The Sloan Fire

On March 26, 1952, Apollo Hose Companies No. 2 and No. 3, North Apollo, Kiski Township, and Vandergrift George G. McMurtry Fire Departments were called to fight the stubborn blaze of Sloan’s Five and Dime Store and Armitage’s Grocery Warehouse.  Six other buildings were also damaged, resulting in total fire damage of $100,000.

     The blaze completely wiped out the entire variety store which was operated by Harry and Edward Sloan at 117-121 North Warren Avenue.  The warehouse of E.B. Armitage was partially destroyed.  Other buildings damaged were the Blumenstein residence, Johnston Insurance Office, and Dixon’s Bakery, Lew’s Dairy, Beamer’s Cleaners, Apollo Boot Shop, and Nell’s Beauty Shop, all located across the street from the fire.

     A 1950 Nash sedan, owned by Rowler Coulter, was parked in front of the Sloan building and was extensively damaged by the intense heat which also shattered nearby windows and melted siding on two businesses across the street.

     After the fire, the Sloan building was nothing but smoldering ruins.  Walls of the store were completely down.

     Three fireman, Paul Heckman, Erwin Householder, and William Fishell were injured during the fire.

     The Sloan building was 65 years old and was once owned by Henry D. Bellas who operated a print shop on the second floor and rented the first floor to Saul Blumenstein for a department store.  The building also once housed Rudolph’s Cobbler  Shop years ago.  Mr. Sloan purchased the building 26 years before the fire.

Armitage Fire

On Friday, April 17, 1941, at 12:30 a.m. fire struck the Armitage Super Market at the corner of North Warren Avenue and North Second Street.  Discovered by the Armitage family who lived in the house adjoining the store, a night watchman and a passerby, at about the same time, turned in the alarm and the Apollo Hose Companies No. 2 and No. 3 responded.

     The fire originated near the meat cooler where the motors were housed.  It was assumed that the motors stalled and the insulation burned out starting the conflagration.

     The leaping flames spread to the adjoining house, damaging much of the contents.  The Armitage family escaped injury.  The flames spread to the next building, the Famous Store, where the rear corner of the building was badly damaged and stocks ruined from the smoke and water.  The apartment above the store was also heavily damaged.

     The center of the Armitage Store was completely ruined with nothing but charred framework remaining.  The merchandise was damaged by smoke and water.  Mr. Armitage reported that only a portion of the building was insured.

Wallace Lumber Company Fire

 On April 22, 1936, the main building at the Wallace Lumber Company was completely gutted, leaving an estimated damage of $25,000.  Paint and oil among other things added to the inferno which the smoke eaters of the Apollo Fire Companies and George G. McMurtry Fire Department of Vandergrift battled to control.  Plate glass, electrical supplies, plumbing, and hardware supplies, salvaged from the March 17 flood only a month earlier, were destroyed by the flames.  A frame house across the alley at the rear of the building was endangered by the fire and the family of Mr. & Mrs. Dominic Gabrielli were forced to move across the st5reet.  Several sections of hose were destroyed by the fire, but were replaced by Apollo Borough Council.

This picture shows the flood damage of the 1936 St. Patrick’s Day Flood

The Working Men’s Store Fire

On Friday, December 22, 1933, the Working Men’s Store in the Campbell building on North Warren Avenue, was completely destroyed by fire.  Flames spread rapidly over an entire block and were stopped only by a heavy brick wall on the McLaughlin building containing Rubin’s Department Store.

     Firemen from both Apollo and Vandergrift Fire Departments battled the blaze for over three hours.

     The Working Men’s Store occupied the first floor of the Campbell building and the Apollo Realty Company, W.E. Orr Real Estate, and Charles Reilman Law Office were housed on the second floor.  Adjoining the Campbell building were Charlie Carr’s Confectionary and Billards Parlor on the first floor with apartments on the second floor.  The third building burned was owned by R.S. Johnston and was occupied by Joe Solene’s Shoe Shop and George Uptegraph’s Barber Shop.  All the buildings were completely gutted.

Racket Store Fire

On Friday, October 20, 1911, W.B. Miller’s Racket Store was completely destroyed by fire.  A delay in the central alarm system hampered a more effective response to the fire.  By the time the Apollo Fire Company arrived on the scene, the fire was completely out of control.  Assistance was needed, therefore the George G. McMurtry Fire Department in Vandergrift was activated.  The extensive heat from the fire ignited the Guthrie residence located on the corner, causing great damage.  With great effort the Guthrie residence was saved from total destruction, although all the furniture and household goods were ruined.  Total damage of the fire was estimated at $25,000 with both the Guthrie and Miller building insured to half their value.

