REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE of the 1950s

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Ridge Avenue was certainly a suitable name for the street. It was presumably named in Sharpsville’s early days for the section of the street that runs along the top of a hill from South First Street to South Seventh Street. (I personally know that at least part of Ridge Avenue is on a hilltop because I trekked up a very steep Second Street many times in rain, snow, sleet and hail in the 1950s to attend Sharpsville High School on Ridge Avenue!)

Over the decades, Ridge Avenue grew in length and now stretches from Eighteenth Street on its west side to South Mercer Avenue in the east. For the most part, the street runs parallel with Main Street to its north (until Fifteenth Street) and Pierce Avenue to its south. 

Ridge Avenue, with its many wood-framed houses interspersed with small businesses offering a variety of services, three churches offering peace and comfort, and a high school devoted to the education of the town’s young people, was a somewhat busier street in the 1950s than it is today.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Auto Service Stations

When I was growing up in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, there were at least four car service shops: 

  • Ridgeway Auto Service, 1417 Ridge Avenue near Fourteenth Street, owned by T. L. Petricini.
  • McKean & Osborne, 965 Ridge Avenue at Tenth Street, owned by Joe McKean.
  • Marrie Pennz-Oil Station, corner Ridge and Walnut streets. “Get Your Car Greased While You Work — We will Call For & Deliver –”
  • D&S Atlantic Service, corner Ridge and Walnut streets.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Churches

The three Ridge Avenue churches that I recall are still, after many decades, in operation today: St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville and Church of the Nazarene.

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA. (Source: Church website)

In June of 1908, Rev. Michael A. Miller began overseeing the construction of a new St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church at 311 West Ridge Avenue. According to A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania (Lewis Publishing 1909), the church “was built of native stone and Devonshire brick, with Cleveland stone trimmings, and [was] one of the finest and largest buildings in the city.” William Henry Adams was the contractor. It was more than 14 years before the church was entirely completed. (Go to “Italians in Sharpsville” for more about St. Bartholomew R. C. Church.)

The construction of the First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville, located at 603 West Ridge Avenue, began in 1928 using native stone (since darkened by soot from the Shenango Furnace) from the Blaney farm east of Sharpsville. The building’s site, selected for its central location in town, was purchased from the McCracken family whose house was then relocated. When many pledges remained unfulfilled due to the Depression, the congregation volunteered their labor to build their church. It took until 1935 before they could move into a still-unfinished building, and it wasn’t until 1950 that construction was finally completed.

Construction of First Presbyterian Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1929.
Source: Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014 (Vol. III, No. 2).

Sharpsville (PA) Church of the Nazarene, c. 2019. Source: Church website.

On the corner of Ridge Avenue and Eighth Street stands the Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene, a Protestant Christian church. The building was formerly occupied by the United Brethren. The Church of the Nazarene congregation held its first service on Christmas Eve, 1938, in the old Presbyterian Church on First and Main streets. Approximately two months later the church used a storeroom at 28 Shenango Street for its then 20 charter members. In the spring of 1941, they moved to the church they occupy to this day, a building at 804 West Ridge that they purchased for $9,000. A new parsonage was purchased at 810 West Ridge Avenue in 1952, replacing the old one on Eighth Street, which was eventually replaced by a parking lot.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Sharpsville High School

The first graduation from Sharpsville High School took place in 1884, approximately 36 years before the construction of the school building in about 1920 on Ridge Avenue between First and Second streets. Where the graduates attended school before then is a mystery, but a clue may be seen in the c. 1910 class photo of Sharpsville High School students. They appear to be standing in front of the Robison School.

The high school was designed by Taylor and Hanna, Sharon architects, and constructed by Wallis and Corley, Sharon contractors. The cost of the building (consisting of 14 rooms, a gymnasium and basement) and furnishings was approximately $150,000, about $3 million in today’s dollars. By 1922 the school graduated 18 students, according to Pete Joyce’s speech celebrating Dr. Bailey’s life in Sharpsville.

