Friday, March 29, 2013

Building Detective: The Charitone Annex

 Chariton entrepreneur George W. Larmer acquired the full lot upon which the Hotel Charitone and Charitone Annex now stand on Dec. 21, 1909, in the aftermath of the 1907 collapse of Chariton's First National Bank. The lot and many other assets had been deeded during June of 1903 by Smith H. Mallory --- then facing death --- to his daughter, Jessie Mallory Thayer, to reduce the tax liability of his estate.

Jessie, with her mother held substantially liable for the 1907 collapse of their family bank, agreed during 1909 to transfer all family assets in Lucas County to the bank's receiver. She deeded the lot to him during September of that year and in December, he sold the lot to Larimer with proceeds going to National Bank creditors.

When Larimer bought the lot, roughtly 80 feet from south to north and stretching from North Grand Street east along Braden Avenue to the alley, all but a sliver of it was occuped by a large single-story wood-frame building that housed the Palmer Department Store, owned by Ann Palmer and her son, Charles. Mallory had built the structure for the Palmers late in the 19th century on the site of the 1860s City Hotel, which he demolished.

During the summer of 1915, Larimer constructed a small building facing North Grand, just north of the Palmer building, to house Frank N. Handler's feed store.

During the night of Monday, Jan. 16, 1916, the Palmer Department Store caught fire and was destroyed entirely. The Handler Feed Store building also burned to the ground.

Larimer announced plans to rebuild in brick for the department store, then owned after the death of his mother by Charles H. Palmer --- or so Palmer claimed. As it turned out, Charles had engaged in trickery to obtain title to the family business and became involved in a long and bitter court fight over the fire insurance money with his sisters. The fight eventually was settled by the Iowa Supreme Court, but the business did not reopen. Laramer allowed his lot to lie fallow for the remainder of 1916.

Although the portion of the lot where the Charitone now stands remained vacant for several years, Larimer announced plans to build elsewhere on it during the spring of 1917. The Chariton Leader of April 12, 1917, reported that "G.W. Larimer has arranged to erect a garage on Grand street, on the site formerly occupied by F.N. Handler, where the building was destroyed by fire. He also contemplates erecting a two-story double-room building to the east and just west of the alley, facing the street to the south. This will be for mercantile purposes below and flats above. The garage is to be occupied by C.O. McNeer."

On April 19, The Leader reported, "Within a short time G.W. Larimer expects to erect a two-story double room brick building, by the alley just west of the library building. It is the intention of the People's Gas and Power Company to occupy one of the rooms with its offices and will establish headquarters here."

By July 26, according to the Leader, "The two-story, double room building of G.W. Larimer ... is now ready for the roof and inside finish."

Larimer's new block was complete by Nov. 1, 1917, when Lizzie Cripps moved her White Front Hotel into the building. Mrs. Cripps had opened the White Front during 1913 in the Kull brothers' new building on the east side of the square. That building was faced in white brick, source of the hotel's name. The Leader of Nov. 1, 1916, reported:

Now Occupies the New Larimer Block East of the Square

Mrs. Cripps moved her White Front Hotel to the new Larimer building just east of the square at the northeast corner, and will continue to serve the public in the high class manner they have been accustomed to. The building has been fitted up especially for the purpose, is cheerful in appearance and well ventilated. The sleeping apartments are roomy and pleasing, with wide corridors, and everything is modern throughout. It is the intention to enlarge the facilities later on. Chariton should certainly appreciate this establishment --- hotel and cafe.

There were a couple of odd features about Larimer's new building. In the first place, it had no basement --- unusual for a commercial building on or near the square at that time. Work on a partial basement began late in the construction process, according to The Leader, which reported on Sept. 20, 1917: "When some philosopher in natural history made the statement that the gopher commenced digging his hole at the bottom he was scoffed at. But we do know that G.W. Larimer has erected a building from the top. Recently he had built a double room, two-story structure just west of the library. Now he is digging a cellar under it and placing the basement walls under the original foundation."

Although the facade of the new building was constructed of high-quality face brick, comparable to that used in other buildings of the period on the square, the alley side and rear of the building were built of a somewhat odd type of brick and some construction details --- arched brick headers over the windows, for example --- appear old fashioned.

Part of the explanation for this --- purely speculative --- is that during 1915, Larimer had acquired a "large quantity of paving brick in Des Moines" that he brought to Chariton with the intention of building a brick block on the west side of North Main Street, a block and a half north of the northwest corner of the square. That project didn't happen and it is possible that those brick were incorporated into this building instead (see The Chariton Leader, Sept. 23, 1915).

Larimer did not carry out whatever plans he may have had for the prime building spot  on this lot, perhaps because his health began to fail (he died during 1924 at the age of 71).

During 1922, the vacant southwest portion of the lot ---and the Larimer building --- were sold to W.D. Junkin and and H.F. McCollough, who then announced plans for the Hotel Charitone, which opened during 1923. The White Front Hotel rooms on the second floor of Larimer's block were opened to the second floor of the new hotel and it became "the Annex."

Larimer retained ownership of the northwest corner of the lot, measuring 42 by 113 feet, and this was sold by his widow, Emma, during 1925 to E.C. and Helen Reese.

Late in the first incarnation of the Hotel Charitone, the Annex was sold off, the second floor converted to apartments with two retail spaces on the first floor. After a time of virtual abandonment, the Annex is now reattached to the Charitone through ownership by Hotel Charitone LLC. Although not a part of the current Charitone redevelopment project, the eventual goal is to bring the Annex back to life as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having lived in the Charitone, on the top floor, several questions have been answered. as well as the white brick facing of the building on the east side of the square. Thanks Frank!