VIRTUAL TOURS OF APOLLO

The AAHS is pleased to offer both a hard copy and virtual copy of “A Walking Tour of Apollo” featuring interesting historical buildings in Apollo. The virtual map will be updated periodically to include more building and locations. We hope you enjoy your tour of Apollo. Click Walking Tour of Apollo for the map.

For our first annual Apollo May Daze Celebration, we also have a virtual map featuring the food trucks, vendors, yard sales, and activities taking place all over town on Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2 from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. Our W.C.T.U. Building/Museum and Drake Log Cabin will both be open during these hours. Be sure to stop by! For the virtual map, click Apollo May Daze.

HAPPY 150TH BIRTHDAY, APOLLO TRUST COMPANY!

Apollo Trust Company, “A Bank You Can Believe In,” has been going strong for 150 years.  Organized and operated in Apollo, PA in an effort to help the borough’s people better manage and safeguard their money, the bank started after a meeting at Whitlinger’s Hall on May 16, 1871.  Originally named “Apollo Savings Bank,” its first president, J.B. Chambers, and secretary, S.M. Jackson, were elected during the first meeting.  The constitution and by-laws were drafted by Dr. William McBryar, S.M. Jackson and S.P. Townsend and on May 27, 1871, they were adopted.  The first Board of Directors included J.B. Chambers, Samuel Jack, William McBryar, John Morrow, S.P. Townsend, James M. Kennedy, David Kepple, W.C. Bovard and Adam Maxwell.

1876 Building on 1st Street

The bank opened for business on August 7, 1871 at 2 p.m. in a building that was constructed for $500.  Five years after opening, the first building was destroyed on January 19, 1876 in what was considered the worst fire in Apollo’s history.  Business had to be transacted in temporary quarters in a room rented from W.C. Bovard.  A new building, which still stands on First Street, was completed and ready for business on November 1, 1876.

Apollo Savings Bank operated as a private bank until 1895 when a state charter was obtained.  Capitalization then was $60,000.  In 1901 the bank changed its name to Apollo Trust Company, and the capital had increased to $125,000.

Apollo Trust Company purchased the assets of First National Bank of Apollo and assumed their liabilities in 1954.  In 1961, the recently purchased First National Bank building was destroyed in a fire.  Operations for that branch were conducted in two temporary trailers which were converted into offices.  After the fire, a new main office was constructed on the site of the destroyed building.  The work was completed in 1963, and the main office re-opened in its new building on September 23, 1963.

Over the next decade there was rapid expansion in the North Apollo Borough, Kiskiminetas Township and Washington Township.  In order to better meet the needs of their growing customer base, Apollo Trust Company opened a branch in North Apollo in 1962.  In 1975, the Spring Church and North Washington Drive Thru Offices opened.  A third Drive Thru location was opened in 1985 on North Second Street in Apollo.

Expansion continued in 1990 when the North Washington Office was expanded to a full service branch.  In 1996 another full service office opened in Allegheny Township.  The most recent expansion occurred in 2013 when a Loan Office was opened in O’Hara Township, Allegheny County.

Today Apollo Trust Company operates two offices in Apollo (the Main Office on North Warren Avenue and the Second Street Drive Thru) and has branches in Allegheny Township, North Apollo, North Washington and Spring Church, in addition to the Loan Office on Freeport Road in Allegheny County.

Information taken from the Apollo Trust Company website ApolloTrust.com and from Dr. T.J. Henry’s book “The History of Apollo, PA 1816-1916

Happy 100th Birthday, Owens Grove!

Hugh G. Owens and his wife Emma wanted to show their appreciation and love for the children of Apollo and the region by donating land to house a playground and recreation area. The Owens promised the land to Apollo’s Burgess and Council in 1921, in the Oak Hill neighborhood on the condition that concessions could not be sold for profit, no permanent buildings could be erected in the park except for a Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, and no alcoholic beverages would be permitted in the park. A caretaker would be named by the Council and maintenance would be provided. The park was named “Owens Grove Children’s Playground and Park”. In 1977, the borough, along with the Armstrong County Redevelopment Authority, secured block grant funding to build a new community building. The building, dedicated on October 22, 1978, was to facilitate community-based programs and events. The Borough provided the park’s equipment through several county and state grants. Since the park opened, it has served as the central meeting place for family, community, and class reunions, as well as many community events. (paragraph from the Apollo Bicentennial Committee 2016 book)

For more information and photos, please go to our Owens Grove page.

