Monday, September 26, 2011

East Side: Mallory & Law Block

Smith H. Mallory, Chariton's legendary rail and real estate entrepreneur, and Henry Law, a harness-maker,  built the double-front Mallory & Law Block (right) during 1880, a year after Dr. William H. Gibbon built his drug store (left) at the north end of the east side of the square. The architect was the Des Moines-based William Foster, probably designer of both the Mallory Opera Block, Chariton's first truly grand building, and Mallory's legendary home, the Ilion. Some years later, Foster and his then-partner, Henry F. Liebbe, designed the Lucas County Courthouse as Foster & Liebbe.

The Chariton Leader of March 27, 1880, reported that, "Messrs. Mallory and Law will put up a brick block on the East side this spring, on the lot next to Gibbons building, and with the same style of front."

That article also contained references to other new buildings planned on the square, including the narrow three-story brick building built by David Q. Story adjacent to the west-side Mallory Opera Block that burned with it soon after the turn of the 20th Century: "D.Q. Storie will soon commence work upon his new business house, which is to be three stories high, and unsurpassed by any similar structure in the state. The upper story will be sixty feet deep, and the other two the same as his present store room. We also understand that Messrs. Blake and Alexander contemplate building on the North side." The Blake and Alexander plans apparently were not carried out or, if they were, the buildings were frame and did not survive long.

On May 12, 1880, The Chariton Patriot reported the following about the Mallory & Law Block: "The designs and specifications for Mallory and Law's new building on the east side of the square were received last week. The building is 40 feet in width by 85 feet, and the structure is 40 feet high, and is divided in the center by a brick wall the entire length of the building. The basement story is 8 feet 6 inches in the clear, the front being divided into two beautiful and commodious rooms, they will be well lighted and floored. The first floor above the basement are fine handsome rooms, each being 20 by 85 feet and 14 feet high. The second floor is divided into 8 rooms suitable for offices, which are capacious, will be well finished and finely ventilated. On the second floor a hallway runs the entire length of the building. The bruck used will be of the very best material. The windows in the upper floor are composed of 2 panes each, each being 30 x 42 inches. The inside work will be beautifully finished throughout, and the whole protected by a splendid metal roof, and the building trimmed with galvanized iron. Upon the whole, this building when completed will be one of the best and handsomest structures in the city, and will add much to the well deserved reputation of the architect, Mr. W. Foster, of Des Moines."

The Chariton Leader was able to report on Oct. 23, 1880, that "Mallory and Law, who are completing the fine new brick on the east side, have put in gas mains ready for use when this city chooses to indulge in such a luxury."

The current configuration of this building leads to occasional confusion. The north half as years passed was acquired by owners of the Gibbon Building and the first-floor dividing wall knocked out to allow expanded retail space. At that time, the facades of the Gibbon Building and north half of the Mallory-Law Block were modified to create a degree of uniformity that extends to consistent sand-blasted brickwork and identically blocked second-floor windows.

The south half of Mallory-Law then was painted white to create a degree of conformity with the white brick facade of the Kull-White Front Building to its south.

Mallory-Law remains as the only building currently on the square commissioned at least in part by Mallory, once the city's major property owner.

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