Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Union Block / 1-3 East Main Street
By Douglas H. Shepard, 2012 

Howard Brothers           
Edward Howard became a partner in a clothing mill in Fredonia in 1825. His family included sons Lewis S. (b.1836), Edward D. (1842), Frank W. (1844, and Clarence M. (1848).            
Lewis worked as an assistant to the Post Master in 1851. By 1853 he was in charge of the office which also sold newspapers, magazines and other small items. In 1860 he was Deputy Post Master and had taken Edward in to clerk in the Book and Stationery Department. In March 1865 he was offering jewelry items including a fancy watch and in September 1866 Lewis and Edward advertised they had five different kinds of American Watches for sale. In 1867 Edward became a full partner with Lewis. 

The Censor had been owned by several people after Henry Frisbee sold it in 1838. In 1842 it was bought by Willard McKinstry and Levi L. Pratt. The paper had several offices until 1862 when it moved to 4 Center Street. In 1863 the Post Office and its “bookstore” was moved there as well.           
In February 1868 W. McKinstry & Son (Louis) and L. S. Howard & Bros. bought the old Taylor & Jennings store lot at today’s 1 East Main Street (formerly the Putnam store). At the same time, Orson Stiles bought the lot next east of it. The old wooden stores that had been on the lots were sold to L. B. Greene and were to be moved to his lot further east on Main Street. However, on 29 April 1868 they were destroyed by fire.  

It is not clear that it had been planned ahead of time, or if the fire changed their plans, but Stiles, the McKinstrys and the Howards did combine and built a single building designed by Enoch A. Curtis and called the Union Block (1-3 East Main). It was being built in 1868 and had its grand opening in March 1869. It was a stone building with brick facing, the brickwork done by Stephen Johnson. It was three stories high, about 50 feet wide on Main Street running back about 55 feet. A notable feature was the curved corner at Main Street and Water Street. On the first floor the Howards had the Water Street corner for their Jewelry/Bookstore/Post Office. Stiles’ “Union Banking Company and Chautauqua County Savings Bank” occupied the east half of the first floor. The Censor’s offices were on the second floor above Howards, E. A. Curtis had an office over the front half of the bank, and at the rear was a barber shop. The entire third floor housed Ladd & Pringle’s photography studio.            
In September 1875 Edward and Clarence formed the Independent Watch Co., then the Lake Shore Watch Co., and the Empire Watch Co., all based at 63 Main Street (today’s 1 East Main Street). Frank took over a bakery/grocery at 7 Water Street. In 1876 Edward and Clarence bought the Pettit Eye Salve business and in 1878 sold the book and jewelry store to Frank. In December 1885 Edward and Clarence had moved their watch business to Peoria IL. At the same time Frank advertised what he called “The Empire Watch Co., 63 Main St., Fredonia N.Y.” authorizing all Express Agents to take orders for his watches. In the Chicago Sunday Tribune of 16 June 1907 there was an article quoting Richard W. Sears “that if a watch firm at Fredonia N.Y., years ago hadn’t sent him a watch, C.O.D., with privilege of return if he thought he couldn’t sell it, he might still be [a] dealer in coal, wood, and lumber in northern Minnesota.” Since it was in 1886 that the incident occurred , it must have been Frank Howard’s 63 Main St. business that inspired Sears, not the Fredonia Watch Co. of Edward and Clarence.           
The Union Block was taken down and replaced by the current bank building in 1929.

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