Recently on Facebook former Northsider, Noreen Bartins shared her family photos of the Islam Grotto located at 725 Allegheny Avenue. Her family owned the parking lot next to it and the house behind the building. Many Northsiders remember the iconic figure located in front of the building. Many children even claimed to be a little freaked out by the image.
Despite the name, the Islam Grotto is not an organization created by Middle Easterners. It is actually an organization of Master Masons that began in New York around 1889. The Northside chapter was originally located on East Montgomery until it was knocked down to make room for Allegheny Center Mall in 1967. The main ballroom was used to host dances in the 30’s & 40’s according to long time Northsider Bob Rathke. In 1951 the original lodge began hosting televised wrestling tournaments.
According to comments under the post the Islam Grotto on Allegheny Avenue hosted under 21 dances, weddings, cabarets, concerts and more. The hall also hosted Bingo games on Fridays & Saturdays. I even recall a Jehovah’s Witness convention hosted at the facilities in the late seventies or early eighties. I also remember Hawkeye productions hosting shows there in the eighties. The building was torn down around 1988, but many of our memories will last forever.
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