McKeesport's Main Street
Part of the 500 block of Fifth Avenue was recently knocked down. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Ghost Stories
McKeesport’s Fifth Avenue:
A once and future main street?
July 10, 2022

Jaison's department store once anchored one end of McKeesport's main street, Fifth Avenue.

It's an empty lot now, some yellow dirt bordered by the ragged brick and mortar of the building next door. "No trespassing," reads the banner in front. "Violators will be prosecuted."

The building was demolished in January — its "J" sent to the local historical society, and the 15-block stretch of what once was a bustling shopping destination now filled mostly by empty storefronts, vacant lots and a handful of small businesses.

The Jaison's building was used for bingo games after the store went out of business in 1985. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
By 2020, the Jaison's building was condemned. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
The former Jaison's building was demolished in January 2022. Property owner Barry L. Stein said he hopes to put a restaurant with a drive-through window or a bank with a drive-through window on the site. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)

This is the story of ghosts — the ghosts of a city's main street.

McKeesport is the second largest city in Allegheny County and sits at the confluence of two rivers, making it ripe for renewal. Revival has unfolded along the city's perimeter, but redevelopment along McKeesport’s Fifth Avenue has been slow to come. Activity is beginning to sprout in the 300 block, led chiefly by Murrysville real estate developer Jonathan Stark working with city and county officials.

"There's already some small activity going on — people walking around," Mayor Michael E. Cherepko said. "That, to me, was unbelievably satisfying."

McKeesport suffers from the same problems as other Monongahela Valley communities — the collapse of the steel industry that was the linchpin of the local economy, leading to a massive exodus of people and subsequent poverty. In McKeesport, the economic base was built on its steel tube and pipe manufacturing plant, the world's largest producer of tubular goods at one time, employing more than 9,000 workers at its height and giving its hometown the nickname of “Tube City.” The plant closed in 1987.

An April 12, 1958, view of National Tube Co. in McKeesport. (Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Co. Records/University of Pittsburgh)

The population fell from a high of 55,355 in 1940 to an estimated 17,493 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census. The people who remain are disproportionately poor. McKeesport has a median household income of $28,881, compared to Pittsburgh's $50,536, and 30.3% of its residents live in poverty, according to the census bureau.

As with main streets nationwide, Fifth Avenue also suffered from the shift of the population to the suburbs, the rise of regional malls and the closing of family-run businesses when their owners retired.

The Eastland Mall in North Versailles helped drive many retailers in McKeesport out of business. It was virtually empty by July 2000 when this picture was taken. Amazon.com plans to build a distribution hub at the location. (Martha Rial/Post-Gazette)

But Mr. Stark and Mr. Cherepko point to other factors that also sapped Fifth Avenue of energy:

The condemned Coney Island Convenience store across from City Hall, 500 Fifth Ave. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
June 23 demolition on the 500 block. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The beginning of the end for Fifth Avenue as a shopping destination dates to 1976. In that year, a spark ignited on the roof of The Famous department store at Fifth Avenue and Market Street. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds swept the blaze to neighboring structures, incinerating seven buildings.

The conflagration only emphasized the beginning of McKeesport's decline — The Famous was already out of business when the fire started.

The Famous, "McKeesport's Big Store," in flames, May 21, 1976. (Post-Gazette Archives)

More Fifth Avenue retail closings followed:

Commercial activity moved to the city's edges along Eden Park Boulevard, Lysle Boulevard and Walnut Street.

Today, the structure with arguably the best-maintained exterior and landscaping is occupied by the Social Security Administration. 

The trimmed lawn, healthy trees and tidy facade of the Social Security Administration, 540 Fifth Ave. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)

A look back a hundred years shows how drastically Fifth Avenue has changed.

(Joseph P´╗┐hillippi/Post-Gazette)
Click map to see larger
The 100 block

The 100 block anchored Fifth Avenue, starting at the Youghiogheny River. The Famous department store stood there as well as the historic Penn McKee Hotel, a sprinkling of mom-and-pop businesses and the Loyal Order of Moose fraternal organization.

The Penn McKee Hotel, 122 Fifth Ave., opened in 1926 and was designed by Benno Janssen, who also designed the William Penn Hotel, Kaufmann's Downtown department store, the 40th Street Bridge and other Pittsburgh landmarks. In April 1947, congressmen John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon came to the hotel to debate the Taft-Hartley Act, aimed at curbing union power. The measure became law later that year. This debate foreshadowed the 1960 Kennedy vs. Nixon presidential debate, the first to be broadcast on TV.

The Penn McKee stopped being a hotel in 1980 and served as a nursing home until 1992, according to a Feb. 9, 2012, Post-Gazette article. The city has not yet begun renovation.

