About Me

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I have lived in Walla Walla for four years and I plan on living out my days here. I have been writing about local buildings for three years now and am so grateful to have so many fascinating places to research.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Walla Walla in the 1920s

If you are curious about what went on in Walla Walla during the Roaring Twenties, watch the brief video I made featuring stories from Up to the Times magazine and photos provided by Joe Drazan from his Bygone Walla Walla collection. CDs of Joe's many photos and ads can be purchased at Walla Walla Public Library and proceeds from their sale benefit the library.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Walla Walla's Livery Stables
Small's Opera House and Livery Stable 1890
These days we take owning a car for granted and have trouble imagining how important a good livery stable was to a town up to the early 1900s. Livery stables were once essential to towns of just about any size, not just for residents but also for visitors. One could rent a horse or board one at a livery stable within walking distance of a hotel or home. Walla Walla had a number of good livery stables and we are fortunate that we can still see a couple of the finest of their time.  
Livery is defined as the care and boarding of horses for a fee, and a horse owner could choose different boarding "plans." One could pay just to have a horse housed in a livery stable but have responsibility for feeding and grooming it and even cleaning out its stall. Or an owner could subscribe to a more expensive plan where the livery stable did everything, in some cases even exercising or training a horse. A vital service was provided by these stables to those who did not own a horse. Liveries had coaches available for hire and even provided delivery and moving services. If one needed to move a piece of furniture, visit a relative in the country or just take a Sunday ride, it all started at the nearby livery.
In the 1880s one could board a horse downstairs at Mr. Small's livery on Main street and then go upstairs to take in a lecture or musical performance. The Small Livery Stables and Opera House is gone now, but its ornate appearance is represented accurately in the mural in Heritage park. An imposing brick livery stable we can still see at 4th and Poplar was built in 1905 by Mordo MacDonald and housed 75 horses on three floors. Fires were common in livery stables; the Union Bulletin reports an especially big blaze in 1915 when nine horses died. Brick liveries were more likely to survive a fire and more likely to be repurposed rather than torn down.
The Former McBride's Livery Stable
We still have a prime example at First and Poplar, the former McBride's Livery. Mr. McBride boarded horses, rented carriages, and even provided an ambulance service. If one had an outing planned for a big group, an especially large "Tally Ho"carriage could be rented at McBride's. Hack (short for hackney) carriage service was in demand around the clock. For night driving a hack was equipped with two ornate lamps lighted by sperm oil candles. Drivers at McBride's were elegantly attired in navy blue uniforms and soldier-like caps. The brick building that remains was only part of McBride's operation; large frame buildings stood where there is a parking lot now. McBride's needed lots of space because they not only rented carriages, they built them; their finely-crafted hack carriages were sold in Walla Walla and Pendleton. A detailed article in the April 1908 issue of Up to the Times described McBride's process of crafting a hack carriage and their photo of a McBride-produced carriage is pictured here. 
A McBride-built Carriage 1907
  In the early 1900s the livery business was starting to fade. The stables were threatened by the increasing number of automobiles and some even banned "horseless carriages" from their property. The McBrides gradually reduced their livery business and started to sell off their hack carriages. Charles McBride kept with the times by operating an auto taxi service out of his former livery business. It was probably with reluctance that Mr. McBride and other Walla Walla stable owners gave up their fine horses and stately carriages. It is fortunate that some of their buildings still stand and remind us that there was a time when we relied on livery stables to keep Walla Walla moving.

Late-breaking Livery News!!
McDonald's Livery in Process of Restoration
Since I wrote my post about McBride's livery, a building at Fourth and Poplar has been going through an exciting refurbishing. Yellow paint has been stripped, mellow brick restored and the original signs on the front and side revealed to show us all that Mordo McDonald's Stable filled the huge building. Joe Drazan provides a great photo of the interior.  Up to The Times featured many ads and a shot of the exterior from 1908.
Interior of McDonald's Livery Stable 1910
McDonald's Livery Stable 1908
Mr. McDonald was a well known horse dealer and breeder in Walla Walla and for a while limited his business to providing horses to the government. He furnished eight thousand horses for service in the Philippines. 
A 1910 pamphlet described Mordo McDonald's business: "One of the best known livery and sale stables is McDonald's, corner Fourth and Poplar Streets. Here you will find a large brick barn of modern type and equipped with every convenience.It comprises three floors and will accommodate 75 horses."
It is such a privilege to watch this handsome building through its stages of restoration.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A.M. Jensen's:The Modern Daylight Store

