Friday, March 20, 2009

Main Street Stories: Frank Burr Block

During the year 1890, there was a flurry of building activity on the east side of Main Street, south of Fourth. On the corner, the opera house block was under construction, and right next to it, two other business blocks were going up at the same time.

The immediate neighbor of the opera house block is the Frank H. Burr block, consisting of two stores at 334-336 S. Main. Frank H. Burr was the brother of two other well-known Rochester businessmen, and all three men left lasting marks on Main Street. Frank's brother, Charles A. Burr, built the opera house block and was also part of the group that built the State Savings Bank building at 408-410 S. Main in 1907. Another brother, George Burr, was a hardware and implement dealer whose building at 429 S. Main still bears his name today.

Early occupants of 336 S. Main were hardware merchants; these included the Frank Burr, Winans, H.L. Wood and McCreedy & Myers hardware stores. Later occupants included the C.J. Smith grocery, Gamble's, Shaw Appliance, and Rochester Refrigeration. In more recent years, the 336 address has been the home of Robert R. Rose Jewelers and J. Powrie Jewelers.

For the past couple of decades, 334 S. Main has been the home of Tower Pizza, and during the 1960s it was occupied by the Pastry Shoppe. For a large part of its earlier history, the building was the location of Becker's Barber Shop, and the Shoemaker sisters had a dressmaking shop upstairs.

Although the business blocks he and his brothers built have endured and are now downtown Rochester landmarks, Frank Burr himself came to a tragic and bitter end. In the 1920s, he and his wife relocated to Highland Park, where they ran a hardware business. One day in 1924, when Frank failed to come home as expected after closing the store, his wife sought him out and found him on the floor of the empty store, shot through the heart with a revolver lying in his lifeless hand. Fortunately, we can remember Frank Burr for the handsome building he left behind and not for the troubled circumstances of his death.

The Frank Burr block celebrates its 119th birthday this summer.

Photo: View of the Frank Burr block (the two storefronts on the left) as it looked in 1912 when occupied by McCreedy & Myers hardware and Becker's Barber Shop. Notice the barber pole near the curb.

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