The Famous department store in October 1956 at Fifth and Market, its 1892 facade covered with flat panels. The building on the lower left was Kadar's men's clothing and the structure on the lower right was Haber Brothers clothing, later Ohringer's Furniture. (McKeesport Daily News, June 23, 1995, courtesy of the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
The corner where The Famous stood today. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
The Penn McKee Hotel as it looked when it opened in 1926. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, courtesy of Tube City Almanac)
Looters have stripped the Penn McKee of many of its architectural elements. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
100 Fifth Ave. Chambers Garage McKee's Point Marina (faces Water Street)
100-106 Fifth Ave. 106 - Palisades Skating Rink 100 - Palisades event center
101-119 Fifth Ave. 103 - Salvation Army Industrial Home
McKeesport Athletic Club
Majestic Athletic Club
107 - house
109 - house
113 - house
115 - house
119 - house
PennDOT Project Field Office
114 Fifth Ave. House Part of a house
116 Fifth Ave. Address did not exist Part of a house
120 Fifth Ave. Loyal Order of Moose State Employment Office Unclear whether building is in use
121-133 Fifth Ave. 121 - L.N. Morgan & Co. real estate and insurance
Lewis N. Morgan, alderman
Walter L. Morgan, notary
Michael O. Martin, private detective
Spiritualist Church of Divine Inspiration
123 - Samuel Itscoltz, physician
125 - private address
127 - Robert S. Hinchman, physician
131 - Thomas F. Wiley Co., undertakers
Charles J. Beck, real estate
Private address
133 - Robert L. Ward, art studio
Parking lot
124-132 Fifth Ave. Nothing listed. The Penn McKee Hotel was built in 1926. Former Penn McKee Hotel
139-147 Fifth Ave. 139 - Louis Judkovitz, grocer
141 - Michael G. Kavros, shoemaker
147 - Isador Weiss, confectioner
Haber Bros., clothing
The Famous Department Store
State liquor store
142 Fifth Ave./500 Market St. Schulhof Tire & Service Co. UPMC Western Behavioral Health (faces Market Street)
The 200 block

Jaison's department store and Green's variety store took up much of the 200 block. A hundred years ago, tens of small businesses and the Dreamland Theater also called the 200 block home.

Demolition begins on the former Green's variety store on Walnut Street between Fifth Avenue and Lysle Boulevard. (Elmer C. Brewer/McKeesport Daily News, April 26, 1985, courtesy of the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
The corner where Green's stood in 2020. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
The 200 block of Fifth Avenue facing east. Jaison's is on the left. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
Address 1922 2022
200 Fifth Ave. The Realty Building:
The Realty Co.
McKeesport Savings and Loan Association
Clinton L. Weddell, lawyer
American Legion
Empty lot
201-209 Fifth Ave. 201 - R. Russel & Co. Inc., cigars
203 - M.L. Kelley Co., drugs
205 - James Oddo, fruits
207 - Kelley Building:
Second floor:
William H. Chambers, physician
Chambers Corp., coal
William H. Chambers, physician
Chamber Corp. coal
James B. Sampson, dentist
Andrew A. Guffey, physician
Third floor:
Tube City Letter Shop
Mrs. Jennie Stinson, hair dresser
Richard P. Wyant, physician
John G. Fitzpatrick, chriopractor
209 - J.L. Doscas & Co., billiards
209 - Natale Sporting Goods
202-208 Fifth Ave. 202 - Frank A. Guiser, men's furnishings
204 - Purity Restaurant
204 1/2 - John C. Winner, billiards
206 - James Savage, meats
206 1/2 - Banner Supply Co. Inc.
208 Coney Island Restaurant
208 1/2 - Albert Reichenbach, dentist
Empty lots
210-218 Fifth Ave. 210 - Katherine Iverson, cigars
210 1/2 - Mrs. Sophia Felkenstein, doll repairer
212 - Paul P. Schuldt, ladies furnishings
214 - Askin & Marine Co.
216 - P. H. Butler Co., grocers
218 - Peter W. McCune, hardware
218 1/2 - Wyant Hall
Charles W. Carr, billiards
Cricket Wireless (address on building is 222)
211-213 Fifth Ave. 211 - Edlow Grocery Co.
211 1/2 - Howard E. White, dentist
Thomas W. Kay, physician
Harry D. Finney, dentist
Marion M. Edmundson, lawyer
Robert M. Curry, lawyer
William E. Newlin, lawyer
George H. Lysle, real estate and insurance
Thomas E. Finley, lawyer
213 - Newark Shoe Co.
Closed business
215-221 Fifth Ave. 215 - Duquesne Light Co.
Equitable Gas Co.
Gas & Electric Shop, fixtures
217 - Cassell Hat Co.
219 - Altmeyer Family Theatre
221 - Frank Becker, soft drinks
Demolished. Was Jaison's department store
220-226 Fifth Ave. 220 - Harry Tyson, pictures frames
222 - vacant
224 - English Woolen Mills Co.
224 1/2 - National Building:
Peters Creek Coal Co.
State Road Coal Co.
Joseph C. Wiley, physician
226 - Great A & P Tea Co.
J. Edwin Jenkins, insurance
Calhoun & Calhoun, lawyers
Harry R. Levy, lawyer
Nathan Levy, real estate
Allen J. Werry, photographer
Rudolph E. Abraham, chiropractor
220 - ENN Cutz barber shop
216 - All the Way Ink You Up LLC tattoos
224 - ABC's Child Care and Learning Center
226 - Dr. Gary R. Hess, optometrist
225 Fifth Ave. Carroll's Candy Kitchen
Ivan White, photographer
Electrical Specialty Co., radio supplies
Closed business
227-337 Fifth Ave. 227-231 - The Finley Co., department store
231 1/2 - Ruben Building
233 - Union Clothing Co.
235 - H & R Shoe Store
337 - Louis Engelman, clothing
Valerio's gas station
228-330 Fifth Ave. 228 - William F. Sullivan, shoes
230 - Dreamland Theatre
Joe's 2 Go (unclear if in business)
232-238 Fifth Ave. 232 - Philip Kessler, confectioner
234-238 Fifth Ave. - First National Bank
230-236 - UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Mon Yough Community Services
The 300 block
The 400 and 300 blocks of Fifth Avenue on Dec. 31, 1959, included Ruben's Furniture, 301 Fifth Ave., right. McKeesport had the second largest business district in gross sales in Allegheny County that year. (Ed Romano/Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)
In its last years, Cox's department store had a blue tile facade with cut-out windows along one corner. Models would sometimes come out of the windows and walk along the overhanging roof. The store closed at the end of 1982 and was torn down in 1994. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
The Cox's logo at 300 Fifth Ave., all that remains of the department store. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
The 300 block looking east in the 1930s or '40s. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
The 300 block of Fifth during reconstruction of the railroad crossing, August 1970. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)