In 1920 a building was erected on the corner of Main and Spokane the likes of which Walla Walla had never seen. Mr. A. M. Jensen, an established local businessman, hired the Beezer Brothers from Seattle to build a department store that would make a statement.The two stories of A. M. Jensen's store were clad in intricate sculptural forms made of white glazed terra cotta. Surrounded by stately brick offices with tall curved windows that were typical of Walla Walla's downtown in 1920, this new building must have seemed quite the architectural anomaly. Up to the Times magazine, February 1920, described it as "a handsome building, metropolitan in its appointments." Mr. Jensen's ad described the residents of the Walla Walla Valley as "progressive people" who "demand that the store keeper do his share and provide merchandizing service in keeping with the present day and age."

The architects, Louis and Michael Beezer, were twins and devout Catholics. They had commissions all over Washington state, but designed mostly churches and banks, including Walla Walla's First National (now Banner) and Baker-Boyer Bank. The Beezers were based in Seattle but also had an office locally, in the Drumheller Building. The brothers' experience with designing churches led to their acquaintance with Charles J. Connick, a master stained glass designer, and they invited him to design windows for the store. Mr. Connick knew Mr. Jensen liked to describe his establishment as " the modern daylight store" and created windows of leaded glass to illuminate the interior. The combination of Connick's windows and the roof-to-pavement white glazed terra cotta facade made A. M. Jensen's bright and beautiful inside and out. 

Mr. Jensen had a department store on Alder for years before he opened this new store on Main in 1920. He knew he could not rely on his remarkable building alone to attract customers; Jensen's offered a wide variety of clothing, appliances, furniture, radios and toys. The 90 employees were not only sales staff; some worked in the "Marinello Beauty Salon" and there were cooks and waitpersons staffing Jensen's Tea Room. A 1920 ad for the Tea Room said Saturday evening dinner was available for $1, and entertainment was provided by "Cowan's orchestra, conducted by Miss Etta Holt."

Mr. Jensen died in 1948 at age 80; he had been in the department store business for 36 years. The Allied Department Stores bought his store and in 1951 changed its name to Bon Marché and began "improvements." It is not clear when the terra cotta on the street level was bricked over, when the elegant wrought iron awning over the front entrance was removed, or what happened to Charles Connick's leaded glass windows. A 1993 parade photo with the Bon Marché in the background shows an awning running around the building as it does today, brick covering the first floor terracotta and the upstairs windows covered. The Bon operated their store until 2005 when Federated Department stores rebranded the store as Macy's.

Walla Walla residents are grateful to still have a department store downtown, and Macy's inside still has a classic department store "feel." The architectural drawing provided by Joe Drazan shows us what A.M. Jensen's looked like in 1920. Standing across Main street and looking above the awning, the remaining sculptural white glazed terra cotta facade can still be seen on the second story, and using our imagination we can visualize it covering the first story too. Our mind's eye can uncover the upstairs windows and enlarge those downstairs. With some effort, 93 years after it was built, we can still see A. M. Jensen's one-of-a-kind "modern daylight store."

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Keen Little Building and Its Neighbor

A modest building can have as interesting a past as a grand one; that's the conclusion I came to after researching the O. D. Keen Building at what is now #15 and #19 Spokane. It's a perfectly balanced little building--the two entry doors slant slightly and give the entries an interest that doors inserted flat against the exterior would not. Each half of the building has a large inviting front shop window and there are subtle but effective incised designs along the sides and the top of the building's facade. If you peer into #15, you will see that a new business, The Interior, is in the process of moving in. Number 19 now houses Lotus Imports.

