The four-front Deming and Hollinger Block, just off the northwest corner of the square on North Main Street, is the largest of the Chariton Main Street District's retail buildings --- but much in need of care, and cash, to recapture the showplace status it once enjoyed.
The building also conceals a secret behind its facade --- it is actually two buildings, one constructed in 1902 and the other, a near clone, constructed in 1911. The stone in the cornice that bridges the joint between the two and proclaims "Deming & Hollinger Block, 1911" is a little misleading.
Oran Alonzo Hougland can be documented as architect of the north building and it seems highly likely that he designed the 1902 south building as well.
Before the first half of Deming & Hollinger was built, a row of wood-frame buildings filled the west side of North Main between the three-story brick Union Block at the corner of North Main and Braden to the Gardner House, an inn and boarding house that had operated since the 1850s at the corner of North Main and Roland.
The builders were George E. Deming and Napoleon B. Hollinger, long-time business partners. Their first joint retail venture was a hardware and grocery business, which opened in 1877 in the block where Deming & Hollinger now is located, followed by a clothing store, later known as Hollinger and Larimer, on the northwest corner of the square.
First mention of the partners' plans came in The Chariton Herald of Sept. 12, 1901, when it was reported that "County surveyor S.D. Roddy, of Lucas, was in town Tuesday straightening the limits of Deming & Hollinger's lots between the Herald office and the First National Bank. The firm expects to build an imposing brick block on their lots next spring."
The Herald reported on Feb. 20, 1902, that "There will be quite a little improvement on the Chariton square the coming summer. Between the Herald office and the First National Bank corner there will be two good business houses erected, each two stories high, by Hollinger & Deming. It is not known yet who will occupy them. They will occupy the sites now occupied by the shooting gallery and Meadows' barber shop."
By August, construction was well underway and The Herald was able to report that "Harry Yost will move his Eureka Bakery into the north room of the new Hollinger-Deming block, north of the First National Bank, when it is completed. Harry is crowded with orders and needs more room. The south room of the new block will be occupied by a billiard hall from Knoxville." The bakery moved in during September.
The major upstairs tenant was the Noxall Club, formed some years earlier as a social organization for young male up-and-comers. It had by 1902 evolved into the closest Chariton came to a chamber of commerce, still all male of course.
The Herald of Nov. 2, 1902, reported that "The Noxall Club held an informal house warming in their club rooms in the Hollinger-Deming block, last Monday evening, from eight to eleven o'clock. Fully 150 persons, consisting of the club members and their wives or lady friends, spent the evening in the elegantly furnished rooms, admiring the handsome quarters of the club and visiting with each other. Light refreshments consisting of frappe were served. The Schubert Mandolin Club, of Ottumwa, consisting of Messrs. Harry N. Miller, Harry E. Swanson, Jacob Bauer, Harold Black and Earl Slater, furnished delightful and artistic music for the evening, and afterward played for a dance by the younger members. The Noxall rooms are probably the handsomest club rooms in southern Iowa, and the members have cause to be proud of their headquarters."
Until early 1906, the single-front lot that separated the new Deming & Hollinger Block from the corner Union Block was filled by a two-story wood frame building owned by Thomas Plant and occupied downstairs by George Warren's meat market and upstairs by Sam Rowe's billiard hall. That building caught fire during March of 1906 and was destroyed. Firefighters were, however, able to prevent damage to either of its flanking brick neighbors. George W. Larimer purchased the now-vacant lot and during 1910 built the single-front brick retail building that still stands there.
During early 1911, Deming & Hollinger commissioned plans to build what now is the north half of the Deming & Hollinger Block. The Herald-Patriot of April 13, 1911, reported that, "Several new buildings are being talked of for Chariton this spring. Besides the addition to the rear of the Star Bakery building, Hollinger & Deming are talking of building a two-story brick block on the lots on north Main street now occupied by the Argo barber shop and the R.D. Piper grocery, both now being frame buildings. This would make north Main street a solid line of brick store buildings on the west side, for more than half a block off the square."
Later during April, Deming & Hollinger advertised in the Herald-Patriot for bids on the new structure, "a two-story and basement brick store building at Chariton, Iowa, including all labor and materials."
"All bids must be in strict accordance with plans and specifications, prepared by O.A. Hougland, architect, Chariton, which may be seen at his office on and after May 3d, 1911. Separate bids will be received at the same time for the heating and plumbing," the request for bids stated.
Teas Brothers was the successful bidder and The Leader of May 18, 1911, reported that "Hollinger & Deming have commenced to tear down the frame buildings on Main street preparatory to the erection of the brick structures. The Argo barber show has been temporarily moved into the Abell billiard hall."
On Sept. 7, 1911, The Leader reported that "Teas Brothers are getting along well with the new Hollinger & Deming block on Main street. The walls are up and almost ready for the roof. This is a double room, two-story structure. Many people notice the perfect work on the walls. It is as straight as a die and each tier of brick is regularly laid. There are in the state no better workmen in this class of industry than the Teas Brothers."
By mid-November, The Herald-Patriot was able to report in its issue of the 16th, "The new Hollinger & Deming block on north Main street is nearing completion, and is one of the most modern business houses in town. Teas Bros. are the builders, O.A. Hougland the architect, and G.W. Ensley had the contract for steam heating and plumbing. One of the store rooms will be occupied by the Argo barber shop, the other room is not yet rented. Upstairs, R.C. Wood, electric plant superintendent, will have his offices, and Tom Walker will have living rooms. The flats are rented to Dr. Barnes and wife, Arlie Curtis and wife, and Chas. Duckworth. One flat of three rooms is not yet rented. The building is modern in every respect, and completes a fine row of business buildings for Hollinger & Deming."
The building was occupied during late November and early December, 1911. The Leader of Nov. 23 reported that the Argo soon would move into its new quarters. "They are putting in an entire new outfit of fixtures, nothing finer anywhere, and will have bathrooms in connection," the Leader reported. "Chariton certainly is becoming metropolitan."