The parking lot at the corner of Fifth and Walnut used to be the flagship Cox's department store, a beloved city landmark. Its facade was made of blue tile with chrome trim except for the first level, which was entirely made up of showcase windows, and two windowed display boxes cut into the corner that faced Fifth and Walnut. Cox's started as an 1884 seamstress shop on Fifth and developed into a department store in 1955. At one time, the retailer had six mall locations. The Fifth Avenue building was demolished in 1994.

Two other local clothing stores rounded out the 300 block of Fifth Avenue: Immel's at 318 and Kadar's at 320.

This block retains some of its former liveliness with several small shops, some of them new, especially in the Executive Building: Marva Jo's Sea & Soulfood, Guilty Pleasure Nutrition protein smoothies, Cafe Hibiscus teas, Daneb's House of Styles and CynCityCutz barber shop. Building owner Jonathan Stark has leased all the space in the Executive Building's first floor and expects an Inferno Pizza shop to open later this year. He is charging tenants $11 per square foot, utilities included, he said.

Several Allegheny County offices also attract people to the street.

A 1983 photo shows the already aging Immel's and Kadar's clothing stores. The Kadar's name is partially obscured by weeds. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
300-304 Fifth Ave. 300-304 - G.C. Murphy Co. Parking lot. Former Cox's department store
301-305 Fifth Ave. 301 - The People's Bank Building of McKeesport
McKeesport Title & Trust Co.
Offices for physicians, dentists,
lawyers, real estate agents,
notaries public, gas, coal and oil companies,
chiropractors, a hair dresser and a barber.
Other company/organization offices:
YWCA
Christian Science Reading Room
Republican Headquarters
Keefer Photograph Co.
Fuller Brush Co.
Allegheny County Board of Underwriters
City Hall and all its departments and offices

305 Fifth Ave. - Ruben Furniture Co.
301 - Empty, but being renovated
305 - Closed business
306-314 Fifth Ave. 306-308 - William Hinchmann, dentist
John S. Peairs, dentist
Douglas Business College
310 - Mark Abel, jeweler
312 - Hub Clothing Store
A. Brock Stinson, dentist
Charles H. Brown, real estate
314 - Union National Bank
George Goetz, barber (in basement)
Parking lot
309 Fifth Ave. Lee J. Bachman, clothing One Stop Resell Ltd.
311-313 Fifth Ave. F.W. Woolworth Co.
Mary Flading, milliner
Sarah Goldberg, chriopractor
De Lux Beauty Parlor
Closed business; was a CVS
315 Fifth Ave. The People's Store, credit clothing
Yee Wah, restaurant
Closed business
316 Fifth Ave. Will J. Cox, milliners Progressive Music
317-319 Fifth Ave. 317 - Grand Leaders, ladies furnishings
319 - M. S. Neiman Co., jewelers
Closed businesses
318 Fifth Ave. William G. Carlson, shoes Closed business, was Immel's
320-330 Fifth Ave. 320 - The Seddon Co.
322 - Grand Studio
324 - Walter R. Murray, confectioner
Water E. Davidson, dentist
326 - Amper Co., clothing
326 1/2 - Samuels' Shoe Store
328 - Abraham Taplitz, jeweler
330 - Adolph Schmidt & Co., drugs
320 - Marva Jo's Sea & Soulfood
322 - T-Mobile
324 - Guilty Pleasure Nutrition
326 - Cafe Hibiscus
328 - Daneb's House of Styles
330 - Bleuu Candles
321-323 Fifth Ave. Helmstadter Brothers department store Closed businesses
325-333 Fifth Ave. 325-327 - J. D. O'Neil Co., department store
329 - Tobias Simon, men's furnishings
Charles C. Franks, billiards
331-333 - Lorch Bros. Co., department store
Morris Klein, jeweler
Closed businesses
334-350 Fifth Ave. 332 - Not listed
334 - United Cigar Store Co.
336 - Star Restaurant
338 - Bowman Wall Paper Co.
National Athletic Club
340 - G.W. Dunh & Co., proprietary medicines
340 - G.W. Dunn & Co., proprietary medicine
340 - Gates Candies Inc.
332 - closed business
334 - CynCityCutz barber shop
336-340 - closed businesses
335-343 Fifth Ave. 335-337 - Metropolitan 5 to 50c Stores Inc.
New Hotel Pershing
339 - Roth Block
Grinberg Electric Shop
Samuel Milliken, lawyer
Smart Hat Shop
Central Studio, photographers
341 - B & O Cash Meat Market
343 - James B. Smith, florist
335 - Allegheny County Emergency Rental Assistance Drop In Center
337 - Allegheny County Adult Probation Services
339 - Allegheny County WIC Program
The 400 block
Midtown Plaza, showing the parking deck uniting buildings on both sides of Fifth Avenue, in 1981. (John Heller/The Pittsburgh Press)
Midtown Plaza in 1983. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)
Midtown Plaza today. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Midtown Plaza, showing the parking deck uniting buildings on both sides of Fifth Avenue, in 1981. (John Heller/The Pittsburgh Press)
Midtown Plaza shops were already having occupancy problems in 1983. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)
The empty Midtown Plaza shops today. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)