When Orlan D. Keen built this building about 1935 it had just one address, #15, and one front door and seemed to be intended to be "automotive." A huge door at the back could have admitted any vehicle. Its first inhabitants according to the Walla Walla City Directory were Battery and Electric Service Company, who moved there in 1935. They were an "official Willard Service Station" and specialized in "Magnetos, Gas and Oil, Auto and Radio Repairing, All Makes of Battery and Ignition." Battery and Electric Service occupied the Keen Building until after the war, when Hunt and Lindstrom's General Auto Repair moved in.

Even though it's no longer there, I'd like to talk about the O. D. Keen Building's neighbor next door, the former #19. This was the Keen Apartments and seems to have been built even earlier, probably 1930. The five units of the Keen Apartments were there from 1931 until 1964, and with automotive businesses next door it could never have been a peaceful place to live. I asked around to find out if anyone could remember the Keen Apartments. Doug Saturno confirmed that the apartments were indeed a separate structure from the O. D. Keen Building and remembered they were brick. The only remaining physical evidence we have of the Keen Apartments is four tiny windows cut into the Mill Creek embankment that looked out to the creek from the building's basement. Tenants of the Keen Apartments were mostly widows and single gentlemen, with an occasional couple. Zoning at the time must have allowed businesses as well as residences. A messenger service called 55 (their business name was also their phone number in the days when 2 digits was all you needed) was operated from the Keen Apartments and owned by a Mr. George Elkinton. He offered delivery service in "modern trucks and vans" and could do household moving and retail store delivery. In the 1960s "Hank" and "Kelly" each had barber shops in unit #1. After 30 years, and a name change to Millbrooke Apartments, the building's listing disappeared from the city directory along with its tenants.

When the apartment building was razed I can't be sure, but by 1965 #19 Spokane was no more. I resigned myself to never knowing what the Keen Apartments looked like until Joe Drazan found me a 1931 photo taken during the serious flood that occurred that year. The apartment building was right next to Mill Creek, and the photo shows water gushing over the bridge and, in the background, one can see the long narrow brick Keen Apartments. Due to a disaster, a building that might not have ordinarily been photographed was captured for history. 

By 1964 the Keen Apartments were gone. Next door Hunt and Lindstrom left the O. D. Keen Building in 1968. For the next 32 years the O. D. Keen was relegated to mere storage space. It was used until 2000 as a convenient warehouse for Naimy's Furniture, whose retail store was on the corner of Spokane and Main. Good things happened when Steve Rapp of Allegro Cyclery bought the O. D. Keen Building in 2000. Steve described it as pretty much a "shell" at that time, but with the help of RTL Construction, he restored the building's original features and gave it some pleasant new additions. The building was divided into two spaces; the two shop windows were installed, as were the entry doors. The massive garage door at the back had been boarded up for years and was a wonderful surprise when it was uncovered. The understated but charming geometric designs on the front were restored and highlighted. O. D. Keen's name in relief at the top of the building was painted so that a passerby could easily make out the man who built it. His apartments next door are gone but we still have the O. D. Keen Building, and it is looking better than ever. 

Thanks, Joe Drazan for the 1931 photo of the Keen Apartments.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Franklin Motor Company

It is not often that we get to see history being revealed day by day, but that's just what's happening at the corner of Spokane and Alder. The building that had been the location of Walla Walla Upholstery for many years is being stripped of its facade, and lets us glimpse the original brick front of the building of 1908, the Inland Auto Company. The Inland Auto company was where you could buy a Franklin. Not many of us have heard of a Franklin, a luxury car with an air-cooled engine, full-elliptic springs and a laminated wood chassis frame. The Franklin, produced in Syracuse, New York, was known as The Car Beautiful. Perhaps you are thinking that 1908 seems early for there to be a significant market for autos in Walla Walla. The February 1908 issue of Up to the Times magazine claimed that "Automobiling is becoming more and more popular in the Walla Walla Valley. At present there are about 60 autos in the city alone." By 1909 Inland Auto Company was renamed Walla Walla Franklin Motor Company and their showrooms at "Number One, Auto Row," featured attractive displays and a "very fine line of Franklin cars." Thanks to Joe Drazan's collection we have a 1909 photo of the "fine garage" of the Inland Auto Company. Who were the gentlemen photographed standing in the building's doorway? Possibly the manager, Eory Corkrum, William Waldron, one of the several "machinists," Harry Bathainny, the bookkeeper, or Charles Scott, a "vulcaniser."

