Thursday, March 8, 2012

East Side: Palmer Building

This photo of the 1866-67 Palmer Building (at right) was taken during March of 2016 after the shingled arcade that had obscured the view of its 1925 facade for more than 40 years had been removed.

Although refaced twice, this building just north of the alley on the east side of the square, fronting North Grand, is Chariton's first brick building and the oldest structure standing on the square. Its age is evident on the south side and from the rear. The current facade dates from the 1920s

Elijah Lewis, a longtime editor of The Chariton Patriot, arrived in Chariton during early February, 1867, by stage coach from Albia. At that time, he recalled in an article headlined "Thirty Years" and published in The Patriot of Feb 18, 1897, "Oliver Palmer was just finishing his two story brick store on the east side, at that time the only brick building in town."

According to Lucas County's 1881 history, the site of the Palmer Building as well as the Knights of Pythias and Hickman buildings immediately north were parts of a lot with 82-foot frontage purchased by David Waynick on the first Monday in November 1849 --- the first public sale of lots in Chariton. By 1881, according the history's author, Dan Baker, the south half of that larger lot was occuped by "the dry goods and grocery houses of Palmer and Van Sickle."

Oliver Palmer, however, had sold out and moved to Kansas during the summer of 1877, according to reports in The Chariton Leader of July 7 and Aug. 22, 1877. By 1881, the dry goods store located in a frame structure on the site of the current Knights of Pythias building just north of his brick structure was being operated by Oliver's maiden sister, Julia, and his venerable father, Phineas, then in his early 90s.

Thirty years later, The Chariton Leader of  Jan. 16, 1908, reported Oliver Palmer's death in Kansas as follows:

C.H. Palmer  received a telegram, last Friday, from Atwood, Kansas, informing him of the death, the previous day, Thursday, January 9, of his uncle, Oliver L. Palmer. This death brings up the memories of earlier days in Chariton and Lucas County. Thirty-five years ago O.L. Palmer was one of the best known men in this part of Iowa. He was then in his vigorous manhood and was one of the leading merchants in Chariton. He was a man of fine presence and business skill and men relied on his integrity and judgment. Mr. Palmer was a native of New York State but in his young manhood made an overland trip to California. This was in the palmy days of the gold excitement. Later he returned as far east as Burlington, Iowa, where he was temporarily engaged in business, thence to Chariton where he engaged in general merchandising, where he pursued trade with success. This was in the early fifties. Many years ago he removed to Kansas where he  carried on business quite extensively in the stock and ranch line. The causes of his death are not given but his nephew thinks liver and kidney trouble may have been instrumental as he was known to have been thus afflicted. For the past three years he had been residing with a daughter in Minnesota, but recently returned to Atwood, Kansas, where other children live. His wife died a number of years since but he is survived by two sons and three daughters. He was a brother of the venerable T.E. Palmer, of this city, and was a couple of years his junior.

O.L. Palmer was primarily a business man but always took a great interest in public affairs. In politics he was a Republican but during the Greeley campaign he did not endorse the administration of President Grant and ran on the Greeley and Democratic ticket for congress but was defeated --- we believe by Hon. H.J.B. Cummins.

Mr. Palmer was a man of upright character and the older citizens of the county will read of his death with the utmost sorrow.

During the years that followed Oliver Palmer's move west, his brick building was occupied by a wide range of mercantile operations. At some point during those years, its rather plain brick front, which had featured arched windows above, display windows by then considered too small and plain molding all around, was rebuilt in the style of the 1880s or 1890s. The upper windows received cast-metal cornices and large plate glass display windows were installed on the first floor.

Pete T. Paton  was operating a cigar and "gent's furnishings" store here during early 1925, when the building was purchased by John C. Flatt, who had been operating a candy and ice cream store on the north side of the square. During June and July of 1925, Flatt commissioned an entirely new front --- probably designed by Chariton architect William Lee Perkins --- which remains in very good repair.

Flatt had been making and selling candy and ice cream in Chariton since 1903, most recently in half of the north-side Blake Block.

When the remodeling was completed, the Flatt family moved into the upstairs apartment and opened their business downstairs. Candy cases and a soda fountain occupied the front of the building, an ice cream parlor filled a 20-foot by 26-foot area behind it and the candy kitchen brought up the rear. Ice cream-making operations were installed in the renovated basement.

The business proved to be so successful that it was necessary during November of the following year to build a 20-foot x 36-foot addition onto the rear of the building.

John C. Flatt was in business at this location as Flatt's Candy Kitchen for only 10 years, however, before he died at age 57 in June of 1936. After that, the building passed through a number of hands before it was purchased by the South Central Mutual Insurance Association. The building currently is occupied by Jack's Place Pet Shop.

This photo of the Palmer Building's upper-level facade was taken when it was owned by South Central Mutual Insurance and a shingled arcade obscured the front.

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