The ill-fated Midtown Plaza mall was built in 1976 along both sides of Fifth Avenue to revive retail along Fifth Avenue by putting a mall on the main street. A parking lot deck crossed over the street, joining the buildings. After rain water in 1981 leaked from the parking garage into the shops' ceilings, ruining their stock, and the utility company shut off the gas to the mall from August to October 1990, many tenants left. Shop owners also complained that poor lighting at the mall entrance attracted loiterers and made shoppers feel unsafe.

The present owner of the first floor of the Midtown Plaza buildings and the parking garage, Pittsburgh-based developer Barry L. Stein, bought the property at a sheriff's sale in 2003 and had the parking lot deck removed. The shops are still vacant and have not been renovated, but he said he continues to try to get tenants and will renovate once he gets them. "I’m working very hard on leasing," he said. He and the mayor described their relationship in adversarial terms.

Balsamo's market, the city's first supermarket, stood at the corner of Fifth and Sinclair. It closed in 1974, according to "Images of America: McKeesport," a 2007 book by McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center volunteers.

Balsamo's, probably in the 1960s. (McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center)
Address 1922 2022
400-404 Fifth Ave. 400 Fifth Ave. - Federal System of Bakeries
John P. Clarke, billiards
James F. McGirr, barber
B & O Station Union News Co.
Tube City Taxi Co.
402 - George Austin, confectioner
404 - Yanks Army and Navy Store
Closed businesses
406-424 Fifth Ave. 406 - vacant
408 - Yester Building:
A. M. Simon, lawyer
Rhoda E. Ransick, notary
Harry J. McAllister, lawyer
Peter C. Yester, optometrist
James G. Gorman, confectioner
Yester Apartments
408-410 - Hotel Waldo and Restaurant
LaRosa & Kittiko, barbers
412-416 - Donahoes Inc. grocers and meats
418 - National Shoe Co.
420 - McKeesport Paint and Hardware Co.
422 - W. F. Frederick Piano Co.
424 - White's Apothecary Hall
Closed businesses
417-425 Fifth Ave. 417 - John Goetz, confectioner
419 - Polites & Bergiris, confectioners
421 - Jacob K. Harvey, jeweler
423 - James B. Balsamo, fruits
425 - George Anastaskos, hat cleaning
Closed businesses
The 500 block
The former G. C. Murphy corporate annex, 541 Fifth Ave., was once a Montgomery Ward. All Things Outlet now occupies the space. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
City Hall at 500 Fifth Ave. stands across the street from the long-gone Coney Island Convenience store and the building that used to contain Monarch Wallpaper & Paints. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
A G. C. Murphy's store, arguably the first one in the chain, used to stand at 531-535 Fifth Ave. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Monarch Wallpaper & Paints, 505 Fifth Ave., as it looked mid-20th century. (McKeesport Area Regional History & Heritage Center)

The 500 block of Fifth Avenue once contained five cinemas — the Liberty, the Lyric, the Globe, the Capitol and the Victor theaters.

George C. Murphy opened his first eponymous variety store on this block in 1906 at Fifth Avenue and Sheridan Street in McKeesport. By 1976, the chain had expanded to a high of 545 stores nationwide. It was sold to Ames in 1985 and the Fifth Avenue store closed Christmas Eve of that year.

Helmstadter's department store, 519 Fifth Ave., once boasted, "If you can't find it, go to Helmstadter's." Two brothers founded the store in 1905, and the sons of one of the founders ran it until 1995, when they closed the store.

The fading Helmstadter's logo as it appears today facing Lysle Boulevard. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
The Coney Island Convenience store used to be Goodman's Watch Repair and Jewelry Shop, as the sign facing Sinclair Street still shows. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)

The David Israel men's clothing store, 507 Fifth Ave., closed in 1991 after 72 years in business when one of the owners wanted to retire.

Most of the block, except the former G.C. Murphy's headquarters, is slated for demolition, and some of the block came down on June 23.

