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.