Held’s Shop N Save Fire

Clair Held owned the Held’s Shop n Save on April 18, 2001.  On that day, a garbage man, picking up the town garbage, noticed flames coming out of the roof in the back of the store.  Around 4 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the family got calls from the neighbors.  All they could do was watch the building burn.

Clair and his grandson were at camp.  The State Police woke them at 5 am to come home, telling them the sad news.  Of course they had KDKA on the radio and heard more news on it as a reporter was on-site.

The building was a complete loss. Clair wanted to rebuild for the town people.  The family has had a store in North Apollo since 1936.  His two daughters who worked with him decided to start planning and checking things out. 

A new Shop n Save opened on August 15, 2002. The owners are Connie, Karen, and Scott, 3rd generation Helds.  Of course Clair is there every day, straightening shelves and having coffee, talking to old friends, and putting in his 2 cents worth, according to his wife Pearl.

Bank Fire

     Hundreds of people came to witness one of the worst fires in the history of Apollo.  The day was Maundy Thursday, March 30, 1961 and the time was 9:00 p.m..  The fire started at Bryan Shepler’s Supermarket and seemed to leap across the brick and wood frame structure.  The fire engulfed the entire block with flames nearly 100 feet high.

     Firemen from Apollo Fire Dept. No. 2 and No. 3, Vandergrift Fire Dept. No. 1 and No. 2, North Apollo, Kiski Township, Oklahoma, and Parks Township fought to contain the blaze.  The lack of water pressure hampered their efforts.  The main power line was downed by the flames, leaving the town in total darkness.  The glow of the bright red fire was seen for miles around.  Volunteers came from all over the Alle-Kiski Valley, while Verona had a truck stuck on Oklahoma Hill because of traffic congestion.  Arnold also had a truck on 1st Street near the Chambers Hotel.

    Among the buildings which were destroyed by the roaring flames were: Shepler’s Market; Dr. J.M. Mumaw’s dentist office; the office of Laird Boarts, district director of State Farm Insurance; the State Farm Agency of Henry Egley and Glen Helman; Dom’s Beauty Shop; Jackson and Russell Men’s Clothing Store; Zula Smith’s Dress Shop; Walter Kunkle, public accountant; Riverview Cemetery Association; and the First National Bank.  The bank was constructed of heavy thick concrete.  The building was thought of as the last building to ever be engulfed by flames.  Even though the electricity was cut off, the large clock in front of the bank kept ticking off the seconds until 11:35 p.m.. This was because the clock was controlled by a central box located above the vault in the heart of the roaring flames.

     The effect of the fire reached beyond the charred block.  All roads leading to Apollo were jammed.  Many motorists were stopped on the hill in Oklahoma as they gazed down at the darkened Apollo, now lit up with flames.  Roads leading to North Apollo and Spring Church were also jammed with cars watching the brightened town of Apollo.

     Three families had to flee for their lives that night.  Mrs. Shilling and Mrs. Wiser rented apartments above the supermarket.  Both had to run with their families from the flames which quickly engulfed the building.  A house next to the State Farm Insurance office was heavily damaged.  Smoke and water damage was confined to the downstairs, but the second floor in the rear was badly burned.  Homes were drenched for protection.

     Among the injured were Dom Gabrelli, who fell off a ten foot wall, suffering a broken jaw; Don Morgan had minor burns; Al Porrecca, along with many other firemen, were overcome with smoke; and Ernie Uptegraph was hit by a car while directing traffic.  Al Porrecca and Dom Gabrelli were taken to Allegheny Valley Hospital.  Several other firemen were treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries at the scene by first aid crewmen at the squad wagon.  Ambulances from Oklahoma and Vandergrift No. 2 fire depts. were also stationed at the scene.

     Apollo No. 2 Fire Dept. nearly lost their brand new fire truck because of the intense heat of the fire.  The truck was pumping from a fire hydrant directly in front of the bank.  Since several lines were stretched from the truck, it could not be moved, and as a result, was badly scorched and covered with tar and dirt.

     The blaze was considered to be the most destructive fire in the Kiski Valley’s history with an estimated damage of $350,000.

     After the fire, the Apollo Trust Company bought the land and constructed the new modern building.  The construction fo the bank actually marked the beginning of the Apollo Redevelopment Program.

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.