Part of the already-demolished 500 block. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
500 Fifth Ave. The National Bank of McKeesport
Offices for lawyers, dentists, shoe shine
real estate agent, probation officer, chiropractor, civil engineer
McKeesport Builders Exchange
American Tomb Co.
Chamber of Commerce of McKeesport
American Red Cross
International Bible Students' Association
McKeesport Service & Relief Association
Tube City Bus School
City Hall
501 Fifth Ave. Antler Cafe
James Bergeric, shoe shine
Coney Island Convenience (closed), slated for demolition
503-505 Fifth Ave. 503 - Central Restaurant
505 - McKeesport Hat & Cap Shop
Closed business, slated for demolition
504-518 Fifth Ave. 504 - The Apollo, confectioners
506 - Harry A. Young, meats
Gustav Tiffany, shoe shine
508 - George Bukes, confectioner
508 1/2 - Milligan Bros. real estate
Anthony Bruno, tailor
Shincup Klothing Shoppe
Williams Dancing School
510 - A & B Clothing Co.
512-514 - Liberty Theatre
516 - McKeesport Butter Co.
518 - Coney Island Lunch
Parking lot
507 Fifth Ave. Lyric Theatre Closed business, slated for demolition
509-511 Fifth Ave. 509 - Not listed
511 - Globe Theatre
Globe Bowling & Billiard Parlor
Closed business, slated for demolition
515-517 Fifth Ave. 515 - Capitol Restaurant
Capitol Theatre
517 - Kline Bros., dry goods
Closed business, slated for demolition
519 Fifth Ave. Western Penna Grocery Co.
Samuel H. Heffner, photography
Closed busines, slated for demolitions
520-538 Fifth Ave. 520 - W. T. Forrester Co., stationery
Octagon Soap Premium Parlor
Monard Manufacturing Co., ladies aprons
520 1/2 Castle Club
Monarch Manufacturing Co. dresses
522 - S. Supowitz, shoes
524-526 - Victor Theatre
528 - White Millinery Co.
530 - Mrs. Ella Mandel, jeweler
532-534 - Nathan A. Potosky, jeweler
536 - Will Pfaff, optometrist
536 1/2 - Aliquippa Apartments
538 - The Acme, ladies furnishings
McKeesport Child Development Center
521 Fifth Ave. Hartman Hardware Co. Closed business, slated for demolition
523-525 Fifth Ave. The New Outlet Clothing
Kiwanis Building:
L. Domer Davis, dentist
Maude Miller, dress maker
McKeesport Oil & Drilling Co.
Demolished
527 Fifth Ave. Walk-Over Boot Shop
New China Restaurant
Ho-Lee Co.
Closed business, slated for demolition
529-535 Fifth Ave. 529 - Men's Service Shop, clothing
531-535 - G. C. Murphy Co., 5 and 10 cent store
The Hall Barber Shop
Closed business, slated for demolition
537-543 Fifth Ave. 537 - Not listed
539 - Cohens New Idea Millinery
541-543 - S. Kalchstein & Son, men's furnishings
Closed businesses and slated for demolition except 541 - former G. C. Murphy corporate annex, now All Things Outlet
540-562 Fifth Ave. 540 - F & F Floral Shop
542 - Morris Krow, wallpaper
544 - H.B. Hartman Co., hardware
Malrose Shoe Co.
546 - Isaac Lichtman, clothing
546 1/2 - Mrs. Naomi L. Payne, nurse
548 - Lincoln Restaurant
550 - William J. McCaw, harness maker
552 - Watson-Morgan Paint & Glass Co.
554 - H.B. Hartman, hardware
556 - Tony Prassinas, pool
558 - Peoples Market, grocers
558 1/2 - William J. Cook, dentist
Emma C. Morton, dressmaker
Overland-Mooney Co., autos
560 - Harry B. Kaplan, furniture
562 - Elek Klein, bottler
Social Security Administration
545-547 Fifth Ave. 545 - Abraham L. Kessler, grocer
Nick Nicholson, shoemaker
Rear - Henry J. Clay, grinder
547 - J. H. Jones, dry goods
John Halas, Turkish baths
McKeesport Beer Barrel
553-555 Fifth Ave. 553 Fifth Ave. - Jacob Klein, shoes
553 1/2 - Louis Pohl, grocer
555 - Boston Store, men's furnishings
Michael A. Mackanic, pool
Parking lot for PNC Bank on Lisle Boulevard
The 600 and 700 blocks

The buildings on these two blocks on the south side of the street were demolished sometime between 1959 and 1969 and the site was then used for parking. Along with the buildings, Wylie Way, which used to intersect Fifth Avenue between the 600 and 700 blocks, and Ryan Alley, which used to intersect Fifth just west of Coursin Street, have also disappeared.

A Sheraton Inn hotel replaced the original buildings on the north side of the 600 block of Fifth, but the hotel had its back to Fifth and faced Lysle, as does the Dollar General next door. The hotel is now the Senior Care Plaza.

A hundred years ago, these blocks comprised a mix of small businesses.

An undated photo of the 600 block showing Gussy's bowling alley. (McKeesport Area Regional History & Heritage Center)
Undated photo of the 600 block facing east, showing a variety store, left. (McKeesport Area Regional History & Heritage Center)
The 600 block today, facing east. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
600-736 Fifth Ave. 600 - Michael A. Coudes, soft drinks
602-604 - McKeesport News Co.
606 - James R. Weimer, meats
608 - Jacob Goetz, barber
610-626 - private residences
616 - George Ertel, horseshoer
628-630 - Morris Goldberg & Sons, ''hd'' goods
Anna Onderko, midwife
632-634 - S. Greenblaat, furniture
636-640 - Private residences