If you were shopping for an auto in 1910, you had choices other than a Franklin. You could purchase a White Motor Car at MacBride's, Arthur Lutz on Palouse Street could sell you a Reo, and John Smith, dealer of "High Grade Buggies and Carriages, " carried Studebakers. However, Up to the Times reported in a 1910 issue that "a list of the number of motor cars for which licenses are now in force in the state of Washington, shows that the Franklin air-cooled automobile heads the column with a total of 322." Isabella Kirkman, widow of William, purchased a Franklin for her family in 1912.

The Franklin Motor Car Corporation did not survive the Depression. Sales declined nationwide and they eventually declared bankruptcy in 1935. Walla Walla's Franklin Motor Company sold its last Franklins in 1922. Their building retained its identity as an auto dealer, though, for the next twenty years. In the 1920s and 30s Mosley Wholesale Sales, Monnett Motor Company (Cadillac and Hupmobile), and Ruley Motor Company (Hudson and Essex ) all had dealerships there. The last auto dealer was Kerr Motor Company; Kerr sold Buicks and Pontiacs and left in 1941. Kentworthy's Battery and Electric was the next occupant and it was followed by Myers Electric and Radio. Myers was in the building for over twenty years and during their tenure evolved from "Electric and Radio" to "Radio and TV." Most Walla Walla citizens remember upholstery businesses operating there from the 60s until recently. Goodwill next door has plans to expand into the Inland Auto Company space and are responsible for the remodeling going on now. A gentleman who owned the building for many years said that the original Inland Auto Company sign was still faintly visible on the back wall of the building. I stood in the alley and looked long and hard. Finally I was able to discern the ghost of just one word: AUTO. It is gratifying that the old building retains a little of the sign that represents its historical importance as the place where early Walla Walla citizens could, for many years, purchase a Franklin, The Car Beautiful.

Thanks to Kirkman House Museum for the photo of the Kirkman Family in their Franklin and to Joe Drazan for the early photo of Franklin Motor Company.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gracious Gardener's Department Store

It is not hard to envision a department store occupying the large building on the corner of 3rd and Main where today you can find the AmericanWest Bank. What is hard to imagine is just how elegant and varied an establishment the three-floored Gardner's Department Store was. There was a department store at that location prior to Gardner's. The Schwabacher brothers had one there until they sold out to Gardner's in 1909. The building we see today, though, was built by the Gardners. You would expect glass cases displaying "Dependable Wearables" as the ads said. The second floor sold ladies' dresses made of exotic sounding fabrics such as "Marquisette Voile, Rice Cloth and Illuminated Grennadine." You could purchase children's clothes on the same floor: "Smart Dresses of Serge for Girls in their teens" and "Chic Little Coats for the little folks." Gardner's Department Store took fashion seriously. The Union Bulletin featured news stories about Ward Gardner's buying trips to New York. 

Friends of mine shared their Gardner's memories. June remembers Gardner's annual spring fashion shows and what an honor it was to be asked to model for them. A 1947 Union Bulletin article reported that the spring review would feature "the newest in spring creations for the discerning miss or matron" and would be "modeled by a bevy of mannequins, both adult and juvenile." Diane emphasizes that Gardner's wasn't the kind of place you would paw through the merchandise. Instead, the elderly salesladies would bring goods out from display cases for you to consider. A few of the employees were memorable; Betty recalls how during the war--when new silk stockings could not be bought--a lady named Lulu was stationed back by the elevator. Customers could bring Lulu their stockings full of runs and she would mend them. Jodee remembers Ila May, who was in charge of the Yarn Department, and could be found there any day knitting or crocheting. Ila May regularly conducted knitting classes and wore outfits she had created with her needles.

