Friday, May 27, 2005

Storie Time

The D.Q. Storie house is a fine example of the Second Empire style. It has, however, been eaten alive by vast and entirely inappropriate porches added as part of an ill-fated bed and breakfast scheme.

David Quincy Storie, a physician-turned-businessman, was one of Chariton's leading merchants when he commissioned this grand Second Empire town home a block east of the northeast corner of the square, immediately adjacent to First Presbyterian Church.

Through no fault of its own, this is another of Chariton's fine old houses that has ended up in real estate limbo. Some years ago, it was the centerpiece of an elaborate plan to create an upscale bed-and-breakfast. That plan fell apart and the house has been on the market since, something of a white (actually pale yellow) elephant. Note: As of 2011 the home is occupied by new owners.

The lavish display of porch that wraps around to form a porte cochere on the west side of the house is not original, but was added as part of the bed-and-breakfast plan. Originally, a far smaller porch sheltered (and was designed to complement) the elaborate front door. Another porch sheltered the front of the lower wing to the right of the main block of the house.

The Storie house from the southeast. The tall three-story main house is surrounded by a variety of story-and-a-half or one-story wings.

These modest porches, along with the mansard roof, dormers and elaborate exterior woodwork would have made it a classic example of a mid-sized Second Empire house not designed to overwhelm, but certainly intended to announce to passers by that its owners were people of consequence.

The real estate listing for the Storie house (priced at $185,000, a mighty chunk of change for an old house in Chariton no matter how elaborate the ruffles and flourishes) describes it as a "turn-of-the-century" building. That is inaccurate. It actually dates from the late 1870s and is an exact contemporary of the Ilion (or Mallory's Castle), Smith Henderson Mallory's long-gone mansion on the north edge of Chariton.

The Chariton Patriot reported on 15 November 1877 that, "The prospects now are good for considerable building in the spring. Among those who intend to build fine residences are S.H. Mallory, D.Q. Storie and E.K. Gibbon."

The Storie house front door once was sheltered by a much smaller porch.

Excavations for the basements of all three houses probably began during the spring of 1878, and building of the Storie house probably moved along fairly rapidly because it was of wood-frame construction.

The Patriot reported on 19 April 1879 that "J.M. Carver, of Des Moines, was in the city last week taking the measurements necessary to build a grand stairway in D.Q. Storie's handsome residence. Mr. C.'s firm makes work of this kind a specialty and has a reputation in this line second to no other firm in the West." That stairway remains in place.

The Stories probably were able to move in at the latest during 1880 while construction apparently continued on the Ilion. The Ilion, roughly four times the size of the Storie house and a fortress-like structure with solid brick walls, exterior and interior, from the top of its stone basement to the full height of its tower, took far longer.

David Q. Storie was born in St. Lawrence County, New York, 28 November 1838, and enlisted for Civil War service in the 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. In service throughout the war, he worked as a hospital steward during its final two years.

Immediately after the war, during 1866, he came to Chariton and on 8 July 1869 married Della A. Jackson here.

Della, born 19 November 1842 in Canada, moved with her family at age 13 to Gouverneur, New York, where she attended college, then went to Jacksonville, Ill., where she served as principal of the high school before moving to Chariton.

The Stories, along with many other prominent Chariton residents, including Smith H. and Annie Mallory and Edward Ames and and Elizabeth J. Temple, were early and consistent members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

Not long after landing in Chariton, Storie moved temporarily to St. Louis to attend medical school, returning after he graduated to commence his practice.

Quite early in his practice, Storie opened a drug store on the west side of the square and as the years passed that became his principal focus. It's always useful to remember that 19th century physicians rarely became rich. It was an extremely hard life, and medical professionals with aspirations to wealth had to develop sidelines to generate more income.

What began as a one-story frame building was replaced as the years passed by a three-story, three-bay building with a cut-stone front that rivaled in quality (although not in size) the Mallory Opera Block, its immediate neighbor to the north on the north half of the west side of the square.

Gushing over the Storie building during the 1880s, the editor of the Chariton Patriot wrote, "no city of the size of Chariton, east, west, north or south can boast of a more elegant drug store and building than that belonging to D.Q. Storie.... The stock carried is equal to an ordinary wholesale house, and indeed he does quite a jobbing trade. He also has a full line of school books and jewelry."

Storie also was interested in horses and, according to his Patriot obituary of 16 November 1916 at one time "owned a string of fine horses which attracted much attention in this section of the state."

Storie was in his mid-60s and at the height of his powers when a massive fire during January 1904 began in the Mallory block and spread into the Storie building, destroying both. Storie's loss was estimated at $30,000, a huge amount at that time, of which $12,000 was covered by insurance.

According to his 16 November 1916 Chariton Leader obituary, "One of the greatest disappointments of his life was the result of the great conflagration in Chariton a decade and a half since, when he beheld his fine business block and the establishment he had spent a life time in building up a ruin. After this his life seemed changed and spirit broken and he never again entered into the spirit of affairs with the same enthusiasm as before."

"He disposed of most of his interests," the Leader reported, "and retired to a greater privacy, only taking a passive interest in affairs."

Storie died at his home on Monday evening, 13 November 1916, just short of his 78th birthday, after two weeks of critical illness. Funeral services were held on the 16th of November at the house and burial followed in the Chariton Cemetery. Della Storie died two years later, during November of 1918, and was buried by her husband's side.

The name embedden in the sidewalk in front of the Storie house dates from the time of Dr. Daivd Quincy Storie Jr., killed in a 1926 car acident.

The Stories had two sons, Ed. H. and Dr. David Quincy Storie Jr., who practiced medicine in Chariton until his death in an automobile accident in northern Iowa during 1926.

As the years passed, the old Storie house was divided into apartments and gradually receded into obscurity, its light dimmed by First Presbyterian next door. It remained there until the bed-and-breakfast project aroused a good deal of interest, and that interest continues in a way as those who like the fine old building fuss about what in the world will become of it.

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