718 - Michael Mrvos, confectioner
720-722 - Morris Shrader, sporting goods
724 - Economy Market
726 - Joseph Flieshman, meats
728 - Harry Weiss, tailor
O. E. Tonell, jeweler
730 - Joe Yee, laundry
732 - Fred J. Miller, barber
732 1/2 - Haller Building
Charles B. McCluskey, pool
734 - Great A & P Tea Co.
736 - Meyers Furniture Store
740 - Mrs. Elizabeth Larkin, pianos
Empty lots
Back of Hi View Gardens apartments (face Sixth Street)
601-623 Fifth Ave. 601 - Columbian Building:
Max Goodman & Son, men's furnishings
603 - Samuel Goodman, jeweler
605 - Not listed
607 - William M. Woodward, physician
609 - City Hotel
611 - Adolph Goldberg, shoes
Samuel Goldberg, shoes
613-617 - R. E. Kaplan, furniture
619 - Harris Brothers, hardware
621 - Novelty Shoe Co.
Pearl Benedek, dressmaker
623 - Samuel Weiss, jeweler
Parking lot
625-737 Fifth Ave. 625 Fifth Ave. - United Electric Co.
627-629 - Henry Bondy, department store
631 - Eva M. Doty, bakery
633 - John W. Brookmire, confectioner
635 - Joseph H. Clark, meats
637 - Manhattan Pastry Co.
Louis Weiss, fruits
639 - P. Jeremiah Kehoe, food products
641 - John C. Little, laundry
643 - Joseph Butz, confectioner
David Israel, men's furnishings
George F. Smith, painter
703 - Michael Makowka, soft drinks
705 - David Braun, tailor
707 - Toscano & Forsyth
709 - Country Market
711 - Citto Angelo, shoe repair
713 - Not listed
715 - Joseph L. Nayhouse, men's furnishings
717 - American Gymnastics Union
McKeesport Turnverein Singing Society
717-719 - Brown Brothers, hardware
721 - McKeesport Retread Co.
721 1/2 Henry Stern, tailor
723 - Private residences
725 - Abraham Finkel, grocer
727 - Condes Brothers, restaurant
729 - United Auto Service Co.
729 1/2 - Rade M. Rudolph, jeweler
731 - Benjamin Parker, tailor
733-735 - Hotel Feldman
735 - Max J. Feldman, men's furnishings
737 - R.R. Stauch, barber
Senior Care Plaza (faces Lysle Boulevard)
640 Lysle Blvd. Not listed Back of Dollar General
The 800 and 900 blocks

The Shop 'n Save grocery has replaced the original buildings in the 800 block on Fifth. The store takes up the 800 block with Fifth to the south, Lysle to the north and Coursin Street on the west and faces Coursin.

Lico Inc., at 929 Fifth, a janitorial supply company, is one of the few stores that has lasted 100 years. Sam and Stanley Lichtenstein, the grandson and son of the founder, respectively, now run the business.

The Minerva Bakery at 927 Fifth opened in 1923, so it is coming up on its centennial.

The Shop 'n Save as it looks from Fifth. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette
Lico Co. at 929 Fifth has survived 100 years. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
Minerva Bakery is one of the few surviving businesses in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
800-820 Fifth Ave. 800 - Adam Schwerba, undertaker
804-806 - A. Davison Feed Co.
Parking lot
801-831 Fifth Ave. 801 - Elois Fischer, cafe
801 1/2 - Wolf Hotel
803 - Nathan Israel, men's furnishings
805 - Herrmann & Jones, confectioner
807 - Miles Richards, druggist
809 - S & G Bashur, confectioners
Louise A. Luge, music teacher
811 - White Front Meat Market
813 - Hugh S. Wilson, grocer
815 - Laura E. Ferree, notary
817 - Joseph Arnold, dentist
Abraham Fisher, physician
819 - A & M Cash Grocery
821 - United Printing Co.
823 - Victor W. Cowan, physician
825 - Frank Sorci, barber
827 - William Gross, grocer-meats
831 - David Klein, jeweler
Shop 'n Save (faces Coursin Street)
808-818 Fifth Ave. 808-810 - Fred R. Steadman, monuments
816 - Max Einzig, meats
818 - French Tailoring
Katsur Dental and Orthodontics
900-908 Fifth Ave. 900 - White Sewing Machine Co.
902 - Andrew Yablonsky, pool
904 - Violet & Leonard, grocers
906 - Peter Langsdorf, alderman
908 - Motor Tire & Service Co.
Closed businesses
901 Fifth Ave. Hotel Smolnicky Tube City Cafe
903-905 Fifth Ave. 903-905 - Joseph A. Simon, furniture
905 - Foster Apartments
Demolished
907 Fifth Ave. Vacant store Demolished
911 Fifth Ave. Frank Schmiedt, tailor Empty lot
913 Fifth Ave. Harry Elgort, tailor Empty lot
915 Fifth Ave. Lamp Brothers, confectioners Closed business
916 Fifth Ave. Not listed Parking lot
919 Fifth Ave. Louis Wasserman, grocer Closed business
921-923 Fifth Ave. Joseph Spiegel, meats-grocer Closed business
925 Fifth Ave. Harry Wanetak, shoes Minerva Bakery
927 Fifth Ave. Morris J. Klein, jeweler Minerva Bakery
929 Fifth Ave. George A. Pistel, baker Lico Inc., janitorial supplies
The 1000 and 1100 blocks

These blocks used to consist mostly of small, one-person businesses, but one major retailer made this stretch of the street its home — Henry B. Klein clothing, 1111 Fifth Ave. "McKeesport's Finest Store for Men," ads boasted. "Nothing but the best for you." The store opened in 1910 and closed around 1981.

