Monday, January 02, 2012

Houses then & houses now

It would have made more sense to be out with a camera on Saturday, when the high topped 60, than on Sunday, when strong winds made the 30s seem much colder. But you never know when inspiration is going to strike. And I'd been wanting to play the before-and-after game for a while.

This photo looking northwest along South Grand Street, taken perhaps during the winter of 1897-98, started the whole thing. The story of "A Klondyke Team" will have to wait for another time. This time, I'm interested in the buildings in the distance.

The photographer was standing in front on the Gibbon house when the shot was taken. Today, the nearest house across the street still is there, although substantially altered, but the site of the second house is now a vacant lot. In the distance is the Crocker house, now Fielding Funeral Home, in its earliest incarnation.

The Crocker house was designed during 1888 for Frank R. Crocker, whose star as a banker then was rising, by his brother-in-law, Minneapolis architect Edward S. Stebbins. Although the house has been greatly expanded and altered, the original house still is recognizable.

After 1900, as Crocker approached the financial debacle that would cause him in 1907 to kill himself here with an overdose of morphine, the house was substantially expanded. Colonial revival porches were added, as was a wing to the west and a wing to the north, consisting mostly of a porte cochere.

By the late 1920s, after the home's second family, the Horace Larimers, had moved out and Ralph Downs had moved in briefly to operate a funeral home here, the home looked like this when viewed from the east.

Sam and Edith Beardsley purchased the building in 1931 and remodeled it into what then was southern Iowa's finest funeral home, extending the west wing to include a first-floor garage with quarters to expand the family's second-floor apartment above.

Keith Fielding, after purchasing the funeral home from Edith Beardsley, continued to modify the home, first removing porches and adding more rooms and a new entrance to the south and east, then a chapel to the north, fronted by stonework and pillars from the earlier porches.

Here's what this section of South Grand Street looked like Sunday, also viewed from the front yard of the Gibbon home.


This fine old home was built not long after 1900 at the Intersection of South Eighth Street and Grace Avenue by William B. Penick and his wife, Kate (Waddell). Penick, associated early with the Manning & Penick Bank, he spent most of his later years as a gentleman farmer, stockraiser and land speculator.

The Penicks built their new home in the Spring Lake Addition to Chariton, which William B. Penick developed in a corn field south of the CB&Q tracks along both sides of South Eighth Street. Its east-west streets were named for family members --- Grace Avenue for his daughter, Grace (who married J. Sherman Miller; their fine colonial revival home is just to the southeast of the Penick house); Penick Avenue, for the family (William B. Penick's brother, James A. Penick, built his fine house a block north, in the northwest corner of the intersection of South Eighth and Penick); and Stuart Avenue, honoring his brother-in-law and sister, the Frank Q. Stuarts.

The Penick house, as built, was closely related in design to at least two other fine old Chariton houses, the A.H. McCollouth and Larimer/Copeland houses, both along the north side of East Auburn Avenue just before the railroad bridge and both still standing in good states or repair. Circular extensions to the front porches of each underline the relationship.

Although the Penick house still appears to be in a good state of repair, subsequent owners have not been kind to it and it has been stripped of nearly all architectural detail inside and out. Lost to foreclosure, it currently is for sale for the absurd price of $25,900.

And yes, there once was a Spring Lake in Chariton --- more like Spring Pond than Spring Lake, but full of water nonetheless. South Eighth Street, when the Spring Lake Addition was developed, led to Spring Lake Park in what now is the somewhat isolated residential area south of the U.S. 34 bypass. The new Rock Island line, however, cut through this area a few years later, ruining it for park purposes.


As I said, the Addison H. McCollough house along East Auburn Avenue was closely related in design to the Penick house. Here's the way it looked during 1903 (early photos of both the Penick and McCollough houses are taken from the program for Chariton's 1903 Chautauqua).

Here's what the McCollough house looked like this fall, still in a good state of repair although a little hemmed in now by later buildings.

People who pay attention to old houses generally notice that this old house, although smaller, is in some ways a mirror image of its neighbor three doors to the east, the Larimer/Copeland house (below).

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