I was on the hunt for St. Michael's Hall.
The Russian Society of St. Michael was one of the many ethnic organizations in Ambridge which first organized as a mutual insurance group, then bought a building which became a social club and bar. These clubs were places to hold baby and bridal showers and wedding and funeral receptions. The bars were especially popular on Sundays when public beer-gardens were legally prohibited from opening.
I had seen the above photo in the Old Economy-Ambridge Sesqui-Centennial Historical Booklet from 1974, and it looked so very familiar, but I couldn't place it. I wanted to take a photo, but I would have to find it first. The parking meter out front indicated to me that the building was on Merchant Street or a street near Merchant. But where?
During recent visits to Ambridge, I'd driven through Merchant Street, Maplewood Avenue, Park Road, Duss Avenue, Melrose and Glenwood Avenues from end to end, and I didn't remember seeing this building, although I wasn't specifically looking for it then. So before my last visit to Ambridge, I asked a friend who might know, "Where's St. Michael's Hall?" The answer was that it was on the corner of Pine and 8th Streets and was more commonly called "The Russian Club." OK, I hadn't thought to look there. Were there ever parking meters that far from Merchant Street? And why would a building on Pine Street, a street that I had only been on a few times in my life, look so familiar?
So I drove to Pine and 8th Streets and saw this building:
Nancy Bohinsky Knisley grew up in Ambridge in the 1950s and 1960s. She is the author of Ambridge Memories, a blog dedicated to local history from 1950 to 1970.