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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.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Quinn Block

The most fascinating part of writing about Walla Walla's historic buildings is learning how a space can change over time, its owners altering and molding it to their needs. If I walk into Tallman's Drug Store at 4 West Main today I am greeted by friendly folks who fill my prescription and ask about my day. 

If I had entered that door in 1880, I would have been visiting Thomas Quinn, Saddler and Harness Maker. His ads promised "Bridles, Whips, Spurs, Saddle Blankets, and in fact everything found in a first-class harness establishment." In Frank T. Gilbert's 1882 Sketches of Walla Walla, he describes Thomas Quinn: "With manners suave, a disposition to accommodate, and generous promptings towards his fellows, he greets the stranger, the customer, or the friend in that peculiar way ... which seldom fails to leave a desire with the recipient to do him a favor if he can." It appears that an hospitable greeting is part of the building's heritage.

Mr. Quinn's business prospered for years and it was taken over by his wife Clara at his death in 1889.

By 1908 Walla Walla's need for such equipment was no longer as great due to the growing popularity of automobiles, and Quinn'sSaddlery went out of business. The Quinns owned the building on the corner, too, at 2 West Main, which housed Dohenny and Marum's Dry Goods. The two buildings together were known as Quinn's Block, although from the beginning they were architecturally distinct. Both buildings had offices upstairs--doctors, lawyers, Mrs. Sarah Thacker's Commercial School, and the office of the publication Town Talk.In 1901, City Drugs moved into the corner building and when Mr. Tallman bought out Mr. Esteb in 1898 it became Tallman's Drugs.

Quinn's Saddlery gone, 4 West Main went through a dramatic remodel and in 1909 became the Dime Theater, where for ten cents (five cents for children 10 and under) you could see a silent movie in the "Coziest and Most Comfortable Place of Amusement in Town," accompanied by the "the Dime's excellent five-piece orchestra...one of the best musical organizations in Walla Walla." The theater stayed for three years and then moved to Alder Street. 

Tallman's moved from the corner into the more spacious 4 West Main, reinstalled shop front windows and a center door and furnished their new space with cabinets made by White House Crawford that are still in Tallman's today. 


The sign that labels the Quinn Building is no longer visible, but perhaps it still exists behind the modern facade. Maybe a future remodel or restoration may reveal it, and remind us that Thomas Quinn, Saddlemaker, was once in business there.

Maybe you are wondering what happened to 2 West Main, the corner building, after Tallman's moved? Iv'e saved that story for next time....

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