The Union Cooperative Building



By Charles Engle


Appeared in the Centennial Edition of the Record American on August 30, 1963


The Cooperative Building which played an important part in the history of Mahanoy City was located on the northwest corner of Main and Centre Streets. It was a familiar site, enduring with slight alteration for over 50 years. The ground on which it stood was one of the first lots to be sold in the borough. It was sold by James Dundas and others, trustees.


The oldest deed to lots in the town are recorded July 1, 1858, and this was one of the first. Wm. Y. Agard and Ronsloe Boone of Pottsville purchased the three lots on the north side of Centre Street at Main from Jas. Dundas and others, trustees for the heirs of Thos. Biddle of Philadelphia for $800. A building was erected immediately. It was sold six months later with the note in the deed that a frame building and stable be erected thereon.


After passing through various hands, the corner lot was sold by sheriff’s sale as the property of William Regan to Judge Benj. Heilner of Tamaqua.


On December 21, 1869, it was sold to the Union Cooperative Association of Mahanoy City No.1 for $9,000. It consisted then of a three-story frame building and a two-story building attached with a frame stable.


The Union Cooperative Association was started by articles of agreement made on the 21st of January 1869, between Jos. Wilds, Reese P. Jones, John Morgans, Geo. L. Roberts, John Holland, Rich. Phillips, Dan. Jeffries, Thos. Reese, Nathan Francis, Ebenezer Morris and Benj. Davenport, all Mahanoy City.


The purpose of the organization was- to raise money by voluntary subscription among the members to create a fund to better enable them to purchase food, fuel, clothing, and other necessaries, by carrying on in common, the trades of general and retail dealers, producers and manufacturers. Four thousand shares of stock at $5.00 a share were issued. Since all the members were of Welsh descent it is possible that they intended to help numerous Welsh families who were coming to work here.


The building became well-known in later years as the home of the Quinn Butcher Shop which occupied the front on Centre Street. Gabarini’s fruit and peanut stand was placed against the building on the east side. In the three-story part of the building on Main Street, Chris Lugan had a saloon; next to Lugan’s was Wm. Davis tobacco store. Thomas King had a saloon in this part of the structure also. Wm. Morgan, tinner and plumber, had the first store in the two-story part of the building. The well known Leitenberger candy store was between Morgan and a barber shop on the corner. Enoch Wild had a small office back of the barber shop.


The second-floor had a large front room used at one time by the young men’s Republican club. Squire Alex. May and other offices were also on this floor. Wm. Watkins was the superintendent of the general store operated by the company in 1874. The third floor was given over to a large room. This was used for some time by Severn Post, G.A.R. No. 110, and by labor unions and other groups. The entire building was surrounded by a permanent awning which provided shelter from the sun and rain. On the first of April 1921 the property was sold to John Smith, acting for the Union National Bank, for $38,750. Wm. Morgan was the president at that time and Frank C. Ball the secretary. Many prominent citizens owned stock in the association over the years. The Union National Bank built a very substantial edifice which was used by them until the depression when it was sold to Cornelius Reing.



Union Cooperative Photo Gallery


Cooperative Building


“Building later called the “Cooperative Building”—housing stores of various types. At the extreme right of the picture can be seen the sloping bank of the Reading railroad tracks. Trees in the background would be where Vine St. is now located. Notice the dirt streets—proving this would be a very early scene of Mahanoy City. The horse hitching posts also suggest an early settlement.”
Elwood Young- 1963



Frank leslies Illustrated newspaper


Less than ten years after Mahanoy City became a borough the Union Cooperative was featured in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper which was a nationally syndicated newspaper published in New York City. In March of 1871 it was the ONLY illustrated paper in the country.


The subject of the photo above is the Anthracite Miners Strike of 1871 which lasted from January to June. The caption under the sketch reads, STRIKE AMONG THE COAL MINERS OF PENNSYLVANIA."BLACKLEGS", OR WORKING OPERATIVES, AT MAHANOY CITY, HOOTED BY THE SOCIETY MEN AND THEIR WIVES.-FROM A SKETCH BY OUR SPECIAL ARTIST , JOSEPH BECKER.-SEE PAGE 21.


The short article on page 21 reads as follows.






