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Old G.C. Murphy Property Donated to City Redevelopment Authority

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 09, 2019
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac file photo by John Barna)

(The author has a conflict of interest. See editor's note.)

The former G.C. Murphy Co. home office complex at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sheridan Street has been donated to the city's redevelopment authority.

Allegheny County deed records show that the five-building complex at 521-531 Fifth Ave., located on four separate lots, was sold to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport on Sept. 23 for the nominal cost of $1 for each parcel.

The seller was Exclusive Services Inc., which owns and operates Don Farr Moving & Storage in West Mifflin. The company had owned the buildings since 1993.

A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director, said the city has no definite plans for the property at this time.

Exclusive Services had used the complex for many years as a storage warehouse, but employees said the elevators in the building were no longer serviceable and as a result it was not suited for the company's purposes any more.

From left are visible the Hartman, Ruben and Moskowitz buildings and the remains of First Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The buildings were part of the G.C. Murphy Co. chain's home office complex beginning in 1912 and continuing through 1989. (Tube City Almanac file photo by John Barna)

The property, located across Lysle Boulevard from the McKeesport Transportation Center, consists of five buildings constructed between the 1880s and 1900s, including the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Moskowitz Building, the Ruben Building, the Hartman Hardware Co. building, and the F.W. Wernke Carriage Works.

The Ruben and Hartman buildings are five stories tall. The other buildings are two- and three-stories tall.

According to contemporary accounts, George C. Murphy opened a five-and-10-cent store in the Ruben Building around 1906 and quickly built up a chain of 12 locations around Pittsburgh.

After his death in 1910, the Murphy chain was purchased by John Sephus Mack and Walter Shaw. The McKeesport store was moved in 1919 to the fomer church building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sheridan Street. The chain's executive offices were relocated upstairs.

As the company grew to include more than 500 stores in 24 states and Washington, D.C., it gradually acquired and connected the five buildings into one large office complex.

At its height, the Murphy Co. employed about 600 home office employees on Fifth Avenue and at a computer center on Walnut Street, in addition to about 200 workers at a distribution center in Christy Park.

The G.C. Murphy Co. was forced into an acquisition by Ames Department Stores in 1985. The McKeesport offices closed in 1989 after the remaining Murphy stores were sold to a competitor, McCrory Corp. of York, Pa.

Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Editor's Note: Jason Togyer is a member of the board of directors of the G.C. Murphy Co. Foundation, a charitable organization, and author of the 2008 book, "For the Love of Murphy's" (Penn State Press)

Originally published October 09, 2019.

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