George T. Fleming. "Old Penn street, Pittsburgh: Fourth chapter of Mrs. G. A. Gormly's recollections of her childhood—outdoor recreations, rides, walks and shopping rich with a fip: Famous ice cream emporiums—small coin of our grandfathers' days—Mary McAlpin's variety store: Clement Tetedoux, music teacher—'Billy' Price's 'Round House'—Jones' ferry—the Two-Mile Run House—hearing the divine Patti, age ten, sing 'Home, Sweet Home': Learning Pittsburgh history—John Thaw and Gen. Robinson." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Feb. 5, 1922, fifth section, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85413583.
(Continued from Last Sunday.)
ANOTHER chapter of Pittsburgh history made up from Mrs. Agnes Hays Gormly's recollections is presented to-day under the same heading as those preceding and similar in makeup, partly her own words and partly transposed—but mainly her story. Explanations are given where required. In the narrative of Mrs. Gormly's childhood recreations and out-door pleasures this paragraph can be found:
"There were many daylight joy parties, every day a walk, sometimes to the Two Mile Run House, to Mt. Washington, or out to the "Round House," to the nunnery on the hill back of Allegheny, or across the ferry on the John Paul Jones to Temperanceville, or else played hook in our own sacred precincts or watched the real young ladies we knew as they went off to Patterson's Riding School, or take singing lessons from Mr. Tetedoux or to have Miss Shipp plait her hair; and almost every day some small coin would pass into our possession and we would buy taffy at Slades, or a little farther up Fourth street go shopping to Mary McAlpin's, where a large copper cent would buy a miniature churn, a basket of fruit or any article of household furniture from a gridiron with two fishes on it to a bed and bureau, and everything would be lovely until Willie Addison or Joe Hamilton would poke his head into the little shop and yell "tobies," and then our friend behind the counter would become a demon, and seizing a broom would fly down the street in pursuit of the vanishing boys. If you had a 'fip' and your friends were equally fortunate, you went to Harmar Scully's for soda water, or to Hubley's for ice cream, but a 'fip' was a good deal of money, and as for a 'levy' you became pretty familiar with the pillars of Hercules stamped on the coin before you spent it. There were the most ravishing blue glasses of ice cream to be had in the market house at the foot of the stairs, just near Bender's stall."
Mr. Bender was a mutton butcher. Perhaps several thousand of our readers today will exclaim, "Oh, I remember the ice cream man at the foot of the market stairs! Many a time I enjoyed a 10-cent saucer there."
There was an ice cream man for many years in the first Market House, under the stairs leading up into old City Hall. Perhaps more readers will remember indulging in luscious cream there, and a fellow could get a 5-cent saucer there—no, not a nickel; 5 pennies, big or little, or big and little mixed; a silver 3-cent piece and 2 pennies any size, or even a silver 5-cent piece would purchase the desired luxury. Later, in war days, a 3-cent coin, or a 3-cent postal note and other "fractional currency of the United States," was legal tender up to a certain amount. The fip and the levy, old Spanish coins, worth 6¼ cents, and 12½ cents, respectively, had gone out of circulation when all specie was horded [sic] during the Civil War period, and, until specie payments were resumed in January, 1878, there was nothing but copper and nickel pennies and paper money in circulation in the Northern states and the rest of the country after that war, except on the Pacific Coast, where silver and gold were comparatively plenty. Silver dimes came back into use here in 1876, but were not plenty until 1878. Fips and levys are rare antiques now. Four fips made a shilling, also 2 levys. Half-cents, United States coinage, were in use until about 1860—the last coined in 1857. Two-cent copper pieces were coined first in 1864, and 3-cent nickel pieces in 1865. All these are now rarities—quite as much as fips and levys.
Harmar D. Scully's, where Agnes Hays and her chums went for soda water, was a drug store at 23 Fourth street, at the corner of Ferry street, later Cummings. Slade's candy shop was on Fourth street (now avenue), at Liberty; the directory of 1856 records: "Christopher Slade, grocer, store and dwelling, 2 Fourth street." The same authority says Mary McAlpin kept a variety store at 48 Fourth street.
Clement Tetedoux was a popular pianist and teacher of music for many years. In 1864 the directory locates him at 126 Penn street. This was in old Honeymoon row, and close to Mrs. Gormly's grandmother's house, which was at 104 Penn. Prof. Tetedoux was the leader of many musical entertainments in his time. To have been a pupil of Tetedoux's was something to boast of.