I attended Sharpsville High School from grades seven through twelve in the 1950s (in 1958 103 of us graduated). My high school memories and those of others are described in the following blogs: “Junior High School,” “Senior High School Traditions” and “SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!” 

In the year after I graduated, a brand new high school building opened in 1959 on Blue Devil Way for junior and senior Sharpsville students. The old building became the “William P. Snyder Middle School,” named for the owner of Shenango Furnace Company, which operated blast furnaces in Sharpsville from the early 1900s until the 1970s. 

When a new space was created for Sharpsville Area Middle School next to the Sharpsville Area High School, schooldays at the Ridge Avenue building were at an end. Instead, the large red brick structure at 100 West Ridge Avenue was converted to a privately owned mixed-use complex and renamed the TrailBlazer Building, now holding about a dozen commercial tenants as well as 23 apartments. 

I feel a sense of loss and sadness when I think of the demolition of some of Sharpsville’s historic buildings, such as the Pierce Mansion and the Mahaney Building. But how comforting it is to know that a new life has been found for the Sharpsville High School building on Ridge Avenue! 

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Other Businesses

Among the ads in the 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook was one for Dick’s TV Center at 211 Ridge Avenue. It read,

DICK’S T.V. CENTER
Sales–Installation–Service
Service & Distributors for Sylvania, G.E., Philco,
R.C.A., Admiral, Crosley, Emerson, Stewart Warner

In 1953 my father purchased our first television and it was most likely from this shop. (It was a big event when that black-and-white Philco with a 21-inch screen was placed in a featured spot in our living room, even though the only available TV stations in Sharpsville at that time were channels 73 [WFMJ-TV – NBC] and 27 [WKBN-TV – CBS], both from Youngstown, Ohio.) [Revisions and additions were made to this paragraph on February 10, 2020.]

And this shop was probably the one we regularly called for a repairman when our TV malfunctioned, often when one of the TV’s vacuum tubes burned out. Because a TV set in those days was like a large piece of furniture, repairmen usually made house calls. Today, with modern flat-screen sets being difficult to fix and often disposable, the TV repairman is a relic of the past. The building that held Dick’s TV Center, across Ridge Avenue from the high school, still exists today and is still in use by a small business.

Dick’s TV Center is featured in “A Christmas Kindness,” a blog about the owner’s very nice gesture to my brother and me when we wanted to buy a Christmas tree. I couldn’t recall the name of the store, but a reader reminded me it was Weber’s TV. Possibly the owner’s name was Dick Weber.

Stevenson Funeral Home at 1142 West Ridge Avenue is no longer in operation at this site. Neither is Stewart’s Grocery that occupied a little building on the corner of West Ridge and Seventh Street. In the 1950s we students from the Robison Elementary School would stop at Stewart’s after school with our pennies and nickels to buy candies.

Sandy’s, at 212 West Ridge Avenue, was another after-school stopping place in the 1950s, in this case by the high school students. Located a few doors from Second Street on the same side as Sharpsville High School, it was a popular venue for meeting with friends, listening to the latest rock ‘n roll 45 rpm records on the coin-operated jukebox, chatting on the pay phone or sipping soda from glass bottles. 

Sandy’s on West Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, 1956. Source: 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook.

Ridge Avenue served its townspeople well some 70 years ago. And as much as certain features have changed since then on this little street, some have stayed the same. For those things that have been consigned to the dusty bins of the past, all we have left are a few photographs, if any, and our memories.

Sources

1956 Devil’s Log Sharpsville (PA) High School Yearbook.

First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville website.

“First Presbyterian Church.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014, Vol. III, No. 2, page 4.

Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene website.

“Sharpsville High School Students abt 1910.” Class photo on Familyoldphotos.com.

“Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary, 1874-1924.” Supplement to the Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, pp 10 & 14. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. http://sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/
GoldenJubilee.pdf

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church website.

White, John G. A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania. Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909. Pages 647 & 953.