Col. Delevan S. Miller Writes of the Downtown Watertown of 1881
The following article regarding Downtown Watertown of 1881 first appeared in the Watertown Daily Times on Sept. 15, 1906. Written by Col. Delevan S. Miller, it details what businesses and stores were on Public Square and Court Street and provides insights into the changes that occurred over the 25 years from the time he wrote it. It was a multi-part feature, printed in successive weeks. The article is presented unedited, other than excluding his details on “the Old Arcade,” which will be presented in another post.
Col. Delevan S. Miller Writes Of Public Square Stores that Supplied the City 25 Years Ago
A Trip Down the Court Street of 1881.
Last Saturday evening I stood at the entrance of the Paddock Arcade looking down across the beautiful Square with the handsome buildings, the brilliant electric lights, and the throngs of people that were surging in and out of the stores, and a spirit of meditation came over me. I had been reading the splendid Saturday edition of the Times and the antiquarians extracts from the files of 25 years ago had called up many memories of Watertown as it was in those days.
Great has been the transformation in the buildings and public improvements, still greater the changes that a quarter of a century has wrought among the merchants and business concerns of the city. Did you ever stop to think how few that there were then actively engaged in business have continued in the present?
Starting at the foot of the Square in the basement of the old Baptist Church, that has been replaced with the magnificent edifice that every citizen feels a pride in, was the produce establishment of H. M. Ball, a business man of the old school.
James Davidson’s flour and feed store was adjoining and in the next block was the well-known firm of Harbottle and Howard. J. W. Nott, the druggist, is still doing business at the same old stand as then.
Marcy, Buck & Riley take orders for coal in the Utica & Black River R. R. depot.
J. R. Wilson’s meat market was at the corner of the Square and Mill Street. Henry V. Cadwell’s wholesale tobacco and confectionary establishment and Alexander Allingham a Shoe store were in the Streeter Block. A little further up the street in the store now occupied by Hyde Bros. was the reliable firm of Sargent & Andrews.
Mark Kenyon was doing business in the neighborhood and Pickett’s Harness Store was where the late J. K. Moffett conducted business so many years.
S. R. Ryan now has a fine business block in that locality but in the days of which I write “Steve” was a constable in Second Ward, the home of many distinguished Democrats and the ward where everybody votes “Straight” and the Republican majority is large.
A famous old grocery store was Theron Zimmerman’s, and Charles Partell’s Hardware store was in the vicinity. Jule Quencer was then doing business on the North side of the Square, also Ed. Bingham. Van Namee’s Drug store, established by R. Van Namee in 1878, is one of the familiar land marks and is now under the management of George R. Van Namee, a grandson of the founder.
Streeter, Brimmer and Olean did a hustling business at the “Grand Central Clothing House” now Remington’s in the 80’s, also Wiggins & Goodale at the “Great Wardrobe,” where F. P. King now holds forth. Next was the Crockery store of H. Dean Waite.
If I was not mistaken Kellogg & Conger were doing business at the Woodruff House drug store 25 years ago. They were succeeded soon after Adams & Ehrilicher. The Woodruff House, which is now receiving such a thorough refitting and overhauling under the management of Loren R. Johnston, was run a time in the ’80’s by F. W. Hayden, succeeded by C. A. Hungerford. Dewey & Fairbanks were the proprietors of the clothing store next door, and after Mr. Fairbanks’ retirement Mr. Dewey continued the business until his death.
Charles H. Tubbs, hatter and furrier, was located at No. 9 Woodruff house, where his father conducted business so many years. Later Mr. Tubbs purchased a block further down the street and removed his business there.
Merritt Andrus carried on business at No. 8 Woodruff House for a long term of years.
John Prouty was also one of the old business men of Watertown and conducted a boot and shoe store at No. 7 Public Square upwards of 40 years. A Bushnell was then in the dry goods business at establishment of A. Bushnell & Co. One floor of a single store was then ample for the business.
Belknap & Lewis conducted the hardware store where W. W. Conde has made such a success.
The Merchants bank was then occupying the corner where the Watertown National does business, but one would hardly know the place, it has been so enlarged and modernized.
There have been great changes in both the buildings and tenants on this busy street since early ’80s, Bush, Bull & Roth, who succeeded N. Winslow & Co., later succeeded by Roth & Santee in their magnificent building, turned the tide of shoppers that way and it is now one of the busiest sections of the city with the Rothstock the only “sky scraper” in town, the city building, the Otis, and other modern business blocks. The first store on the street after turning the Merchant’s Bank corner was George Haas boot and shoe store.
Then S. L. George jeweler, Felt’s drug store, Slowman’s 99 cent store, Murray’s crockery store, Campbell & Moulton’s, dry goods and carpets, and if memory serves me right Frank Fox was in business along there also Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Primeau. Then Bush, Bull & Roth succeeded by Roth & Santee, Christopher Klump boots and shoes, Fuess & Baker grocers and George MacComber, the old reliable grocer and wholesale fruit dealer at the store conducted for many years by Roberts & Sons.
Zimmerman & Hardiman laid the foundation for the immense business of the Hardiman – Woolworth Company in the stores now occupied by D. A. Rich & Sons. Peter Seibert’s place was in the neighborhood, where one could get a cool glass of lager and a piece of Limburger.
There were some famous hostelries on this street in the old day. The Globe, afterward the Otis House, which was destroyed by fire a few years ago; The Kirby, which was remodeled and rechristened the “Hardiman” The “Crowner House” so long and successfully conducted by Solon and George Wilder and the “City Hotel” of William Roach.
Lower Court Street bears evidence of the prosperity and growth of the city with the new Hungerford Block and other structures between the City building and the Crowner House and even beyond. In the Flatiron plot lying between, Court, Coffeen and Massey Streets we have the Romang House, fine stores and the great apartment block, the Empire Flats, of Felt and Mains.
The south side of Court Street has been greatly transformed since 1880. The new Otis Building, the Fairbank Block which replaced a lot of low wooden structures, the Hall building the Hardiman-Woolworth Co. fine business block, the Hardiman Hotel, the Adams and Goodale Block, are all a credit to the city.
Years ago when anyone was coming up town on the south side they always stopped at Ferrin’s marble works to have a chat with “H. F.” on the political situation in the County, State and Nation. A little farther up the street was the model establishment of Nill & Jess, who from small beginnings in the 60s have brought their business up so that for many years they have had one of the most complete establishments in the State. The fire drove them out of their old quarters a few years ago, but they had a tender attachment for their old location and are now back at the old stand although in much more modern quarters. May they live long and prosper.
Sam Gillingham who so long conducted the Atlantic Tea Store in the Flatiron corner, formerly occupied by Harger’s bank, has been succeeded by H. D. Grems. Crossing over on Moore’s corner we miss our old friends of the police force of 25 years ago: Miles Guest, William McCutchen and the genial Charley Champlain, so long our efficient chief.
William H. Moore has been in business on the corner about 50 years and a quarter of a century ago the firm was Moore & Smith.
Scott, the jeweler, conducted for a long time the store where J. S. Baird is located. Boon & Baker were in business where C. C. Herrick & Co. are now engaged in the drudge trade. O. B. Cadwell’s dry goods house is one of the oldest in the city and was established before the war; the firm being Cooke, Cadwell & Co. Mr. Cadwell became the sole proprietor several years ago. M. L. Rogers is now the proprietor of the Camp & Massey drug store which was one of the oldest and best known in Northern New York. F. Miller, dealer in hats and furnishings, occupied in 1880 the store where Dorsey’s clothing business has been established for many years.