Butler’s Valley Catering Company, The Flatiron Building

Sewickley Black History Tour

Butler’s Valley Catering Company, The Flatiron Building

Sewickley, Pennsylvania 15143, United States

Created By: Sweetwater Center for the Arts


Butler’s Valley Catering Company, The Flatiron Building
514 Beaver Street, Sewickley

John D. Butler came to Sewickley in 1890. While working as a chef at one of the local hotels, he soon became an entrepreneur, founding the Butler Brothers ice-cream store and caterer, also known as the Butler's Valley Catering Company. Run by his two sons, James and Carroll, the store operated for 29 years in the uniquely triangular building. Patterned after a New York structure of the same name, Sewickley’s Flatiron Building has been identified as a historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. The building was not only home to Butler’s Valley Catering Company, but the large Butler family lived in the top floors as well. Only fresh cream sent in daily from Caughey Farm in Lyonsville was used for the Butler’s ice cream, which was delivered to Sewickley and Ambridge. Goodies, including hot chocolate, hot coffee, soda from the fountain and sandwiches, oysters, taffy, peanut brittle, homemade Saratoga, and potato chips were available there as well. The small restaurant provided foods and ice cream for eating in, delivery, and catering services to affairs such as weddings. Black friends and family, however, were not permitted in the dining room. Instead the proprietor’s wife, Hattie, would invite them as guests upstairs, where the family lived, to enjoy their ice cream there.

Black History of the Time (1890-1930)
During Reconstruction, Americans lived through a short period of integration. Soon the Long Depression, deep racism and white resentment towards African Americans who were becoming successful brought on the Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws in the south and similar practices throughout the north. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation was constitutional, declaring that the 14th amendment applied only to political and civil rights, not to ‘social rights’. This ruling established the idea of ‘separate but equal,’ which plagued American society for decades. Black owned businesses in these early days often would serve white customers and therefore were not permitted to serve African Americans. This was common until the early 1900s when white customers began to no longer patronize Black business.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Sewickley Black History Tour


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