The Henry B. Klein building at 1111 Fifth was beyond repair in 2006 and was demolished. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)
The Sam C. Dougherty carpet store at 1102 Fifth Ave. went bankrupt in 2010. The store is now unused and deteriorating. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
The McKeesport Candy Co., 1101 Fifth Ave., has been in business since 1927 and at this location since 1935. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
1000 Fifth Ave. Third Ward School Empty lot
1001 Fifth Ave. Anthony T. Burda, barber Closed business
1003 Fifth Ave. Samuel Friedman, shoes Warehouse
Tube City Novelty Co. wholesaler
1005 Fifth Ave. Not listed Warehouse
1009 Fifth Ave. Joseph F. Cheek, undertaker Warehouse
1011 Fifth Ave. Tube City Auto Supply Co.
Carmine Panico, shoe repair
Closed business
1013-1015 Fifth Ave. Vacant Warehouse
1016 Fifth Ave. Private residences Empty lot
1017 Fifth Ave. Daniel M. Hardy, soft drinks Closed business
1100-1114 Fifth Ave. 1100-1112 - No listings
1114 - Private residences
Former Sam C. Dougherty carpeting store, now empty and in poor condition
1101-1103 Fifth Ave. 1101 - Reuben Moritz, dry goods
1103 - Morris H. Farkas, grocer
McKeesport Candy Co.
1105 Fifth Ave. John W. Clark, real estate
Max H. Barney, clothing
McKeesport Candy Co.
1109 Fifth Ave. National Mantel Co.
McKeesport Auto Club
Possibly part of McKeesport Candy Co.
1111 Fifth Ave. Henry B. Klein Co., clothing Empty lot
1113-1117 Fifth Ave. 1113 - John Belgrado, barber
1117 - Cecelia E. Weissberg, variety store
Parking lot
1126 Fifth Ave. Not listed Appears to be empty apartments
1128-1132 Fifth Ave. 1128 - William H. Exner, tinner
1130 - George J. Meskowski, grocer
1132 - John Magur, soft drinks
White Street Apartments (face White Street)
The 1200 and 1300 blocks

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., known as A&P later, started in 1859 and was the largest grocery retailer by 1975. In 1922, it had three stores along Fifth Avenue, at 226, 734 and 1327.

These blocks, like the previous ones, had a mix of small businesses in 1922. Now they are mostly health-care related businesses and offices.

A UPMC Primary Care center at 3121 Fifth Ave. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
The Fifth Avenue Medical Center building at 1320 Fifth appears to be empty now. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
Address 1922 2022
1200-1202 Fifth Ave. 1200 - Louis E. Rees, monuments
1202 - Private residence
Empty lot
1201-1205 Fifth Ave. 1201-1205 - Hotel Schmidt
1205 - Joseph Jiuliano, barber
Parking lot
1205 - apartments
1204-1208 Fifth Ave. 1204 - Johnson's Motorcycle Store
1206-1208 - McKeesport Auto Exchange
John Zurinski, cleaner
Garage
1207-1211 Fifth Ave. 1207 - Martin S. Krantz, dry goods
1209 - Joseph Chrillo, grocer
1211 - Fifth Avenue Pharmacy
Parking lot
1210-1212 Fifth Ave. 1210-1212 - George J. Baird, drugs Parking lot
1213-1229 Fifth Ave. 1213 - E. T. Clark Hardware Co.
1215 - John Horowicz, meats
1217 - National Lunch
1219 - Domonic Scorson, grocer
1221 - Dependable Furniture Co.
1223 - John M. Musulin, soft drinks
1225-1227 - Canova Apartments
1227 - Watson Hardware & Paint Co.
1227 1/2 - Max Miller, confectioner
1229 - Alex Farkas, confectioner
Apartments
1300-1318 Fifth Ave. 1300 - Sowden Motor Co.
Mariano Sgarlata, barber
1306 - Isadore Rosenzveig, tailor
1312 - F. M. Reed & Co., roofing
1314 - Charley King, laundry
1316 - Evangelical Italian Mission
1318 - C. George Glarrow, confectioner
Parking lot
Fifth Avenue Medical Center (appears no longer in use)
1303-1319 Fifth Ave. 1303 - McKeesport Auto Radiator Repair Co.
1311 - Joseph Puglia, shoe repair
1313 - Samuel LaRose, grocer
1317 - Edward Kane, billiards
1319 - John Lopreste, barber
Empty lot
1320-1322 Fifth Ave. 1320 - John Glarrow, restaurant
1322 - Philip Sunseri, grocer
Fifth Avenue Medical Center (appears unoccupied)
1321-1327 Fifth Ave. 1321 - Felix Giganti, shoe repair
1323 - Vacant
1325 - Fischer Brothers, meats
1327 - Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
1321 - UPMC Primary Care center
The 1400 block

This block has been the location of the McKeesport Hospital, now UPMC McKeesport, for more than a century. In 1922, the hospital complex included a nurses' training school and a tuberculosis "dispensary," which provided the little help that medical science could offer TB sufferers at the time — a spittoon, instruction on how to prevent the spread of the disease, and sometimes bedding and laundry service. TB is an airborne bacterial infection that generally attacks the lungs and, if untreated, kills about half of those people who contract it.