The "Round House" was simply the round-shaped dwelling of eccentric old William Price, at the corner of the Fourth street road and Price street, or as we locate the site now, at Fifth avenue and Stevenson street, a business block there now. The story long current that "Billy" Price erected the circular building to prevent the devil from cornering him in his own dwelling was never agreeable to the Price descendants, and it may be taken as a made-up story. "Billy" Price, a successful business man, who owned and operated the "Berlin Foundry" in the rear of his dwelling, was an oddity in his lifetime and was never, as far as anyone ever knew, worried about meeting the devil anywhere. Nunnery Hill and Jones' ferry to the mouth of Saw Mill Run, from the foot of Liberty street, will be recalled by many Pittsburghers who have not yet earned the title, old-timer. The hill was the high part of the Twelfth Ward of former Allegheny City and is now included in the Twenty-fifth Ward, Pittsburgh. When the Point Bridge was completed in 1876 the old ferry was discontinued.
Temperanceville, a borough, upon annexation to Pittsburgh in 1874, became the Thirty-sixth Ward of the city—we say now, but not very specifically, "the West End." Two-Mile Run came down the hollow where the Junction Railroad, now part of the Baltimore and Ohio, is laid. The road house was near the "Forks of Road," or Penn and Butler streets. The run crossed Penn street or "the Pike" about Thirty-third street; "crossed," says William G. Johnston, by a rude, but strongly built bridge, the run a beautiful stream with pebbly bottom and mossy banks. The crossing was nigh to an old tavern called the "Two-Mile Run House," which as a monument of the past yet stands, but is hidden almost from sight by the changed grade (of the street) and the tall houses about it.
Mr. Johnston published his memoirs in 1901. The old tavern was on the left hand side of Penn just above Thirty-third street. An old summer house in the yard was visible for many years.
We may believe Mrs. Gormly's walk up Coal Hill, now Mt. Washington, was a steady climb, but until 1870 the daily duty of hundreds who lived on the hill who came up and down to work in Sligo and South and West Pittsburgh boroughs and over the old bridge to Pittsburgh.
Coming back to Mrs. Gormly's recital of her childhood on old Penn street, we may read of her attending a concert by one of the world's masters of music. She tells us:
"One evening just before bedtime Grandmother ties your flapping leghorn hat under your chin and with black lace-mittened hand clasped tightly by an indulgent friend, you walk (without pointing your toes to match the angle at which the bricks in the sidewalk are laid) to City Hall, where seated on a yellow settee you listen to Madame Strakosch's piano playing, and all at once Mr. Strakosch leads out a simply dressed little girl not much older than yourself, and she sings 'Home Sweet Home' and tears run down on your best hat strings and the indulgent friend pats you on the back with one hand and pounds the floor with his cane in the other, as he roars 'Bravo,' for the little girl is Adelina Patti."
Adelina Patti, usually referred to as Patti, made her first operatic appearance in New York in 1859. She was then 16. At the age of 10 she appeared in a series of concerts with Ole Bull and Maurice Strakosch. The concert Mrs. Gormly mentions must have been in 1853 [sic] when Adelina sang here. Patti died but a few years ago. She was born in Italy in 1843. Her sister Carlotta, older by three years, who died in 1889, was equally popular as a concert soprano. That little Agnes Hays, aged 6, could distinctly remember hearing the divine Patti is readily credible. A coloratura of world fame such as either Patti makes an impression that never fades.
Little Miss Hays was imparted much instruction in her walks about town, "walks and talks" we may call them. She learned the story of Stobo and Van Braam, the hostages from Fort Necessity in 1754; of King Shingiss, the Delaware sachem, miscalled "king" by the English; of Maj. Grant's battle on Grant's Hill, and of the massacred Highlanders September 14, 1758; of Forbes and the founding of Pittsburgh November 25, 1758; of Mad Anthony Wayne and his American Legion, and the great Washington birthday celebration at Legionville February, 1793. Mrs. Gormly remarks that Irwin street afforded in its name the best example of the equality of woman, for the legend ran that John Irwin and Wife, and later, Mary Irwin and Son, owned and operated the first ropewalk here. Irwin street we have known as Seventh since 1868. However, we still have Irwin avenue on the North Side commemorating the same pioneer family. Their ropewalk was on that street, that is what later became Irwin avenue. Speaking of Gen. James O'Hara, Mrs. Gormly said his name suggested not the young Irish patriot, but his carriage with its white horses—not at all strange in a childhood mind.