Mahanoy City , Pa., for several years has been the rendezvous of miners on strike for higher wages. On the arrival of the principal mail trains a crowd of several thousand persons will assemble at the post office, and await delivery of letters and papers . During the recent trouble at the mines this city was, as usual, the scene of intense excitement. Our illustration represents an incidence of daily occurance. A party of miners, who were content to work for the established prices, were kept in employment, while the dissatisfied ones "knocked off" until their employers agreed to honor a higher schedule of pay. The workingmen returned from the mines daily at five o'clock, and as they passed along the principal thoroughfare, the strikers ranged themselves on either side , and hooted their old companions as they hurried through the lines. Women and children joined in the taunts, and although great indignation was exhibited , the strikers wisely refrained from an attack on the steady miners.



Notes: 1. The "steady"miners who are walking the gauntlet are most likely retuning from either the Mahanoy City Colliery just northwest of the end of North Main Steet or the Silliman Colliery ( later named the North Mahanoy Colliery) located one-half mile northeast of Mahanoy City along the road to Bowman's patch.The Mahanoy City Colliery was operated by Englishmen Romel, Hill and Harris. Hill's patch is named for Hill and the colliery was directly across the road from the patch. In 1871 there were twenty-one other collieries operating near Mahanoy City, but the two mentioned above were closest to the Union Cooperative Building.


2. The upper floor of the Union Cooperative Building was most likely the site of a meeting of the Workmen's Benevolent Association (WBA) which was held on March 2 and headed by John Siney head of the WBA. At this meeting the General Council of the union rejected the offer of the coal operators and the strike continued. It was probably around this time that Mr. Becker of Frank Leslie's Illustrated drew the picture above since in early March of 1871 Mahanoy City was a central point of interest in the strike which encompassed the entire Anthracite Region.


3.The post office mentioned in the article was just around the corner from the scene of the sketch at 3 West Centre Street in the front part of the Union Cooperative. In 1871 David Phillips was the post master.You can see the railroad bridge on Main Steet in the sketch. People would await the arrival of the mail from the Reading Railroad Station to the post office each day. I doubt if there was home delivery of mail in 1871.The Reading Station was just a few yards from the bridge over Main Street.



Squire Alex May was a magistrate in Mahanoy City from the late 1880s until his death in April of 1901. His daughter Inez May taught in the Mahanoy City schools for over forty years. She was principal of the Spruce Street School for fourteen years. Inez May died at her home at 98 South Main Street in May of 1959.




The picture above shows Centre Street looking west shortly after the dam break caused Mahanoy City's worst flood in June of 1892. The Cooperative Building can be seen just right of center on the corner.

Read more about the 1892 Flood Here



The picture above was taken between 1897 and 1905 for it was during those years that D.A. Bowman had his photography business on the northeast corner of Main and Water ( Market) Street. You can see part of his sign at the upper left. Across the street to the west is the Mansion House on the southwest corner of Main and Centre. The Cooperative Building is shown in the center. The sign on the top reads GRAND ARMY HALL. The smoke in the distance is from the Mahanoy Colliery.






West Centre Street 1903


The picture above is from a panoramic postcard from about 1903. It shows a section of the Union Cooperative Building at the right. The two men on the far right are standing in front of the Garbarino sisters fruit stand. Going west from that point to about the middle of the block were: Thomas Quin's Meat Market, William Madden's Stationery Store which also housed two telegraph offices ,the F.M Kirby 5& 10 cent store, the Grand Central Hotel, Harry Krebs Drug Store. Across the street on the south side of Centre were: the Mansion House, Benjamin Franklin watchmaker, Harry Jones Book Store, Smith Seager novelties, Joseph Robins clothier and William Reynolds Drug Store ( where the Dog House is now.)








The picture above was taken in 1906 or soon after. That's when the Reing Building was constructed at 5-7 West Centre where it still stands today. In this picture, the F & M Kirby 5 & 10 Cent Store is pictured on street level between the Grand Central Hotel at 9 West Centre and the Cooperative Building on the corner. The F.M. Kirby Store would later become Woolworth's 5 & 10.


Note the trolley tracks. Going east across Main Street the First National Bank building is visible. The sign reads WILLIAMS BUSINESS COLLEGE. Louis McCann a teacher at Williams took over the Williams School in 1897 after it had failed financially. He moved the school from the Kaier Opera House building in around 1906 to the First National Building and eventually it became known as McCann's Business School. Later McCann's School occupied the second and third floor of the Reing Building until it moved to new headquarters at Main and Pine Street in July of 1960.






