Thursday, September 06, 2012

More building biographies

Yes, I'm still following the Democratic National Convention, but spent more time yesterday trying to pull together information about buildings on the square --- part of that long and involved "Square Deal" project. Including the single-front Kull or White Front Building, constructed during 1913, and the newest building on the north half of the east side of the square as well as the only structure on the square faced in white brick.

Prior to 1913, a one-story wood frame building housing a bakery occupied the lot. That building is visible in this postcard view of the square's east side, sandwiched between the double-front Mallory &  Law Block to the north and the Hickman Block to the south.

The Chariton Leader of March 20, 1913, reported that "Will Kull is arranging to erect a two story brick building on the east side of the square on the site of the Wilson bakery, which will be moved off the lot. He has not leased the new building but several are after after it. Business buildings are in demand."

A little more than two weeks later, on April 10, the Leader reported that "A.B. Wilson is closing his bakery on the east side of the square, which is conducted in the frame building recently purchased by Will Kull. Thy building is to be moved away ready for the new brick structure."

The building had been moved away or demolished by mid-May, so on May 15, The Leader was able to report, "The Kull Bros. commenced to excavate for their new building on the east side of the square on Monday. With favorable weather they will push the construction work."

The Kull brothers, William F. and Charles E., were bachelor sons of Jacob and Mary Ann Kull, who had settled in Chariton soon after 1860, acquiring a farm in the southwest part of town that extended into the Chariton River bottoms and straddled the Garden Grove Road, now known less euphoniously as the Dump Road. Jacob was a native of Germany who supplemented his farming income by operating an ice business supplied by river-bottom ponds and became a major investor in Chariton real estate. Four of the Kulls' six children reached adulthood --- William, Charles, Carrie and Laura --- but none married. Laura, who died during 1965, was the last of the Kulls. William and Charles followed in their father's footsteps as landlords and builders.

The Kull Building was nearing completion by Aug. 28, 1913, when The Leader reported that "workmen are pushing things on the new Kull building, on the east side of the square. This is a white brick front and makes a pretty appearance."

The first lease holder was Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Mrs. John) Crips, who planned to open a restaurant on the first floor and a hotel on the second, both called White Front. The Leader of Aug. 28 reported that "the upper story is being cut up into small rooms, which she (Mrs. Crips) will use for sleeping rooms for lodgers and she also retains the upper floor of the adjoining building, having an entrance way cut through the wall. This will give good hotel facilities."

Prior to 1907, when he suffered a mental breakdown, John Cripps had operated a popular lunch room in the neighborhood of the C.B.&Q. depot and Lizzie had supplemented their income by operating the couple's home on Auburn Avenue as a boarding house.

When John could no longer function as he once had, Lizzie sold the lunch room and, when the Kull Building became available, consolidated restaurant and boarding operations in one building.

The Leader was able to report during November that "The White Front Hotel and Cafe was opened to the public yesterday by Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Crips. Although no announcement had been made, yet a large number were present and partook of the sumptuous dinner which had been prepared. A wedding party also enjoyed a prenuptial banquet, although this fact was unknown to Mr. and Mrs. Crips at the time. The building is new and has been fitted up with new furniture and fixtures. The hotel rooms are large and airy, and are nicely furnished and with the newly frescoed walls present a fine appearance. Everything is conveniently arranged, and the kitched devices are of the latest designs. Mr. and Mrs. Crips are adepts at the business, having for several years conductd the Crips cafe near the depot, and their patrons will be assured of the best service."

Lizzie remained in business in the Kull building for only a few years before moving during 1917 into the double-front building just off the square east on Braden Avenue now known as the Hotel Charitone Annex. She opened a similar operation there, cafe on the first floor, hotel rooms on the second, and took the names of her former business with her --- the White Front Cafe and the White Front Hotel.

Will Kull then leased his building to two women who opened a women's clothing store --- the first of a succession of tenants that has continued until today. The new tenants reshaped the second floor into apartments, another arrangement that continues.

Lizzie Kull remained in business on Braden Avenue until the early 1920s, when developers of the Hotel Charitone acquired her building as as the hotel annex. Following the death of her husband in 1923, she returned to resume operation of the White Front Cafe on the building's first floor.

The Kull Building appears to be in an excellent state of repair, althoug the white facing of some bricks in the cornice and upper courses of the main facade is beginning to chip and fall away.

And then there's this procession of three identical 1914 brown-brick buildings just south of the east-side alley that I sometimes call the "Big Brown Block," but more accurately is the Custer-Anderson-Carpenter Block.

The block stands on the lot where Lucas County's original log courthouse stood and, as a result, was not sold by Lucas County until 1860. This late start may help to explain why development here was slow.

The buildings were built as a joint project by those who owned the Lot 6, Block 9, subdivisions underneath them --- Walter Custer (north), Jennie Anderson (center) and George W. Carpenter (south). The bay-windowed theater building just to the south is older. More on that another time.

Until just before construction commenced, these three lots were filled with a rag-tag collection of old one-story wood frame buildings along with untidy areas of outdoor warehousing, evident but not especially clear to the extreme right in the vintage postcard view posted above.

Here's how The Chariton Herald-Patriot of April 30, 1914, reported upon the impending project: "Three new store rooms are planned for the east side and excavation has already begun on the lot belonging to George F. Carpenter. The lot owned by Mrs. Jennie Anderson will also be built upon at once and the property of Walter Custer will likewise be graced with a handsome structure as soon as possible. The two south rooms will be 20.5x100 feet deep, while the Custer building will be a trifle wider. Chas. Johnson has the contract for erecting the two rooms and they will be modern in every way, with pressed brick front, large windows with copper window frames and plate glass. The upper rooms will probably be arranged as flats, although this matter has not been definitely determined. The erection of these buildings will fill in all the square with brick structures except the lot now occupied by the Adams Express Co. and one southside lot, and will be a decided improvement for the east side and the entire square."

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