The legend of the Irwin's ran true, for it gives us the facts of the partnership of the first ropemakers in Pittsburgh. Some other facts remembered and recorded by Mrs. Gormly are these, in her own words.
"Perhaps we would meet John Thaw, who looked like a Quaker, surveying his precious suspension bridge in process of construction. We would stop and look at the long rows of steamboats nosing the wharf, or if it was in the afternoon, Miss Lou Simpson, with her curls, her dog and her parasol, in her victoria would graciously speak to us. If we crossed the old wooden St. Clair Street Bridge to Allegheny, the long-tailed drays were so tempting in the darkness of the interior, though of course the elders had said, 'No lady would ride on a dray.' Then Gen. Robinson's garden was so lovely and historic, and on the balustrade of Colonnade Row great iron dogs pranced amid iron foliage, and the sluggish waters of the canal were still to be seen from the Federal Street Bridge below the Second Bank and a dreary expanse of ash heaps and refuse called the South Common. Perhaps we return home past the picturesque castellated penitentiary in the West Common, afterwards destroyed by Philistine hands. What a lovely, almost a country square, came into view after we had passed Leonard's board yard on Duquesne way and crossed Pitt street (now Fifth), where stood the colonial Addison house, with its double iron-flanked brass-topped steps and the great lindens standing in front of it. There was the big Shoenberger residence (now the Pittsburgh Club) pretty much as it appears today, save for the blue silk curtains and the china hanging baskets in the windows. This was the only place where they had blue china barrels in the vestibule. More white-shuttered, tree-shaded dignified houses we pass until we come to the Dalzell front yard at the corner of Penn and Hay streets, with its double house standing well back from the street. Across Penn street was the house built by Robert Cassatt, but then occupied by Judge Hepburn, where, despite several changes of tenants, the great cipher, 'R. C.' still curled amid the iron flourishes of the winding balustrade that had guarded the curving front steps, and the doorway where Miss Nina and Miss Sallie Hepburn entertained on summer evenings, when the fragrance of the Ailantha trees hung heavy on the air. What a friendly neighborhood it was."
Mrs. Gormly, writing in 1903, proceeds with many more reminiscences of this old-time social center, as a whole, a delightful story, but it will be proper now to explain a bit and then today's space allotment with the picture story will be filled.
John Thaw, "Pappy Thaw," they called him in the Old Third Church on Ferry street, was a well-known man in Pittsburgh for more than half a century. He was called "Pappy" to distinguish him from his equally well-known and only son William Thaw. The bridge he took so much interest in was the first suspension bridge at Smithfield street, the low bridge on eight piers that was torn away in 1882 when the present structure was opened for traffic. John Thaw lived at Smithfield and Front streets, the latter for years called First avenue. The old Thaw home was torn down a decade or more ago when the present Thaw building was erected. Mr. Thaw could hardly have been watching the construction of the Smithfield Street Bridge when Mrs. Gormly was wont to meet him for the bridge was erected soon after the fire of 1845. The old wooden, covered bridge at Sixth street was torn down in 1859 and the second bridge there completed in 1860. It was one of the elder Roebling's masterpieces. The mansion of Gen. William Robinson was at the left-hand side of Federal street, a tthe [sic] bridge. Old Colonnade Row was immediately north of the Robinson mansion, extending to Robinson street—two-story bricks that set back from the sidwalk [sic]. Later store fronts were put in most of these buildings. The Robinson lot was considerably below the grade of Federal street and was often under water when floods came, but so was the street. The grounds around the mansion were fine—the garden especially—the gardener, the father of the late Charles A. Walters, who in his business career was well known as a stove manufacturer.
The Commons in old Allegheny in 1870 were made into the North Side parks as we now have them. The South Common extended from Seminary Hill to Cedar avenue, East, and was commonly called First and Second Banks, the former extending from the canal to Bank lane, the ground now occupied by the Pennsylvania tracks and station. The Second Bank embraced that part of the common from Stockton avenue to Bank lane, this latter now South avenue. Many of the pretentious residences on Stockton avenue, West, are still standing. The old South Common exists only the little park between Federal and Sandusky streets.
Robert Cassatt whose home was later Judge Hopewell Hepburn's, was the father of the late Andrew J. Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation. The Dalzell home, at Penn and Fourth, (Fancourt street), is still standing, now used as a store. It is a picturesque old-timer.(TO BE CONTINUED.)