5136 Butler Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15201



Property History

Our building on Butler Street and the structures behind it were built by a German immigrant and his wife, Gotfried and Amalie Bokermann, between 1885 and 1890. The Bokermanns paid a grand total of $6000, half for the land and half for the building, for their business and residence. Between 1885 and 1908, the property operated as a butcher shop, but the family, who must have been doing well, moved to a house in Stanton Heights in 1896. 


In 1908, the Bokermanns got out of the meat business and rented the place to others. A few years later, in 1919, three Croatian immigrants, Anton Starcevic, Joseph Gerich, and Cenko Poropatich, the founders of Union Provision and Packing Co., rented the place. Four years later the three men bought the property for $28,000. 


The Union Provision and Packing Co. slaughtered 50-60 hogs per week and produced hot dogs, baloney, bacon, pudding, and other goods. They also killed and butchered cattle - several of the older residents of Lawrenceville have stopped by and told us that they remember that the cattle occasionally got loose and went rambling down Butler St.


Siver necklace

This photo was taken in the early 1940s and shows a young Robert Poropatich (left) with his father Cenko (middle) and Anton Starcevic (right) in the retail meat market. Note the elegant tin ceiling, the marble panels on the wall to the left, and all the great wood trim.


The Wholesome Foods Act of 1969 brought slaughtering to an end. By then the business was owned by Cenko Poropatich's son Robert and Stephen Check. They ran the place as a butcher shop for the next 25 years. In 1993, Robert Poropatich, who was by the then the sole owner, sold the business to Rick and Diane Johnson in 1993 and retired to Florida.


Under the Johnsons, Union Provision sold organic meat and specialty items, and processed deer and other game. Sadly, Rick Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1999 and shortly thereafter the company ceased operation.


(Thanks to Carol Peterson, our property historian, for much of the above research and text.)


The Slaughterhouse Gallery & Studios is Born


In the spring of 2001, two naive woodworkers, Garth Jones and Don Reed, were wandering through Lawrenceville looking for a commercial property to house their woodshop. Until then they had worked in a cramped basement and all the wood, tools, and employees just didn't fit anymore. A faded 'For Sale' sign in the front window of Union Provision caught there eye and they just had to take a look. The property was huge, at least by Lawrenceville standards and most of the historical details (marble, molding, trim, industrial equipment, etc.) were still there, but the place was a wreck. Reed and Jones almost passed on the property, but after another deal fell through and a good deal of brainstorming with local architect Jill Joyce on how the spaces could be used, they jumped in.


Work is still going on (and will be for a long, long time) but the woodshop is finished, the gallery is nearly complete (and useable now), and tenants are moving in.