By the time this photo of the west side of Chariton's square was taken on July 4, 1876, the Manning & Penick Block (center) had been eclipsed in size and grandeur by the Mallory Opera Block (at right). T.A. Matson's brick building is three doors south of Manning & Penick.
The Manning & Penick Block, when built during the latter half of 1869, was not only Chariton's largest commercial structure but also its tallest --- at three stories. It remains as perhaps the third oldest building standing on the square, ranking behind the late 1867 T.A. Matson building (probably embedded in what we know as the Stanton Building, three doors south) and the east-side Oliver Palmer building (now behind the newer facade of South Central Mutual Insurance), which was nearing completion in February of 1867.
Prior to the construction of these three structures, the Chariton square had been surrounded by a rag-tag collection of one- and two-story wood frame and log buildings with only the 1858 brick courthouse giving some impression of permanence.
Manning & Penick was a business partnership between Keosauqua-based entrepreneur Edwin C. Manning and William C. Penick, who entered Manning's employ about 1854 as clerk in the general store Manning then owned at Eddyville. Penick became a junior partner in the early 1860s and was sent west to Chariton about 1861 to open and manage a general merchandise branch here under the name Manning & Penick. That business was located first in a frame building on the northwest corner of the square, now the site of Chariton Vision Center.
The Manning & Penick partnrship endured for nearly 50 years --- until Manning's death in Keosauqua during August of 1901 at age 91.
Reports in issues of The Chariton Democrat suggest that the partners began to think of a new building in the fall of 1868, but did not purchase the two lots on which to build it until March 1869. Construction began three months later.
The Democrat reported in its edition of June 22, 1869, that "Messrs. Manning & Penick broke ground for their brick block this morning. It will be the largest and best building in town."
By Aug. 10, 1869, the Democrat was able to report tht "the masons are at work, laying the foundation for Messrs. Manning & Penick's brick building, and will be ready to commence brick-laying in a few days"; and by Aug. 24, that "Manning & Penick will commence laying the brick in their walls shortly after Sept. 1." G.B. Routt is identified as masonry and brick contractor for the building.
A more extensive accounting of the new building was published under the headline "The New Brick Building" in The Democrat of Nov. 2, 1869:
"Manning & Penick's new brick building is now rapidly approaching completion and within a few weeks will be alive with business. Messrs. M. & P. will occupy the south half of the first floor as a store room, and Mr. Copeland will put a banking room in the north half. The second floor will be divided into office rooms, and will make six apartments. The third story is being fitted up as a public hall, and, in many respects, will be the feature of the building. It is large and airy and will be capable of holding nearly 2,000 people. It is 40 by 80 feet with a 14-foot ceiling. Mr. G.B. Routt did the masonry and the brick-work, and the whole is a piece of work quite creditable to him. The building, when completed, will have cost but little, if any, less than ten thousand dollars."
There actually were two Mr. Copelands ready to move into that banking room, brothers Elijah and Percy, who did business as The Chariton Deposit Bank, which advertised its services as receiving deposits, buying and selling gold and dealing in exchange and government bonds.
On Nov. 16, 1869, The Democrat reported that the new building was "receiving its first coat of plastering," but the most dramatic occurrence of that month must have been the arrival of a new safe.
"The new safe for the Chariton Deposit Bank has arrived," The Democrat reported on Nov. 23. "It weighs five tons, and it required ten yoke of oxen to draw it from the depot. Cost: $1,700 at factory," That safe would serve banks located in the building until 1896,
Although finishing work remained, both Manning & Penick and the Copeland brothers moved into their new quarters during early January, 1870. Tenants also were moving into the second-floor offices, including The Chariton Democrat itself and Thorpe & Sons, attorneys and dealers in real estate. They were joined soon after the first of the year by C.T. Brant, dentist, and perhaps Anderson Mason, a baber.
By June, 1870, minor finishing work was nearly complete. Plans to use the third floor as a public hall had been abandoned, however, and the area was by now divided into two parts, one for the Odd Fellows lodge which according to the Democrat of May 24, 1870, was preparing to move in. A use for the other half of the third floor had not been determined.
Although the grandest building in Chariton other than the courthouse, the new structure was rather plain, although graceful. Each of the two business rooms was fronted by three large arched openings. The center opening on the south side was the entry to the Manning & Penick store, flanked by display windows. The south opening on the north side seems to have offered access to both The Deposit Bank and stairways to the second and third floors.
Six tall arched windows marched across the fronts of both floors above, framed entirely in brick with cut stone keystones. Keystones also held the first-floor arches in place. The windows themselves were multi-paned, four below and six above. A simple brick cornice crowned the facade.
The Copeland brothers dissolved their partnership, perhaps in 1872 because state banking journals of 1873 reported that The Deposit Bank no longer existed. In probably was the dissolution of that partnership that motivated Elijah Copeland, the brother who remained in Chariton, to join Henry H. Day and William C. Penick (without Manning) to organize what was known simply as The Chariton Bank during 1872.
During January of 1876, Manning & Penick sold their retail merchandise to W.B. Thompson & Co. and went out of the general store business in Chariton, although Manning continued to operate and expand his general merchandise operations elsewhere.
That same year, Manning & Penick bought controlling interest in The Chariton Bank and continued to operate it as partners, with Manning as president, until his death during 1901.
During those years, minor modifications were made to the building. The cornice appears to have been heightened and enhanced and multi-paned sashes were replaced with single-paned on the second and third floors. On the first floor, the bank entrance was elaborated with a shallow projecting stone porch and leaded glass was installed in the arches of the window openings.
During 1896, what was described as the most advanced and burglar-proof steel-lined vault in southern Iowa was installed, replacing the vintage five-ton safe of 1869.
Following Edwin Manning's 1901 death, his interest was sold and the bank was reorganized as Chariton National Bank, giving the city two national banks --- the other, First National, housed in the Union Block on the northwest corner of the square. The latter was the Mallory bank, bankrupted by its cashier, Frank Crocker, during 1907.The Lucas County National Bank arise from its ashes.
In 1921, Chariton National Bank and Lucas County National Bank agreed to merge and the old banking quarters in the Manning & Penick Building no longer were needed and were assigned to other uses under new ownership.
During the latter half of the 20th century, the building was given a facelift that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The cornice was removed, window openings squared and reduced in size, the old-fashioned arched facades of the business fronts were replaced with faux stone and plate glass, brick was painted and finally the third floor windows were boarded up.