The Flower Building on the corner of Arcade and Arsenal Streets
Constructed on the corner of Arcade and Arsenal Streets opposite the American Hotel in 1889, the Flower Building was another duly-named building named after one of Watertown’s most influential persons of the era, Roswell P. Flower, who was also invested in the construction of the new Trinity Church and the Flower Hospital in New York City at the same time. Flower would serve as the 30th Governor of New York from 1892 – 1894, the last years in which a three-year term existed.
The history of the corner of Arsenal and Arcade Streets was well documented in a Watertown Daily Times article printed shortly before construction on the Flower Building, aka the Flower Block, began. Dating back to 1849, the year of the Great Fire that devastated several blocks along Arcade, Arsenal and Court Streets, the corner had been home to numerous businesses.
According to The Times article, several buildings were demolished to make way for the Flower Building–
The corner building was erected by Martin Symonds in about 1849 and the lower story was occupied as a billiard saloon. Nelson Jones, who now lives beyond the half-way house on the Sackets Harbor road, being the proprietor. The Times informant does not remember how or by whom the upper story was occupied.
The second of the recently destroyed buildings was originally an old shed. It was afterwards fitted up so that it was the residence of Aaron Hosmer, who kept a livery stable, the barns being in the rear—probably, the same that Mr. Peter Bergevin has just vacated.
The third was erected by Mr. Alanson Bigsell and stood about where Bushnell & Co’s store now is. When Mr. Woodruff built the Woodruff House he wanted this building out of the way, so he bought it and moved it to the spot where it saw its last days.
The corner, once prime real estate and now a parking lot, was well remembered then for having a restaurant/billiard room operated by F. H. Stanley; a butcher shop conducted by James Avery; a saloon and billiard room by Christopher Nott; and a meat market by Charles Bishop, George W. Lawrence, D. M. Rice, and L. E. Reese. It was also said that there was a bowling alley in the basement.
Construction on the Flower Building began in the summer of 1889, and by the end of August, the brick walls on the Arcade and Arsenal Street sides had been placed, the project was supervised by Patrick Phillips, and many of the iron girders were manufactured locally at the Bagley & Sewall‘s foundry.
On March 22, 1890, arguably the best store opened in the new Flower Building, with a suite said to be tailored-made for it. With its storefront windows facing both Arsenal and Arcade Streets, Snook & King was a new clothing firm from proprietors Henry J. Snook and Ferdinand P. King, both with many years of experience in the business. The firm later became F. P. King & Co. in 1894.
The Flower Building was also home to the G. R. Hanford & Co. music store, which often gave lessons and performed recitals. During its seven decades, the block was also a haven for attorneys and judges in the city, including attorney and Judge Denis O’Brien and attorney/General Bradley Winslow. The four-story Flower Building would be home to many businesses over the years, from cigar and smoke shops to clothing merchants such as Frank & Weiner Co. and Eli Elting Rand Co., not to mention the Bell Telephone Co. and A&P Grocery which moved there for a period of time in 1934.
In the late 1950s, planning began to replace the building, then owned by Roswell P. Flower’s grandson, Frederick H. Taylor, Sr., and replace it with a modern J.C. Penney store, the franchise having one located on Court Street. Taylor, a well-known attorney, and others would begin relocating their offices, Frederick making the Hotel Woodruff, once owned by his father, J. B. Taylor, his location.
Taylor would first sell the property, and the adjacent Arcade Hotel, to Atherton Company of Chicago for $210,000. Atherton already had a long-term lease lined up for J.C. Penney. Today, the location is used for a small parking lot and part of the Jefferson County Court Complex expansion.