The picture above shows the Cooperative Building in 1917 during the Great War. The Cooperative Building was like a mini-mall with Quin's Meat Market as the anchor store on Centre Street. Along the west side of Main Street were two confectioners, two saloons, a cigar store and a magistrate. The Kaier Brewery sponsored the War Bond signs on the building. At that time the Kaier Company had their own sign business in the borough. You can see the magistrates sign in the middle of the block. It says," W. A. Melusky - Justice Peace Skwaier." The sign on the pole says," Keep to the right. Speed limit 12 miles per hour." The Quin (Quinn) family had operated a meat market in the Cooperative Building since the 1870s and continued to do so until 1921 when the building was sold and demolished.


Union National Bank

The Cooperative Building was torn down in October of 1921 after serving the community for more than a half century. Late in 1921 work was begun on the impressive structure in the picture above - the Union National Bank Building.The new bank held open house for the public on Saturday, November 11, 1922.

Less than ten years later the bank directly across Main Street, the First National, would open its newly constructed building on Saturday, February 21, 1931 at the beginning of the second full year of the Great Depression. The First National would become bankrupt and in June of 1937 the Union National Bank moved across Main Street to the former First National building.


Main and Centre 1938


The picture above was shot around Christmastime 1938 after the Union National Bank had moved across Main Street to the former First National building. After the bank moved the building at 1 West Centre was remodeled for use as a three story multi purpose building. In the picture you can see scaffolding is erected to remove the large windows from the Main Street side of the former bank. The second and third floors would become offices and apartments. The first floor housed the newly expanded Woolworth store. Bill Miles Photo




The picture above shows the former Union National Bank after it had been remodeled in the late 1930s. The large windows of the bank building have been replaced on front and side. Woolworths now occupies the first floor of the former bank and the Reing Building to the west. The J.J. Newberry store can be seen at 9-17 West Centre. ( Site of the current Rite Aid parking lot.) Dr. Joseph Glaudel Photo


Rhoades Building


The picture above shows the site of the Union Cooperative Building and the Reing Building as they look today. The historical society occupies two rooms on the bottom floor. The museum is located in the former Reing Building and the research/archives room is located in back of the former UNB / Woolworth Building.Frank Damato Drone Image




Museum and Archives





The Story of Mahanoy City's First Building - 1791



In 1791 a hunter named John Reich arrived in the eastern end of the Mahanoy valley and built a log cabin along the Catawissa turnpike at what is now the northeast corner of Main and Market streets. We remember this property as Julie Shandri’s corner. The log cabin became an inn for travelers and hunters.


In 1797 the log cabin was the scene of the first meeting of Jost Folhaber, the Immortal Peddler, and his assassin Benjamin Bailey. In the 1800s the ownership of the cabin changed hands several times until it came into the possession of John Faust in 1835. A few Faust family members lived in the cabin at different times and in 1837 Rebecca Faust was born there, thus becoming the first child born in what would become Mahanoy City.


In April of 1853 Emanuel Boyer, an employee of the Little Schuylkill Company, purchased the cabin from Jacob Faust. The Little Schuylkill Company completed a survey of the Mahanoy valley in late 1853 in preparation for a tunnel into the valley and a railroad line. By that time Emanuel Boyer had also purchased from Jacob Faust the Mahanoy House, a newly constructed hotel around the corner from the cabin on what would become Centre Street. The rear of the log cabin had been moved to the Mahanoy House to be used as a kitchen and later the remaining part of the cabin was torn down.


Boyer ran the Mahanoy House until 1863 when he sold it to a Howe sewing machine salesman. He then built a brick making kiln at the corner of Main and Pine where St. Paul’s Church now stands. Manny Boyer would serve two terms as Chief Burgess and continue to live in Mahanoy City until his death in 1913, shortly after the borough’s 50th anniversary celebration.


Joseph Davies history of the Log Cabin appears below.


















The Historians



Much of the information for this page came from the work of the three men pictured above. Joseph Davies was an assistant editor of the Record American and president of the Schuylkill County Historical Society. Charles Engle taught at Mahanoy City High School and later became an administrator at Mahanoy Area. Elwood Young operated a stationery and wallpaper store in the first block of East Centre Street. These three local historians collaborated on a history of Mahanoy City's first 100 years which was published in 1963.


Engle Davies and Young


Charles Engle, Joseph Davies and Elwood Young in 1963