Monday, March 12, 2012

The Good Luck Building

We took a walking tour last week when Main Street Iowa staffers Darlene Strachan and Michael Wagler were in town and Wagler (a design consultant) happened to say that this was his favorite building on the square. Although I'd have trouble picking just one, it's easy to understand the appeal of this rambling brick structure that dates from 1883.

Called "Good Luck" because those words are carved on the keystone of its horseshoe-shaped main window frame, the building was constructed in the aftermath of a December, 1882, fire that destroyed five frame buildings at the south end of the west side of the square. The two double-front buildings, or blocks, immediately to the north of Good Luck also were built soon after that blaze.

As shown in this postcard view, which dates from ca. 1902, the lucky window (far left) once was fully glazed. The building also has lost the cast metal cornice that once crowned its east facade and the brick cornice that once stretched along the east two-thirds of its south facade. The remaining third of that latter cornice remain.

The horseshoe window and the stepped enfilade of bulding parts that follows the drop of the hill that Good Luck sits atop and culminates in what appears to be a low two-story townhouse are unique in Chariton. I've always wondered why that little "townhouse" was built.

Although it all looks outdated now, it's easy to understand why, in perhaps the 1960s, new windows were inserted on the second floor and their upper halves blocked and the exterior stairway was enclosed. I'm sure the folks who lived in the upstairs apartments then appreciated both "improvements."

When this photo, generally dated 1869, was taken, the Good Luck site was occupied by Stanton & Patterson's New Drug Store, at far left here, offering among other items paints, oils, glass, putty, brushes, varnish, &tc. According to local historian John G. Pierce, a major fire during February of 1867 had destroyed the south half of the west side of the square, so in 1869 these buildings would have been new.

"Dave Beem's One-horse Grocers" suggests that our forebears had more of a sense of humor that we sometimes give them credit for. The "Bakery" is where the 1882 fire that wiped out these frame buildings started. The Gassers were operating that business at the time of the fire.

By ca. 1875, when this photo was taken, the Good Luck site --- at the extreme left here and only partly in the frame, was occupied by Henry H. Day's hardware store, still in the ca. 1867 building.

When fire broke out during December of 1882, Henry Day still owned the corner building and most likely the building immediately to the north, but was no longer in business there. His buildings were occupied by Manning & Murphy, who sustained a reported loss of goods valued at $4,500, totally uninsured. Day's buildings, valued at $2,500, also were uninsured.

The two-story brick building (to the left in this photo), which I suspect was built ca. 1868, soon after the 1867 fire, stopped the 1882 blaze from spreading farther north. It's my suspicion, which I can't prove (yet), that this old brick building is still behind the Richardson Romanesque facade fronting what I call the Stanton building.

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