The Hoffstots

Gideon Norton Hoffstot was born in York County, Pennsylvania, on February 13, 1812. His parents, John and Mary Norton Hoffstot, had immigrated from Germany and England, respectively. His wife, Mary Cannon Hoffstot, was born in October 1822 in Ohio, to parents born in Pennsylvania.

The Hoffstots were married on October 25, 1838. They lived in Ohio in the 1840s and early 1850s, and settled in Allegheny City by I 856, renting a house at the corner of Lacock and Morgan Streets. In 1856, Gideon N. Hoffstot was a partner in Wilkinson & Hoffstot, leather goods dealers, located at 217 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. His partner was William Wilkinson of Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Gideon Hoffstot and his family moved to the corner of lsabella and Anderson Streets in Allegheny City in the late l850s. At about the same time, Hoffstot terminated his partnership in Wilkinson & Hoffstot and opened a leather goods store on Liberty Avenue near Ninth Street.

Records of the 1860 census show that Gideon and Mary Hoffstot had three children: Ada, 20, DeWitt, 18, who was employed as a clerk, and John, seven. The 1860 census reported that Gideon Hoffstot owned no real estate and had a personal estate of $5000, comparable to around $400,000 in the early 21st century.

The last Hoffstot child, Frank Norton, was born in 1861. The Hoffstot family moved to Ninth Street in Pittsburgh in about 1866. They remained there until Gideon and Mary Hoffstot had 841 North Lincoln Avenue built in 1879-80.

In 1859, Gideon N. Hoffstot was among the founders of the Second National Bank of Pittsburgh, with which he remained associated for the rest of his life. He supported the bank’s founding as a stockholder, and subsequently joined the board of directors. He became vice president of the bank in around 1890. Hoffstot’s ability to build wealth for himself and his family and his prominence in the Pittsburgh business community were probably as much a result of his roles with the bank as his leather goods business.

It is also possible, if not likely, that Hoffstot was among the many Pittsburgh businessmen who profited from government contracts to sell goods to be used in the Civil War effort.

Gideon N. and Mary Hoffstot were 68 and 57 years old when they had 841 North Lincoln Avenue built in 1879-1880. The house was intended as a mansion, although it was not among the largest in its wealthy neighborhood.

Records of the 1880 census shows that the Hoffstot family and two servants lived at 841 North Lincoln Avenue. Gideon N. Hoffstot was a leather merchant, and Mary Hoffstot had no occupation. Two of the Hoffstot children lived in the house: Ada, 32, with no occupation, and Frank, 19, attending school. The family employed two servants who lived with them: Ida Nichols, 18, who had been born in Pennsylvania to English immigrant parents, and Albert Lawson, 20, a carriage driver born in Virginia.

In about 1885, Gideon N. Hoffstot became chairman of the Union Foundry and Machine Company. The company had offices on Fort Pitt Boulevard, Downtown, and its shops were in the Woods Run area of Allegheny City. Hoffstot continued in that position until he died on August 2l, 1894.

Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on residents of 841 North Lincoln Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Washington, D.C. in the 1920s.

The 1900 manuscript census reported that Mary and Ada Hoffstot and two servants lived at 841 Lincoln Avenue. The Hoffstots’ servants were Minnie Bluemke, 18, who had immigrated from Germany in 1884, and William Dickson, 27, an African-American man who had been born in Pennsylvania. Dickson was a coachman and lived in the Hoffstot carriage house.

Mary Hoffstot died at home at 841 Lincoln Avenue on September 26, 1900. Ada Hoffstot lived at 841 Lincoln Avenue until she sold the house in 1903.