Saturday, November 17, 2012

Building Detective: Day & Mooney

103 and 105 North Main Street

The Day & Mooney Block, more commonly known as as Fluke's or Young's, was built by Henry H. Day and Walter Mooney during the spring and early summer of 1889. It filled a gap in the west side of the square that had existed since December of 1882 when a major fire destroyed five frame buildings at the southern end of the west-side business block.

Once an outstanding example 19th Century town-square design, it seems bland and unremarkable now primarily because changing taste and relative prosperity encouraged building owners --- with the best of intentions --- to strip away detail in order to appear "modern." Here, the decorative cast-metal cornices were removed, large window openings bricked up and small windows of no redeeming architectural interest inserted.

This type of thing tended to happen in more prosperous towns, and Chariton traditionally has had just enough money to do substantial damage to and in at least one notable case destroy many of its architecturally significant buildings. Towns like our neighbor to the southeast, Bloomfield, now are reaping the benefits of what once was relative poverty. There, building owners rarely had the money to rip away and modernize 19th century facades.

Henry Day, who had owned the southernmost building destroyed, rebuilt promptly after the 1882 fire. His Good Luck Building just to the south was completed before 1883 ended. Daniel Eikenberry and Jacob Kull also completed the Exchange Block during 1883, replacing the two northernmost buildings. But the Day & Mooney lots stood vacant for nearly five years.

The Chariton Patriot of Nov. 21, 1888, was able, finally, to report that "H.H. Day has purchased the lot adjoining his brick business house on the southwest corner of the square and will in the spring, in conjunction with Mr. Mooney, who owns the Gasser lot, build a fine brick business block."

The Chariton Herald of March 21, 1889, reported that "Two fine brick buildings are to be put up on the west side of the square at once, to fill up the space between the exchange block and the Day corner. One by H.H. Day and the other by W.J. Mooney. These two buildings completed will make a fine block that will greatly add to the appearance of the west side. The brick is on the ground, the excavation already there for the basement, and the work will be pushed to early completion. Messrs. G.B. Routt, Sam Swift and Wm. and Geo. Tout will do the brick work, while W.F. Layton & Co. will do the carpenter work for Mooney and J.J. Reed has the carpenter work on the Day building. Let the good work go on. Building material is cheap, labor low, and many men will be benefitted by obtaining work."

On March 27, 1889, The Patriot reported that, "H.H. Day and Walter Mooney are laying the foundation for their new building on the west side, and will soon have the aching void between Day's corner and the Exchange building filled with a fine brick structure."

By the 19th of June, the Patriot was able to report that, "Walter Mooney has moved the office and ware room of Hudson Bros. into his new building one door south of the Exchange Block."

W.H. Layton & Co. claimed credit for design of the entire Day-Mooney Block in a promotional piece published in The Chariton Herald of July 3, 1890, so its design can tentatively be attributed to Oran Alonzo Hougland, the firm's designer.

As built, the structure (second from the left in this post card view) was of considerable architectural interest. It has, however, been stripped of all detail, including its cast metal cornice and elaborate window frames. Large window openings have been bricked to encase much smaller windows of 1960s vintage, now with peeling frames.

The small bronze plaque near sidewalk level on the front of the building, a year off on construction date, identifies iconic Chariton commercial firms as long-time tenants --- Fluke's Book Store, 1893-1854; and Young's, 1954-1996. Young's, purveyor of office supplies, school supplies, stationery, greeting cards, wallpaper, picture framing services, occasionally antiques and a broad range of other products, was succeeded by a Hallmark Store that folded. The building now is occupied by Chariton's Assembly of God congregation, which uses it as an outreach center.

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