The Eclectic History of 8 West North Avenue…

Mar 22, 2018 | | 11 comments

Photo of 8 West North Avenue, 204 North Avenue, Allegheny in 2018. Photo Source: Bill Gandy

It is very possible that Northside is about to lose one of it’s most noteworthy and historic blocks.  On March 12, 2018 more than 3,000 residents in the Mexican War Streets and Central Northside voted for a motion to tear down 4, 6 & 8 North Avenue.  This is now the official position of the Allegheny City Central Association (ACCA).  They are the 3 buildings near the corner of Federal Street & North Avenue next to the Garden Theater.  The former spot of the corner drugstore at 2 North Avenue is already gone.

The URA and Trek development are working together on preservation of the block, but it appears many residents have become impatient with unrealized plans and lack of progress.

This block has been in use since Allegheny City and etched into the memories of anyone whom was born and raised on the Northside.  We at the Allegheny City Historic Gallery always favor restoration over demolition when it comes to preservation of our history.  Old Allegheny has lost so many buildings, streets & industries over the years that we truly cannot justify further destruction.

Resident Steven Winslow started an online petition to stop the destruction of this historic corner.  To support his efforts please click on this link.  Here is a brief rundown on the history of 8 West North Avenue.


8 West North Avenue (204 North Avenue, Allegheny)

This building has undergone several incarnations from it’s beginning as the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary to our most recent memories of the Apache Lounge.

204 North Avenue was initially the home of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  They also occupied 188 North Avenue & 314 Ridge Avenue all in Allegheny.  According to their website they were in Allegheny since 1853.  The 204 North Avenue location was erected around 1873.  We’ve located online books written from the Seminary in Allegheny from 1854, 1861 & 1864.  There are more too.  The Reformed Presbyterians owned the building until around 1923.

Photo of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary located at 204 North Avenue, Allegheny. We are unsure of the date but we believe it’s from the 1870’s. Photo Source: Brian O’Neil article Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

In 1882 Western University (Pitt) moved into 204 North Avenue after their location downtown burned down.  They occupied 2 of the buildings owned by the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  They remained in the  buildings for around 8 years and eventually needed more space.  In 1890 Western University moved to Observatory Hill (Perry Hilltop today) after acquisition of 10 acres of land near the top of Federal Ext.

Western University located at 204 North Avenue, Class of 1889. Source: University of Pgh Archives

By Fall of 1889, 204 North Avenue was occupied by the Park Institute.  It was a preparatory/trade school with college prep courses, classical, English & business, including shorthand and typing.  The 1st African-American to graduate from Western University (Pitt) attended classes here.  We found advertisements for the institution from 1889 & 1891.

Advertisement for the Park Institute from Saturday, August 10, 1889 in the Pittsburg Dispatch.

Park Institute advertisement in Harper’s Business Magazine from 1891.

In the late 1930’s, 8 West North Avenue was the home of a show-bar called the Churchill Tavern owned by an Italian woman named Settimia Zoppi, born in Italy in 1889.  Her husband Warren bought the business for her.  Settimia’s son-in-law, Elmo Raguine was the bartender.  It featured dining & dancing plus live entertainment every night.  They advertised that they had the 2 biggest floor shows.  It was the gathering spot for many locals including a group of neighborhood WW II survivors called the Lucky Son’s in the 1940’s.  In the January 12, 1948 edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Churchill advertised the premiere of “Allegro” a new musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein.

The Churchill Tavern located at 8 West North Avenue. Post Card from 1930’s. Source: John Canning.

Members of the “Pump Alley Gang” aka Lucky Son’s (Northside WW II survivors) inside the Churchill Tavern in the Late 1940’s. Source: Chris & Tony Colecchia.

In 1960, 8 West North Avenue was a bar called Club 8.  We haven’t been able to find information on this club as of now, but as we do, we will upload it to this page.

8 West North Avenue in the 1950’s with a view of Club 8.

In the late 1960’s it became a neighborhood bar called the Apache Lounge.  The original Apache lounge was located on Federal Street.  The original owner was Robert F Betzold of Federal Street who filed for a permit in 1962.  According to it’s reputation in the Northside, African-American community, the bar was not too welcoming to dark-skinned people.  It was sort of a rough bar frequented by bikers.  I also heard that from my father.  However, I recall a story from my mother about my father entertaining several African-American members of the Pittsburgh Pirates there one day.  According to her, there were a few stares at 1st but they cleared a few tables and served the men pridefully.

A view of Federal Street & North Avenue in the 1980’s with a view of the Apache Lounge in the background.

Apache Lounge Flag Football Team 1973. Source Keith Medved.

If you have memories of this location in any form, please share them with us in the comments.  This block deserves to be preserved.

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11 Responses

  1. Wow! My uncle, Buddy Burton, owned a pool hall somewhere between the Garden Theatre and the drugstore in the late 1950s. I don’t remember the drugstore at all, but think it was in the basement of one of these buildings.

    1. There is actually a slight view of that Pool Hall in the main pic of the story but it’s from the 1920’s. He must have taken over ownership at some point. Do you have a pic of him?

    2. Yes, the pool hall was in the basement of the building next to the drugstore. The latter referenced building also was the location for the The Original New York Hot Dogs – Quick Lunch circa 1970 thru 1990’s.

  2. I was young at the time of the pool hall but I remember my brother taking me there where he would meet some friends from Alpine St.

  3. In the mid 60s my dad owned Club 8 for a very short time. He was a BIG gambler and actually won ownership in a card game. The same way he lost ownership!

    1. Around that time, I briefly dated a guy from New York who said he was sent here to run that club. I think he roomed there. I suggested we go there & he refused saying it was for men. He dropped some hints that made it seem like he worked for a syndicate. I moved & the next time I was in that vicinity it was no longer Club 8.

  4. Hate to see these old buildings torn down. My ancestors lived in 1867 at 191 North Ave, and elsewhere within blocks of this corner until 1905. My grandfather, Rev. Robert McConaughy, graduated from the R.P. Seminary in 1905. How can I help?

  5. My Grandfather had a butcher shop on Federal Street, just a block or so up from the corner of Federal and North Avenue. We used to go help him on Saturdays and walk down to the corner for hot chocolate.

  6. My parents were friends with Robert Betzold and they went there a lot to “party.” during the late 60’s. I was very young and only vaguely remember being in there once during the daytime. I remember having ashtrays, matchbooks, and key chains with an Apache head Logo on it. We lived in Brookline, so it wasnt a corner bar for them. I also remember my father dropping the name of a Pirate or Steeler who sometimes dropped in. Wish I could contribute more, but I was only 8-10 years old during that time.

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