You might not expect that in the same store where you could buy baby clothes imported from Italy and fine leather gloves, you were also able to purchase lamb chops. "Ham Shanks, fine for boiling, Beef Roast, grade A, and fryers, young birds" were displayed on the first floor, but were cut in the basement. A gentleman who works at the bank now told me that the butchers who cut meat down below left gashes made by their cleavers in the floor's supporting posts. The meat and produce areas maintained the same elegance as the clothing departments. White-coated clerks were at your service there. Even as early as 1937, "misters" were in place that kept the fruit and vegetables "fresh and cold." Everyday goods such as canned food, laundry soap, clocks, lamps, and pots and pans were also available at Gardner's. Customers could call in orders--before noon--and have groceries sent to their homes with no delivery charge. Joe Drazan provides us with the 1949 photo of Gardner's and its fleet of delivery trucks.

Walla Walla had Gardner's goods and services available for many years and when the department store closed its doors in 1980, its customers knew it was not likely there would ever be another Gardner's Department Store. The store that provided one-stop shopping in gracious surroundings was sadly missed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

 Falkenberg Jewelers: Before and After--And Before!

The 1878 ad for Day's Drug Store, shows what we now call the Reynolds-Day Building. In the ad it looks almost exactly as we see it today, over a hundred years later. But, wait a minute, you say. Where's the clock? The whimsical, charming, much-photographed clock in front of Falkenberg's Jewelers isn't pictured in the engraving because Kristian Falkenberg (and the distinctive clock) hadn't arrived in Walla Walla yet. Mr. Kristian Falkenberg, "jeweler, silversmith, and optician" emigrated from Norway in 1893. After settling in Walla Walla, he opened his shop at 42 East Main in the space that is now occupied by Macy's shoe department. Mr. Falkenberg installed the magnificent American-made clock on the sidewalk outside his store in 1912, and started the routine of winding it once a week that continues to this day. A young William O Douglas, then a student at Whitman College, and in his later life a Justice of the Supreme Court, was employed at Falkenberg's as a stock boy. Another important employee at the store was Jerry Cundiff, who started work there in 1913 and eventually bought the business from Mr. Falkenberg.

Meanwhile, the Reynolds-Day Building down the street was going through a number of changes. In a room upstairs in 1878 the first Washington Constitutional Convention was held. Downstairs Dr. D.H. Day operated his drug store. In 1889 A.H. Reynolds, a prominent "capitalist" and the "Chairman of Streetlights" moved his business there. Hence the "Reynolds" in Reynolds-Day.

Time wrought more changes to the building over the years: J. C. Penney's was housed there, as was Payless Drugs, and a bank. And in the 1960s the lovely historic front we see today was modernized (and obscured). In 1973 the Cundiffs were faced with a problem: Falkenberg's lost its lease and they needed to move their store elsewhere. However, the Cundiff's problem turned out to be a great thing for Walla Walla. They chose to move Falkenberg's to the Reynolds-Day building in 1974. This was no small project; the business had to move and so did the 3000 pound clock. Skip Cundiff remembers that a sign company was hired to do the moving of the clock. A crane lowered it in place in front of its new location, concrete footings were poured, and it was bolted to the sidewalk. Falkenberg's Jewelers was now where we know it today in terms of location, but the old Reynolds-Day Building's 1880s character was still hidden by a facade. The building's original beauty was revealed when it became one of the Walla Walla Downtown restoration projects in the 1990s. A combination of Cundiff family funds and grants made it possible to remove the modern facade, and the original features of the Reynolds-Day Building came to light after being hidden (and nearly forgotten) for years. The Reynolds-Day Building received the Grand Prize in 1993 from Walla Walla Architectural Awards for exterior restoration and interior renovation.

So, we have the Cundiff family to thank for preserving two essential pieces of Walla Walla history--the historic, elegant Reynolds-Day Building and the magnificent Falkenberg clock.

The Days' Drugs ad and the 1970s photo of Falkenberg's are used with the kind permission of Joe Drazan, and come from his wonderful Bygone Walla Walla photo collection.