The UPMC McKeesport hospital today. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
Bob and Dot's bar stood at Fifth and Evans avenues across from the hospital in the 1950s. (McKeesport Area Regional History & Heritage Center)
Address 1922 2022
1400-1414 Fifth Ave. Wertenbach-Saunders Inc.
1401 Fifth Ave. McKeesport Plating & Refinishing Co. Kucich Co. and parking lot
1405 Fifth Ave. William P. Potthoff, barber Kucich Co. and parking lot
1409 Fifth Ave. Hotel Waldorf Kucich Co. and parking lot
1411 Fifth Ave. John C. McClurg, autos
1401 1/2 - Joseph Comparato - barber
Kucich Co. and parking lot
1413 Fifth Ave. Anthony Jordan, grocer Kucich Co. and parking lot
1415 Fifth Ave. S. M. Staley & Co., drugs Kucich Co. and parking lot
1500 Fifth Ave. (1400 in current numbering) McKeesport Hospital
McKeesport Hospital Training School for Nurses
Tuberculosis Dispensary No. 81
UPMC McKeesport Hospital
The future

Through McKeesport Rising, a public-private partnership, Mayor Cherepko hopes to bulldoze blighted structures and make parcels along Fifth ready for redevelopment. To that end, the city is fining and suing property owners whose buildings have long stood vacant.

"Who wants to be next to a dilapidated building?" he asked rhetorically. "It's not appealing. That shows you ... the city is dying. ... Blight is like a cancer that slowly demoralizes people."

McKeesport Mayor Michael E. Cherepko discusses his vision for the city's Fifth Avenue. (Post-Gazette)

He said he's encouraged by the expansion of Quincy, Fla.-based Trulieve Cannabis Corp., a medical marijuana manufacturer and seller, in the RIDC Industrial Center where National Tube used to stand along the Monongahela River. He also pointed to the opening of a refurbished McKeesport Transportation Center for public buses along Lysle Boulevard. The center was rededicated in March.

The city plans to rehabilitate a parking garage on Lysle and in 2017 bought the old McKeesport Daily News building for $1 from Trib Total Media.

The Trulieve medical marijuana site in McKeesport is predicted to have more than 1,000 employees in the next three years, Mr. Cherepko said. (Post-Gazette)
Pennsylvania State Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, addresses the crowd during the re-opening of the McKeesport Transit Center in March. Mr. Brewster is a former mayor and city councilman of the city. (Post-Gazette)
The city bought and renovated the former Daily News building, shown here in 2019. Tube City Community Media Inc. is among the tenants. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

Even local historian and journalist Jason Togyer agrees that demolition is necessary. "It literally is cheaper to tear it (a dilapidated building) down" than to rehab it, he said, enumerating the many upgrades that old buildings require to meet current standards. These include installing air conditioning, Wi-Fi and disability accommodations as well as getting rid of asbestos, lead and mold.

He described going through a former G.C. Murphy office building in the 500 block of Fifth and seeing a cardboard cross that an employee had made with the words "God save G.C. Murphy Co." written on it in marker.

"I just wanted to cry," he said. "It had been hanging there for 40 years."

Historian and journalist Jason Togyer wrote the book "For the Love of Murphy's" about G. C. Murphy in 2008. He has historic maps of the former variety store's offices in McKeesport. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)

He also saw a store planning calendar on the wall with all of 1986 empty of promotional plans. Ames Department Stores bought Murphy's in 1985 and almost immediately sold or closed more than 100 stores including the one in McKeesport.

"Windows were broken and the ceiling was down, but the store planning calendar was still there," he said. "All these ghosts. I really was hoping to save something, but it was so far gone. There comes a point where you just can't save it."

Developer Jonathan Stark's plans for the former People's Bank of McKeesport building at 301 Fifth Ave. could also bring more people to the former main street. Mr. Stark is renovating the building, which has retained 16 of its 32 silver teller stations, its white Carrara and green Italian marble floors and walls, original mahogany doors and brass fixtures, and an ornate original safe in the basement. Mr. Stark has applied to have the building designated a National Historic Landmark.

The People's Bank of McKeesport, left, still has most of its original architectural features. (Post-Gazette)
McKeesport Mayor Cherepko, right, orders a protein smoothie from Ebony Levy, left, owner of Guilty Pleasure Nutrition, 324 Fifth Ave. Shadia Shealey is at center. (Post-Gazette)

Reviving Fifth Avenue depends on having destinations that attract people, Mr. Stark said. Once those destinations are in place, other retail with follow.

"You're not going to see a big shopping district" on Fifth, Mr. Cherepko said. "That part is gone. But it's going to flourish in a different way."

´╗┐Laura Malt Schneiderman, lschneiderman@post-gazette.com

Correction, posted July 18, 2022: The Famous department store building was being renovated, not being demolished, when it caught fire.

Correction, posted July 22, 2022: John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon were congressmen, not senators, when they debated in McKeesport in 1947.

Correction, posted July 22, 2022: The spelling of Jason Togyer's name has been corrected.

Credits

Story
Laura Malt Schneiderman

Design / Development
Laura Malt Schneiderman

Photography
Alexandra Wimley
Laura Malt Schneiderman

Video
Joseph Phillippi

Special thanks
David Moore, Meagan Donnelly, Bonnie Stern, Marianne Macbeth and Madonna Frederick at the McKeesport Area Regional History & Heritage Center

Source for 1922 businesses: "Polk's McKeesport City Directory 1922: Including directories of Dravosburg, East McKeesport, Glassport, Otto, Port Vue and Versailles," courtesy of the McKeesport Area Regional History and Heritage Center

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