Thursday, January 20, 2011
JOSEPH HORNE CO.
Downtown Pittsburgh is oddly sited, and it was always hard for me to understand how it developed with Horne's at 501 Penn Avenue blocks away from Gimbels and Kaufmann's on Smithfield Street. The answer is in Pittsburgh's peculiar geography and where the stores drew their trade from. Unless you're from Pittsburgh or have a map this will probably make no sense, but: downtown Pittsburgh was originally centered on Market Square, at Diamond Street (now Forbes Avenue) and Market Street. Stores spread up and down Market, and then onto Fifth Avenue a half-block north as well as Diamond. Kaufmann's was originally a South Side store, serving the working class, and the Smithfield Street bridge was a main entrance to downtown from the South Side, so when Kaufmann's came downtown it built on Smithfield where it encountered downtown traffic reaching out along Diamond (Forbes) and Fifth.
Horne's, however, was the carriage-trade store, and in the late 19th century much of the carriage trade -- not the super-rich, who lived out past East Liberty, but the upper middle class -- lived on the North Side, in what then was the separate suburb of Allegheny. Allegheny had its own department stores -- one, Boggs & Buhl Co., lasted into the 1950s -- along its main street, Federal Street, which when it crossed the Allegheny River entered Pittsburgh as Sixth Street and eventually turned into Market. Horne's started out near Sixth Street on Penn, and then moved a block west. Eventually, Market Square, which had been the center of downtown Pittsburgh, lost its prominence. The railroad that ran down Liberty Street and other commuting trails also enter into this, but the strange disconnectedness of Pittsburgh's major department stores in the 1960s came from their placement to dominate the streetcar lines coming across the bridges from very different parts of town.