Saturday, November 5, 2011

Main Street Stories: Lewis Ward Curtis Building

Hitching posts are long gone from Rochester's Main Street, but the town has had a western wear and tack shop at 315 S. Main for over half a century. Dr. Lewis Ward Curtis had this one-story double business block built in 1935 as an income property. Dr. Curtis was a 1902 graduate of the University of Michigan College of Dentistry, and after receiving his degree he returned to his home in Rochester to establish his dental practice. By 1907, he was successful enough to build a new brick building at 307 S. Main Street, which housed his offices on the second floor and provided retail space on the first floor. In 1927, he expanded his Main Street holdings to include the property at 315-317 S. Main.

The site had long been the location of a two-story frame building housing a variety store, originally known as the Newberry building. Anna Newberry sold the old structure to Morris M. Gardner in 1913, and he operated a store there for about a decade before selling to Harry Steinberg in 1925. Dr. Curtis bought the property from Steinberg in 1927 and eight years later razed the old building to make way for a modern, one-story structure.

In October 1935 the Rochester Clarion described the new building:
L.H. Aris, owner and manager of The Variety Store, Rochester's 5c to $5 store for a number of years, will move his entire stock of goods into new quarters in the Dr. L.W. Curtis building at 315 Main street in the next few days.
The Curtis building with the combination red brick and green and black tile front is one of the newer additions to Rochester's Main street. Under the supervision of Carl VandenBerghe, local contractor, the building was completed last weekend.
A double entrance has been made to the store. The front display windows have been partitioned off into three sections. The interior of the building has been covered with Celotex, beautifully designed on both ceiling and walls. Available floor space will accommodate space for display, tables and racks.
In the rear of the building is a large store room. The building is air conditioned, using a blower in the hot air furnace.

Aris sold his store in July 1953 to Donald Butcher, who operated it as Butcher's Variety Store. Bonnie & Charlie Becker opened the B-Bar-B Western Supply at 315 S. Main in 1957. In 1974, the Beckers sold the store to Jerry Leannais, who opened the Arizona Saddlery there.

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