Thursday, March 15, 2012

Exchange Block

107 and 109 North Main Street
Currently Highlander Gifts and The Office bar
North one-fourth of Lot 8 and South one-fourth of Lot 5, Block 10, Original City of Chariton

The double-front Exchange Block, brick above a stone foundation, was constructed during 1883 to replace two of five frame buildings destroyed in a December, 1882, fire that consumed the south end of the west side of the square. It was the most elaborately detailed building on the square when complete and the sheets of plate glass used in its storefronts, 8x12 feet, were the largest ever imported into Chariton.

The Exchange Block is at far left in this postcard view.

The builders were Daniel Eikenberry & Co. and the partnership of Kull & Yengle. The first commercial occupants were a general merchandise store known as “The Boom” in the now-endangered south half and a clothing store that was the first retail operation in Chariton of  Simon Oppenheimer, who would go on to become a business legend in the city. Pioneer physicians T.P. and J.E. Stanton were among the first occupants of second-floor professional offices.

Although the building’s elaborate cast iron cornice was removed many years ago, its windows altered and its storefronts “modernized,” the block retains enough of its original detail to remain recognizable. Apartments replaced professional offices on the second floor but, until quite recently, first-floor storefronts have been consistently occupied by retail and service firms for more than 130 years.

The south half of the Exchange Block currently is threatened because seepage from a faulty roof loosened brick in its rear wall, causing that wall to partially collapse. Loss of half the block would severely damage the architectural integrity of the block as a whole and also would create a jarring gap in the west side of the square that quite possibly would never be filled. 

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