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Joseph Horne Company

A view of the clock

The Joseph Horne Company, often referred to simply as Joseph Horne's or Horne's, was an iconic, regional department store chain based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The store was one of the oldest in the country being founded on February 22, 1849 [1] but due to its regional presence in the country, it was often overlooked. The chain ceased operations in 1994 after being merged with the Lazarus division of Federated Department Stores, Inc..


Joseph Horne (1826-1892) was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Horn and Catherine Otto, grandson of Henry Horn, who had served in the Continental Army. Joseph moved three counties west to Pittsburgh and found his first job in the retail trade with Christian Yeager, the father of South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member H. C. Yeager. Soon, Joseph moved to the F.H. Eaton store, and first became a partner. He bought out the business in 1849, renaming it The Joseph Horne Company, a name it would bear for more than 130 years. Horne was 23 at the time of the purchase. He joined forces with Christian B. Shea and A. P. Burchfield, whose families intermarried and entered the business, and brought an hauteur to this emporium that has never been equaled in Pittsburgh.

In 1881, the firm built their new building designed by Charles Tattersall Ingham at Wood and Liberty. In 1891, at age 65, Horne sold the wholesale side of his company's operations to the Pittsburgh Dry Goods Company. He married twice — first to Mary Elizabeth Shea, later to Emma Galway — and sired numerous children. His son Durbin Horne, born in 1854, was among Horne's children who followed their father into the family business. Both Joseph and Durbin Horne were members of the area's elite South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Joseph Horne died in 1892.

Christian Bernard Shea (1835 – 1900) was the brother-in-law of Joseph Horne, and his founding partner in The Joseph Horne Company. Shea was involved with both halves of the family business — retail (Joseph Horne Co. Department Store) and wholesale (Pittsburgh Dry Goods Company). Shea was also member of South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, which suffered devastation during 1889's Johnstown Flood.


Site of the Joseph Horne Company Department Store, located at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In 1849, Horne's began operations as The Joseph Horne Company after Joseph Horne bought the Eaton Co. It soon became a leading Pittsburgh department store. In 1879, a new central location was built at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, a seven-story landmark which was the first department store in the city's downtown. The building still stands to this day and several Horne's signs remains on the building to remember the store, similar to exterior details which continue to be displayed at the former Pittsburgh Kaufmann's on Smithfield. St.

In 1972, Associated Dry Goods acquired Horne's, and ADG expanded operations of Horne's to several stores in suburban malls throughout the Pittsburgh region as well as in Erie, Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio. In December 1986, Horne's was acquired by a local investor group following ADG's acquisition by May Department Stores. The local buyout was part of May's divesting of the Horne's chain, since May was already the owner of cross-town rival Kaufmann's.

Two years later, the Arkansas-based department store chain Dillard's and Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. agreed to acquire Horne's, with plans of combining it with another recent acquisition for Dillard's — the Ohio-based Higbee's store chain. The deal was canceled abruptly, resulting in several years of litigation.[1] Dillard's eventually agreed to acquire five Ohio Horne's stores as part of a legal settlement in 1992.

By 1994, Federated Department Stores acquired the remaining ten Horne's stores and merged them with its Lazarus division, completely ceasing all operations of any store under the Horne's name. This caused some anger among Pittsburgh shoppers, as Horne's was the oldest store in the city, Horne's had been a 145-year-old Pittsburgh tradition. After its closure the company was often praised for surviving 145 years with only a maximum of 15 stores. Several of the former Horne's locations operating as Lazarus were closed in 1998. Those that remained eventually became known as "Lazarus-Macy's" and in 2006 were joined with Kaufmann's in the nationwide Macy's consolidation.[2]

Flagship store

The flagship Horne's Department Store in Pittsburgh was the first department store in Pittsburgh, and remained the only until the founding of Kaufmann's in 1871.The L shaped building is actually three buildings built over the course of time. The original built in 1892 was six stories tall. Then a six story addition was added in 1897, followed by a seven story addition in 1922. The store had a total of four entrances — two on Stanwix Street, and two on Penn Avenue. It had of selling space and was the city's second largest department store. The store remained Horne's until 1994 when it was converted over to Lazarus. Lazarus only remained in the building for 1 year before building a new location on Fifth Ave. Oxford Development Co purchased the building with hopes of ground level retail while renting floors two through seven to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Old Navy opened on the first two floors in 1996 but closed in 2003. The building was then bought by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and remains to this day as Highmark offices with a ground level Rite Aid and a restaurant.

The Horne's Tree

The lighting of the Horne's Christmas tree at the flagship store was a long-held holiday season tradition. The 6 story electric tree would be placed on the corner of the building at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street. People would crowd the corner for a show and the lighting. The tree is still displayed annually in the tradition of Pittsburgh's Light Up Night at the Horne's building. Crowds in the past also eagerly awaited the Christmas window displays at Horne's, once part of the high competition among Pittsburgh's downtown stores for the attention of the Light Up Night visitors.

Left over Horne's

Several years after the closing of the last Horne's stores, several signs remain at the historic downtown flagship store building, each bearing the Horne's name. On the left corner of the building, two plaques remain that read "Joseph Horne Co Dry Goods Importers and Retailers". Also, above three of the entrances to the building, there is a sign engraved in stone that reads "1849 - Joseph Horne Co. - 1879" marking the founding of the company and the year the building was built. Four sidewalk slabs adjoining the building also have the Horne's logo engraved in them.

Horne's and popular culture

Well beyond Pittsburgh, Horne's became a part of popular culture. Artist Andy Warhol worked at a Horne's location in the store's display department as a summer job in 1947.[3]

The television series Twin Peaks provided the fictional Horne's department and owner Ben Joseph Horne were inspired by the real Horne's. The co-creator Mark Frost attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Horne's also made notable appearances in movies, including the Dawn of the Dead. The Downtown Pittsburgh flagship store was the site of the 1987 erotic thriller, Lady Beware, starring Diane Lane as a window designer. This was Horne's most notable appearance, because it was shown in its fullest and was not blocked out in the movie. Diane Lane's character worked at Horne's proudly.

See also


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