The Klees

Joseph and Rosa Klee were both born in Prussia, Joseph in 1824-1825 and Rosa in 1834-1835. Known records do not indicate whether the couple were married before or after they came to the United States. Joseph Klee may have immigrated with a brother, Jacob, who was his business partner in Pittsburgh between the late 1850s and the early 1880s. Jacob Klee, according to Jacob Feldman, became an American citizen in 1854 in Philadelphia, and it is possible that Joseph Klee did the same.

Rosa Klee

Rosa Klee in Later Life

Jacob Feldman found that in the 1850s, “Most Jews in Pittsburgh concentrated in four business lines: liquors, livestock, dry goods and men’s clothing.” Joseph Klee was involved in the manufacture and sale of men’s clothing with most of the businesses in which he is known to have been a principal. Klee was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory for the first time in 1857, as a partner in J. Klee & Company, shoe merchants, on Federal Street in the present vicinity of PNC Park. In about 1858 Joseph and Jacob Klee and an in-law, Simon Kaufman, formed Klee, Kaufman & amp; Klee, tailors and wholesale clothiers, on Federal Street in the same area. Both firms operated on Federal Street through the early 1860s.

Joseph and Jacob Klee were partners in their longest-lasting venture, J. Klee & Brother, wholesale clothiers, between approximately 1860 and the early 1880s. The firm was located on Federal Street in Allegheny City in the 1860s, and on Wood Street, Downtown, in the 1870s and 1880s. After Jacob Klee left in about 1882, the firm continued briefly as J. Klee & Son at 805 Liberty Avenue before Joseph Klee became the sole owner. Klee retired in about 1886.

The Klee family lived on or near lower Federal Street in the 1850s and 1860s. The family moved by the mid-1870s to Allegheny West, living in a house then known as 5 Lincoln Avenue, between Allegheny Avenue and the present Rooney house at 940 North Lincoln Avenue. The 1880 census enumerated the family at that address. Joseph Klee, 55, was listed as a merchant tailor, and Rosa Klee, 45, had no occupation. The couple had eight children living at home: Bennie, 18, a salesman, and Laura, 17, Amanda, 15, Simon, 13, Leo, 11, Nettie, nine, Winfield, six and Carrie Oppenheimer, 22, who was married to Sol Oppenheimer, 27, a merchant.

In the early 1880s, the Klee family moved to Western Avenue. The family remained there until 1884-1885, when they moved to 36 (now 927) Beech Avenue, at the eastern end of what became known as Klee Row. By the time that Klee Row was built, the Klees were prominent in Pittsburgh’s social circles. In 1888, The Social Mirror, a book listing well-known Pittsburgh families, reported that:

In one of a pretty new block of houses in Allegheny, which he recently built, Mr. Joseph Klee and his family reside. Mrs. Klee is a pleasant mannered, good-looking woman, and quite a favorite in her social circle.

The Klees were also listed in Pittsburgh Blue Books, or social registers, which began publication in the 1880s.

Joseph Klee lived at 927 Beech Avenue until his death in 1889. Rosa Klee lived in the house until 1907, sharing the house with the family of a daughter and son-in-law, Tillie and Henry Herzog. Rosa Klee sold Klee Row in 1907, at age 72. She appears to have died or left Pittsburgh within a short time after she sold the property.