23-29 Main Street

Crown City Touring- Main Street

23-29 Main Street

Cortland, New York 13045, United States

Created By: Cortland County Historical Society


This spot began as a residence with a neighboring store. I unfortunately had trouble determining when exactly the original house and store were built and by whom, but the land has connection to Tercius Eels and later Oren Stimson who were the early owners of what became known as the Keator or Chadbourne house at 11-15 Main Street (already covered in a previous post). Perhaps it was the John Rose family that built the house when they purchased the lot in 1846. John Rose sold hats out of the neighboring store, while Mrs. Emeline J. Rose operated a millinery in the house. Mr. Rose died in 1858 but Emeline remained in the residence until she sold the property to James Suggett and Charles Foster who proposed to remove the house to erect a block of buildings.

It is likely this new block that brothers Chester F. Wickwire and Chauncey J. Wickwire, operating as C.F. Wickwire & Co., moved their hardware business into from their previous location at 16 Main. According to Chester’s obituary published in the Cortland Standard on 9/14/1910: “Soon after that an old loom came into their possession, having been taken in some way in the course of trade. Chester Wickwire, who was possessed of a very exceptional mechanical and inventive mind, began examining the loom, which had been considered as so much junk, and fixed it up to see what it would do. He conceived the idea of its weaving wire into cloth for screens and other purposes and worked upon it till it would operate perfectly. In 1873 the firm began the manufacture of wire cloth and wire goods in a little building in the rear of their store. The business increased and the factory was constantly added to till it occupied all the available open space within that square.”

In 1876, H.M. Kellogg and Frank Place took over the hardware business together in the storefront the Wickwire Bros. had recently vacated to focus on the manufacturing of their wire goods. Place left the partnership in 1879. Kellogg would remain nearly in the same spot almost exclusively until 1902, with the exception of a short period following the fire previously mentioned as the one that destroyed the Garrison Block.

Of the February 20th, 1884 fire the newspapers said this:

“Early Wednesday morning the village of Cortland was visited by a second disastrous conflagration which for a long time threatened to lay in ruins the entire square bounded by Main street, Clinton avenue, South Church and East Court streets. The flames when first discovered, about 1 a. m., were issuing from the east end of the Wickwire block, having the appearance of originating in the hallway in the rear of said block. In this block was the hardware store of H. M. Kellogg, the grocery of Kirkland Bros., on the first floor. On the second floor was Thomas Button's barber shop; L. T. White's dental rooms and the tin shop of H. M. Kellogg. The third story was used as a store room by the Messrs. Wickwire Brothers.”

Ultimately, the whole of the Wickwire building was destroyed along with the Garrison and Union blocks, but a rainstorm and the hard work of the Cortland and Homer fire departments ensured most other buildings in the section were spared.

The Wickwire building was rebuilt from plans designed and drawn up by Chester Wickwire. The new structure boasted of four stories, 46 feet wide, 100 feet deep. There was an iron front for the first story and the rest in Philadelphia pressed brick, and iron girders at the front and back with iron posts all throughout. Decorations included a massive cornice of wood or stamped metal with a flower and pine tree motif as well as diamond-shaped terra cotta panels above and between the windows.

Around 1887, Edwin Robbins took over the narrow space at no.23, once the alleyway between the Garrison and Wickwire blocks, to operate a tobacco store which remained in the same spot until 1940. The business had been sold out to a nephew, Charles Wood, in 1926.

The first floor of no.25 continued to be used by H.M. Kellogg as a hardware store offering stoves, furnaces, plumbing, and more until F.W. Woolworth & Co. took over the spot in 1910. Mason B. Ingalls, a dentist, kept his office on the second floor.

It would seem no.27 referred to the top floors that were rented out as apartments and offices to no small number of people and businesses over the years. City directories are a great resource for seeing just who came and went and are available in the CCHS research center for the curious-minded.

McGraw & Osgood sold boots and shoes out of no.29. Around 1902, the partnership changed to a drug store business under the proprietorship of McGraw & Elliott where they remained until the S.S. Kresge Company, which ran a chain of 5-and-10-cent stores, leased the block and McGraw & Elliot moved to the Taylor Block. The first two floors and basement underwent extensive renovations at this time, and in 1940 Kresge took over no.23, where Robbins Tobacco Co. was still located, for additional counterspace. At the same time, the installation of a new 18-stool lunch counter would occur on the south side to replace the one on the north side to be removed upon enlargement.

In 1964, Krege opened up a Jupiter discount store and six years later brothers John and Daniel McNeil purchased the block. Rite Aid went into the block in 1972, and in 1978 Dan McNeil announced plans to renovate the lately neglected upper floors and convert them into rental space available for non-profit organizations. At that time, The Arts Council as well as the Cortland County Community Action Program (CAPCO) were slated to be housed in the new center. The Villager article detailing these plans also provided some descriptions of the interior including carved woodwork on the stairways, doors, and windows, a dusty glass door on the third floor reading “Cortland Home Telephone Co,” an old cast iron stove, and a piano tipped on its side. There was even graffiti revealed under the peeling wallpaper including a note left by “H. Timmerman, stock room manager…Jany.9-1929.”

Once renovations were completed, Dan McNeil is quoted as saying, “That building was very well designed. It now complies with all state codes, and that is sort of a miracle, considering the age of the building.” (Cortland Standard 5/31/1979).

Most original partitions were retained as was the plaster, the solid cherry woodwork, and all 59 distinctively shaped windows.

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


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