By Sydni Canney
A commercial parking garage stands unobtrusively on the corner of Sixth Street and Penn Avenue. On weekdays and weekends, it’s filled with an array of citizens, most unbeknownst of the rich Jewish history that had transpired there only a few decades before its construction. From 1868 to the late 1950s Rosenbaum’s Department store was one of the many Jewish-owned storefronts that adorned Fifth Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. The store can be partially accredited with the large influx of Jewish citizens that moved to the Downtown area. Many early Eastern European immigrants who had moved to Pittsburgh began establishing ineradicable communal bonds through the wholesale stores and family-owned shops that spread out amongst the Avenue. While many could get by as peddlers, some members of the community were able to establish careers in wholesale. Known as jobbers, they would trade merchandise for bargain prices. This type of job often required the businessmen to obtain sizable spaces to store their merchandise, hence the creation of the department store.
Rosenbaum’s Department store in particular was an ornate establishment, finished with wrought-iron marquees and was established in 1868 by Max Rosenbaum, a German-Jewish immigrant. What began as a store that sold primarily millinery quickly branched out into selling all sorts of merchandise, including clothing and home goods. It quickly became as equally well-known as its neighboring department stores: Kauffman’s, Horne’s, and Meyer Jonasson. But Rosenbaum’s was much more than a corporate-owned department store. In fact, it would spend its entire life cycle all with ownership remaining in the family, being passed from its founder, Max Rosenbaum, down four more generations before its closing in 1960.
Each generation of the Rosenbaum family maintained an integral role in the local Jewish community, sustaining generational membership at the Rodef Shalom Temple in Squirrel Hill. Walter Rosenbaum, the son of Max Rosenbaum, would go on to acquire a role in the store’s leadership, even rebuilding it in a new location in 1915. After Walter’s rebuilding of Rosenbaum’s, he would then pass this role onto his son and University of Pittsburgh Alumni, Stanley W. Rosenbaum. Stanley W. Rosenbaum would eventually impart this responsibility to his son Stanley J. Spear, the late president and board member of the Brotherhood at Rodef Shalom. The interconnectivity of local Jewish families was truly unprecedented in their willingness to aid and support other local families. Just one example of the all-inclusive relationships that existed within the Jewish community is that of Anna Goldie Spiegle. Spiegle, the daughter of another notable Jewish family in Pittsburgh, worked at Rosenbaum’s as a saleswoman for a period of time. It was not uncommon for local families in the community to both work together and share their free time in local temples and religious groups.
Even after the original framework of Rosenbaum’s Department store is now long gone, its roots are intricately woven into the Jewish community of Downtown Pittsburgh and will forever remain an integral part of the city’s history.
“Rosenbaum Co. Window Display of Wigs,” H.H. Seiferth Sign Co. A Rosenbaum Co. Window Display of Wigs.
[MLA: [Canney, Sydni]. “[Downtown department stores left their mark on Pittsburgh].” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, [(12) (Dec) (2021)], http://pge.libercus.net/.pf/page/180265/3
[MLA: [Canney, Sydni]. “[Rosenbaum, Stanley – 1987 – Tape 1, Slide 1].” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, [(20) (May) (1987)], https://historicpittsburgh.org/islandora/object/pitt%3Aais196440.377_t1s1
[MLA: [Canney, Sydni]. “[Holiday Shopping Downtown].” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, [(9) (Dec) (2021)], https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/downtown-pittsburgh-holiday-shopping/
[MLA: [Canney, Sydni]. “[The Spiegle Family].” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, [(20) (May) (Year of Publication)], https://rauhjewisharchives.org/entry/spiegle-family/
[MLA: [Canney, Sydni]. “[Fifth Avenue: 1880-1980].” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, [(20) (May) (Year of Publication)], https://rauhjewisharchives.org/entry/fifth-avenue-1880-1980/
How to Cite
MLA: Canney, Sydni. “The Late Rosenbaum’s Department Store In Downtown Pittsburgh.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 23 Sept. 2022, https://religyinz.pitt.edu/the-late-rosenbaums-department-store-in-downtown-pittsburgh/
APA: Canney, Sydni. (2022.) The Late Rosenbaum’s Department Store In Downtown Pittsburgh. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/the-late-rosenbaums-department-store-in-downtown-pittsburgh/
Chicago: Canney, Sydni. “The Late Rosenbaum’s Department Store In Downtown Pittsburgh.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 23 September 2022. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/the-late-rosenbaums-department-store-in-downtown-pittsburgh/