it was a huge treat to go to Isaly's. I also remember Herd's
drug store. There was a woman's clothing store next to Herd's, I can't
remember the name of it right now (maybe Matthews?).
Thank you for letting me share my memories... Thank you for your web page.
Missy Bright Andrews
Washington High School Class of 1981
SEND ME YOUR PICTURES OR MEMORIES OF
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For pictures of some places, go to
A few current street scenes are at the City Hall website.
A few current street scenes are at the City Hall website.
Washington PA Personal Perspectives: Memories of Locations
MAPS see below
The City Hall website states:
"His original plot bears the name "Bassett, alias Dandridge Town," but before the plot was recorded, lines were drawn through "Bassett, alias Dandridge Town" with ink, and the word "Washington" was written above."
"The town was incorporated as a borough on February 13, 1810, and became a city of the third class in 1924."
Long Ago Locations: (please send me your additions to this list)
The old-old post office on Maiden Street.has been City Hall for decades.
The "new" (many decades-old) Post Office was the site of __________.
Millcraft Center built in the mid 1970s was the site of a small diner owned by Pete Paradise (a Greek Confectioner who homemade candies and strong coffee) and other business store-fronts including a furniture store.
The Cort Theater was down near Pete's in the 1950s.
The Basil changed to Uptown Theater -- now a live
The State Theater was on the same side as Murphy's
The present site of Hummell Funeral Home used to be Minnimyer's (spelling?), then the B. F. Goodrich tire sales and repair garage -- the building sat empty until the Funeral Home built there.
If you are looking for documents,
newspaper items, obituaries, etc. for
families of Washington Co., PA and surrounding areas, see my primary website at:
A great book was written by Raymond E. Knestrick, a former newspaper columnist who was 2 decades older than my grandmother. Old Buildings on Main Street gives an historical overview of the owners and businesses in many buildings and sites of previous buildings located in the uptown area - from Chestnut to Maiden Sts. and from Jefferson Street up to Main Street and down to College (focus is mostly Main Street, with side trips here and there).
Washington PA Uptown Landmarks -1 - Personal Perspectives
Look here for your families!
This page was last updated on Saturday, December 05, 2015 01:42
Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420
Copyright Notice - Data / info. for individuals and surnames may be reproduced for personal family histories only, but not for any commercial use or sale. Please give credit to Judith Florian and Catherine L. Caldwell for newspaper items and original documents. You may use J. Florian's research conclusions if credit is given. No other data or images may be reproduced without permission. © 2005 to present, Judith Florian, Copyright All rights reserved.
The background was chosen specifically to emphasize the matriarchal role of women in "the life" of children and families, and the resilience of all the women of southwestern Pennsylvania.