The tree located across the street from the Racket Shop was destroyed by the flames. The AAHS has a ladder that was made from the wood of that tree on display at our museum.

Vintage Toys

Our 2020/2021 display theme in the W.C.T.U. Building/Museum is Vintage Toys. Since we have not yet been able to open the museum, I’d like to give our readers a sneak peek. Thanks so much to Alan Morgan and Denise Flickinger for the great set-up. And thank you to everyone who donated or loaned these great toys. Brings back some wonderful memories. I hope it does for you too. Please comment about any of the toys you see or post some pictures of your favorite vintage toys! Be sure to stop by the museum when we open…these toys are so much fun to see in real life.

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

Apollo Lodge #386

The Apollo Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was chartered on September 16, 1897, about 30 years after the national organization started. Apollo’s lodge was founded by W.F. Pauly, a Mercer County man who moved to the borough to open a pharmacy.

The Order of Elks is dedicated to providing service to its community through various types of work, such as offering help to veterans, caring for the needy, drug awareness programs, law and order, community affairs, helping handicapped children, sponsoring PA Home Services nurses, and funding scholarships, youth sports, and charities. Elks invest in their community through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, by undertaking projects that address unmet needs, and by honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

The Elks used to sponsor a Flag Day Ceremony to demonstrate love for country and love for the U.S. flag that symbolizes liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Elks bought property and a building from Walter and Bella Guthrie in 1904 on the corner of North Warren Avenue and North Fourth Street. This building remains standing today and was sold in the 2000’s to the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The Hotel Belvedere

The Hotel Belvedere was built in 1905 by Joseph Gianini who was born in Switzerland in 1852.  He immigrated to the United States and ended up in Apollo.  He built the hotel in 1905 and named it “Belvedere” which means “Beautiful view” in Italian. 

The Belvedere was situated across the railroad tracks from the West Apollo Railroad Station.  This was perfect because of the large number of passengers traveling on the rails. 

“The hotel’s heyday was in the early 1900s, when passenger trains stopped across from the hotel,”  according to Alan Morgan of Apollo,  secretary of the Apollo Area Historical Society. “The last train of the day, known as the “bummer,” pulled in at 12:45 a.m.  Not all on the ‘bummer’ were able — or wanted — to go home, so they stayed at the hotel,” Morgan said.

West Apollo Rail Road Station 1916
The Hotel Belvedere celebrating Apollo’s Centennial in 1916. Joseph Gianini is pictured on the left in front of the door.

The first floor of the Belvedere hotel had a candy shop and ice cream parlor.  Over the years the area became a bar.  The upper floors were used as guest rooms, but eventually became apartments.  The hotel was often called the Tin Hut because of the beautiful tin ceilings and tin on the walls.  The rooms also had large fireplaces and detailed wood baseboards and trim.

As passenger trains became obsolete, the train depot was torn down and there was no need for a large hotel there, especially when the roads were widened and there was no parking available.

The years have not been kind to the old building.  The owner, Lanna Planitzer, who bought the place in 1979, had hopes of restoring it, but it was much too expensive and needed too much work.  Ms. Planitzer lived there until July 2017 when the building was condemned and she had to leave.

THIS IS FROM THE PITTSBURGH PRESS, PAGE 133, ON SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 1986.
The hotel today.

Thank you to Alan Morgan, AAHS Secretary for his information and to the late John Gibson for his article in the Valley News Dispatch from the 1970’s.

Hotel Belvedere Comes To A Sad End Tuesday, July 23, 2019

PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (1/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (2/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (3/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (4/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (5/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (6/7)
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Belvedere Hotel - (7/7)

Here is a link to an article about the removal of the Belvedere.

https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/plans-set-to-remove-toxic-rubble-from-belvedere-hotel-fire-scene-in-oklahoma-boro/?fbclid=IwAR0-weygbBHG1Z5gS6qgqNPr2vyRbTEwTW2Zf5zKpzn07-JSBHNP40wq0p4

Feed The Piggy 50/50 Raffle

This is it, the last month to buy your tickets for our Feed The Piggy raffle.  We thank each of you who have purchased tickets & wish each of you could win!  There is over $1,000 in the piggy so the winner will get $500…nice way to start the Christmas season.  So, if you haven’t bought a ticket yet or want to get a few more, don’t wait.  Send a check to the AAHS at PO Box 434, Apollo, PA 15613 or stop by the WCTU building on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 11:00 and 2:00.  The tickets are $1 each and $5 will get you 6 tickets.  Thanks!