Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The North Side ca. 1885-90

West half of the north side of Chariton's square prior to 1890.
Chris Kuball posted this rare photo of the west half of the north side of Chariton's square during the 1880s Monday to the Facebook group, "You grew up in Chariton if you remember ...," and it made me happy to see it. Photos of this area of the square during that era are rare --- primarily because it kept burning down. Two major fires were primarily responsible, one during March of 1894 and the other, on Dec. 30, 1906. This photo was taken well before the 1894 fire, probably ca. 1885.

West half of the north side of Chariton's square after buildings destroyed in 1906 had been replaced.

To orient yourself a little, the two-story brick building on the right (the "Mallory brick") in the 1880s photo stood on the current site of U.S. Bank. The beautiful two-story brick block to its left, which housed among other businesses Maple's Book Store and The Chariton Patriot, stood on the site of the Kent Farm Management Building. The three frame buildings and the brick building that you can just catch a glimpse of to the far left (the Smyth building) stood on the current site of the identical DeMichelis and Blong Chriopractic buildings.

The old photo probably was taken during the mid-1880s, certainly before 1893. The fire of 1894 destroyed the three frame buildings and heavily damaged the Smyth building on the corner, but spared both the Maple and Mallory blocks.

The 1906 fire was more severe, destroying everything that had been built after the 1894 fire and taking out the grand old Maple Block as well. Only the Mallory brick survived that fire --- and it was damaged.

Here's a report of the 1894 fire from The Chariton Democrat of Thursday, March 15, 1894, a week after the blaze. The Democrat was operating at something of a disadvantage because its equipment, housed on the upper level of the Smyth brick building, had been damaged, its office space was uninhabitable and the staff was depending upon the kindness of other newspaper publishers in order to publish at all.

Our little city has for many months been peculiarly fortunate in the matter of serious damage by fire, but the experience of last Thursday evening serves as a forcible reminder that we are not entirely secure from its ravages. At about 8:15 o'clock, when a number of prayer meetings were dismissing and the people astir on the streets, a cry of fire rang out on the evening air, followed by a general alarm from the city hall. Almost before the alarm was echoed through the streets, the heavens were illuminated with light, and fire was found to be issuing from the rear second story of Mrs. Lucy Voiland's frame building on the north side of the square, occupied with B. Bellor's meat market.

Notwithstanding the fact of mud in the streets being deep and very sticky, the department were soon on the scene and laboring assiduously to allay the flames. On the west of the Voiland building were those of Jay J. Smyth and I.N. Funk, occupied by the owners with clothing and confectionary stocks respectively. These were soon reduced to naught and for a time the united efforts of the firemen were directed toward saving the Maple and Smyth buildings which were in a perilous condition, being contiguous to the fire on either side.

The west half of the Maple building below, and partly above, is occupied by the owner, while the other room above is W.B. Barger's law office. The side wall and roof were considerable damaged.

The Smyth brick, owned jointly by W.H. and Jay J. Smyth, occupied on the first floor with W.H. Smyth's dry goods stock, above by the Democrat and in the basement by F.C. Wood's barber shop, suffered heavy damage to the roof, rear and side wall, the latter being badly cracked. In the rear of this building was a number of small frame sheds, used by John Kling, shoemaker, and T. Courter, huxter, which are a total wreck, though the flames were extinguished before the debris was entirely consumed.

Just three months ago this same section was visited by a severe fire, in the destruction of the Funk property, though the loss entailed at present is much heavier.

The indefatigable work of the gallant firemen, who waded mud knee deep and fought the fire like tigers, received many enconiums, both from the bystanders and whose whose property was at stake.

The origin of the fire is unknown and as there was no flue running through the building it is all the more mysterious.

At this writing the insurance adjusters have not arrived, and the goods saved from the several rooms are lying piled in heaps awaiting their arrival. 

The Democrat reported that its loss was estimated at $300, covered by insurance totaling $1,500. "Aside from the damage entailed literally," The Democrat reported, "is the additional embarrassment of having no place in which to do business, as there is not a vacant business room to be had."

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