In the year 1831 John Jones Gillespie,
a 17 year old lad who was an enthusiast for opportunities
that lay “west of the mountains” rode over the Alleghenies
from his home in Milton, PA. He secured a job with Mr.
Albree, the owner of a novelty shop at No. 6 Wood Street,
Pittsburgh, PA. The following year Mr. Albree decided to
return to Germany. In March of 1832 the young Gillespie
financed the purchase of the shop through his friends and
J.J. Gillespie Company was founded.
Mr. Gillespie quickly
responded to the needs of the times and acquired fine stocks
of Belgian Glass and Mirrors. His store became a “Trading
Post” for fine home accessories. During the early days the
gallery became the headquarters for local painters.
The first print published
west of the Allegheny Mountains was a lithograph from the
painting “The Pioneers Defense” by Trevor McClung, a
Pittsburgh artist. It was engraved by August Wagner of
Pittsburgh and published By J.J. Gillespie Company. Frame
making, gilding, and restorations were introduced in 1845
and the name Gillespie has since been synonymous with the
Connections were made with
all the leading New York and European Art Dealers, which
brought to Pittsburgh the finest old masters, Barbizon,
English, and American paintings. Great art accumulated,
including the development and promotion of the great Scalp
level painters of Western Pennsylvania. This included art
by George Hetzel, The Wall brothers, John Beatty, Joseph
Woodwell, Jasper Lawman, and others. All these exhibits
were directly responsible for the creation of art spirit,
which later culminated in the Art Department of Carnegie
Institute in Pittsburgh.
At the death of Gillespie
in July 1886, Mr. A.S. Wall and Mr. A.C. McCallam continued
business under the same name. This was followed by John E.
Frazer and J. Hyett who kept the business operating for the
first hundred years. Mr. Hyatt continued business in
association with J.J. Haushalter until 1965. In 1965 Gordon
J. Thomas, followed by George Miller and Gary Evans.
Current owners, William and Sandra Castro, purchased the
gallery in 1998 with Sandra Castro and the first woman
President of the gallery in 166 years. The gallery
currently is 176 years old, the oldest in America, and
continues the tradition of fine quality European and
American oil paintings, restoration, framing, and fine home
accessories in the Pittsburgh area.