17-21 Main Street

Crown City Touring- Main Street

17-21 Main Street

Cortland, New York 13045, United States

Created By: Cortland County Historical Society


As we continue our historical tour down Cortland’s Main Street, we come next to the Garrison block, a stately structure encompassing numbers 17-21.

The earliest description I can find for this location speaks of a long, low white building where Tercius Eels (1790-1868), a merchant, kept his store and office. You may recall from two posts back that this is the same gentleman upon whom we can bestow the honor of first resident of the Keator House that was located next door. In fact, just as the house was transferred from Tercius Eels to Oren Stimson, the store too changed hands between the same two men. It seemed to be a convenient arrangement to own the home and business side-by-side!

We unfortunately do not have any images of this early structure, although an advertisement from 1853 describes the store that had just undergone enlargement and repairs under the ownership of J.A. Graham & Co.: “The large bow-windows and folding doors in front, filled, as the windows are, with a variety of goods, look extremely inviting, and the counters on which articles of merchandise are displayed by the gentlemanly and obliging clerks is so handsomely finished.”

The Garrison name first enters the scene in 1862 when Abner Garrison (1800-1876) purchased the lot. At this time, one of Abner’s sons, Levitt D. Garrison (1837-1916) was engaged in a grocery and crockery business with Charles W. Collins for a couple of years until they split in 1865. Collins continued his establishment in the Garrison block location into the 1870s, perhaps right up until a new structure was erected in 1877. The ownership of the block had by that time been transferred from Abner Garrison to another son, Charles H. Garrison (1823-1900), who was president of the Cortland and Homer Horse Railroad (think horse-drawn trolley!).

Charles’ brother, Levitt, moved his grocery business into the new block, but I had some trouble getting the exact location straight since I saw an article stating that he had decided in 1878 to move into the north store (what is number 17 today) and yet everything else I saw placed him in the south store!

Fortunately, I stumbled upon this fun correction in the Cortland Standard:

“L. D. Garrison is having a hard time of it at the hands of the newspapers. The Democrat a few weeks since assigned him to the store lately occupied by H. H. Pudney, and last week The Standard, through somebody's blundering, gave him the north store in the new Garrison block, and put Tanner Bros, in the south one. By transposing the words north and south the truth will be arrived at, and Garrison will have peace.”

Thus, in 1878 we can place L.D. Garrison in no.21, and Tanner Bros. dry goods in no.17. In 1884, a fire started in a covered entrance in the rear of the neighboring Wickwire block and destroyed that building together with the Garrison block. When Garrison’s was rebuilt, it very nearly matched its predecessor except for some small differences: the arches above the windows today feature light-colored stone with dark keystones, but the original block had arches and keystones in a matching color. Additionally, the previous structure had belt courses separating the floors that were made of cut stone from the Split-Rock quarry near Syracuse, while the rebuilt block did not replicate this feature.

The arrangement of having a dry goods/clothing store on the left and a grocery store on the right under various proprietors was maintained until about 1900 when Mrs. Darby-Turner’s business in no.17 that included clothing, theatrical wigs, head dresses, manicuring, and facial massage moved upstairs to make room for Palace Confectionery Co., operated by Peter and James Zaharis. An image from 1914 demonstrates the luxury of this establishment, equipped with a counter of Italian marble, onyx fountain with silver fittings, and mural depicting a fox hunt.

The upstairs of the block, accessed by a set a stairs that ran up between the two businesses, contained offices used at one time by the City Clerk, City Chamberlain, lawyers, real estate agents, tailors, furriers, and more! When F. W. Woolworth first leased the building in the 1920s, the original center stairway to the second floor was replaced with a south stairway. The Knights of Columbus had their club rooms upstairs around this time.

In 1957, the building was purchased by McNeil Music. At the time, a sign was still visible on the upper north wall that read “L.D. Garrison, Fancy Groceries and Provisions.” This block that was built, burned, and built up again has been beautifully maintained, L.D. Garrison sign and all, as part of the McNeil campus.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Crown City Touring- Main Street


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to changerequest@pocketsights.com.