Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Main Street Stories: 415-417 S. Main

The business block at 415-417 S. Main might appropriately be called the Palmer Block after the jeweler and optician who built it, but the label also rightly applies to the entire row of storefronts from 405-417 S. Main.

Louis Eugene Palmer, who built his first commercial building at 405-405 S. Main Street in 1883, bought adjoining lots in the same block and was soon the landlord for several businesses on the west side of Main between Fourth and Fifth (now University Drive). The double storefront at 415-417 was built about 1896-97; when it was ready for occupancy, Palmer moved his jewelry store up the block from its previous location to 417; 415 was occupied by William J. Fraser, who ran a harness making operation there in addition to his justice of the peace office.

Palmer's son, Fred, and daughter, Pauline, followed him into the business and even operated stores in competition with their father at various times. The 417 S. Main location was a Palmer jewelry store until 1935, when the senior Palmer died in his apartment above the business.

Tenants in the 415 location have included Brownell's Grocery in the 1920s, and Baldy Benson's barber shop in the 1930s and 1940s; later occupants were Joe's Barber Shop, Wayne Heating and Cooling and Del Van Skiver's Avon Photography. The 417 side of the building was the home of the House of Custom Colors for a couple of decades, and was also a Sherwin Williams paint store for a time. In recent years, a variety of businesses have come and gone from the location.

In 1960, a major renovation of the building exterior replaced the original facade with a faux-colonial design, eliminating the cornice and the windows across the front of the second floor. The building is currently undergoing an historic restoration of the Main Street elevation which will return it to its 1897 appearance.

This postcard view of 415-417 S. Main shows the building when it was occupied by the Louis E. Palmer jewelry store and William J. Fraser's harness-making shop and justice of the peace office. Notice the clock on the pole in front of the store, styled as a pocket watch.

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