HISTORIC BUILDINGS OF HERKIMER COUNTY
THE OLD EARL BLOCK
Before and after pictures of the Earl Block building and fire.
FIRE LEVELED EARL BLOCK, ONCE ACTIVE CENTER HERE
The Earl Block 1898 to 1917 - The Earl Block, which once occupied a 104-foot frontage on N. Main Street, and housed so many commercial, professional and social activities that it must have been a virtual community center in its day, was among the buildings leveled by the big Herkimer fire in 1917.
That blaze also carried with it the Evening Telegram plant, the Grange and the Masonic Temple, which were located on Main St., and around the corner on Green St., necessitating large-scale rebuilding. But the glories of the erstwhile Earl Block are recalled in a lengthy article appearing in the likewise extinct Herkimer Democrat for Oct. 8, 1902.
"For years," the articles relates reminiscently, "Herkimer had ... a group of low wooden buildings, disfiguring the main street, but in the spring of 1898 the buildings vanished and a fine business block was erected by one of the young Earls."
The block, described as "one of the handsomest in Herkimer," was built from plans furnished by C. E. Cronk, a Herkimer architect, by a Utica contracting firm. The exterior was a pressed brick and the interior of hard wood, highly polished--it may be this was why it later burned so readily.
"Not a skyscraper by any means," the paper comments, "but we are not quite ready for skyscrapers as yet in Herkimer." Nor do we have any a half-century later, though that was something the writer could not have forseen.
STORES ON THE FIRST FLOOR
"The lower floor," the article continues, "furnishes a small shopping district of itself, for here may be found anything from candy to china, from a paper of pins to a tailored suit." In other words, this was the location of the H. G. Munger & Co. store, even then a local institution of long standing, which was originally in quarters "way uptown," where it was known as the New York Store.
While Munger's is still going strong, many of the older stores which once occupied the building have since disappeared. One was LaDue & Avery's, where shoppers went "perhaps for a pound of marshmallows for a marshmallow toast, a bit of china for a bundle party ... or perhaps a game of pingpong." What a bundle party may have been is not explained. Another store occuplying the building was Deimel's men's clothing shop, which was "to the men what Munger's is to the women."
This accounts for the ground floor. Upstairs, the article indicates were the offices of just about every lawyer in town, including George H. Bunce, E. A. Brown, Charles B. Hane and W. J. Gardinier. Mr. Gardiner is the only one of these still practicing here. All these young attorneys, remarks the writer, were "strong men of the north."
Practicing dentistry on the same floor was Dr. Longstaff, while Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Leffler were operating osteopaths.
CLUBS TAKE MUCH SPACE
There apparently was all kinds of room on this floor, because here was also located the Remikreh Club (Herkimer spelled backwards) a "jolly name" given by "a jolly lot of young men." It had 40 members, President was George Hessler, vice-president Charles Sprague and treasurer Adam Allen. The jolly young men were also the sponsors of a lot of "jolly social events" during the winter.
On the third floor were the rooms of Bethal Lodge, IOOF, which later built a new clubhouse on Green St., sold it to the American Legion a few years ago, and recently reorganized after a long dormant period. Noble grand was Bert Haile and vice grand W. P. Cristman. This floor was also the headquarters of the Kappa Gamma Chi Club, a group of older men, of which Max Miller was president.
This club, if the article is to be believed, was the local social center. Its winter dances drew crowds from up and down the Valley. In those days, the local belles alighted from carriages at the entrance, and the walls of the ballroom were lined with chaperons. The gentlemen also had a chance to take a turn at billiards between dances.
Another occupant of the building was the County Telephone Co. whose exchange was labeled "a great convenience." James Fagan was the "congenial manager" who extended "courteous treatment to all." There was no indication of the number of telephones then served by this switchboard.