The building on the northeast corner of 7th and Davis is one of many in Corning that was born of fire. Like many Main Streets of the day, almost all the commercial buildings up and down Davis Avenue were of wood construction including Beymer Hardware which once anchored that spot at the turn of the 20th century.
The Great Fire of October 9, 1896 started south of downtown near the grain elevators and railroad tracks, but the wind was just right to blow sparks onto Beymer Hardware which was quickly engulfed and started a chain reaction of burning buildings up the east side of Davis Avenue. Before the night was over 23 buildings were smoldering ruins. Reconstruction was started immediately, this time using mostly brick.
The A. M. Beymer block (current 700-702 Davis) was ready for occupancy in early 1897 and immediately filled with tenants. J. L. Snavely moved his successful furniture store/funeral home into what is now 702 Davis. Apparently that dual arrangement was the norm at the time because newspaper advertisements casually mention carpet sales alongside compassionate funeral services. Interestingly, the first cement sidewalk in the business area was laid in front of his store in 1903.
Mr. H. E. Christie continued the successful furniture store/funeral home business when he bought the property in 1904. He even added a line of sewing machines. In addition to being an undertaker, he was also the coroner. In other parts of town, he had a restaurant and an ice cream store. A busy man!
Boyd Roland grew up driving horse drawn hearses for Mr. Snavely while working for his dad John at the family livery stable where the Corning Light Plant is now. Mr. John N. Roland purchased the Christie funeral business in 1910 for his sons Ralph and Boyd who renamed it “Roland Furniture and Undertaking” when they opened September 15, 1911. The furniture line was sold off in 1929 but the funeral home stayed on Main Street until 1946 when the brothers split and built competing mortuaries. An interesting historical side note is that the influential Flexner Report was published in 1910 decrying the unprofessional state of the medical and related professions which were then largely unregulated. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Boyd got his embalmers license in 1914. Also, like other funeral homes in Corning, the brothers offered ambulance services using their big cars. A long-time resident of Adams County, Dolores Parcher, remembers playing as a child with Eva Roland who lived upstairs. Their dolls slept in the caskets.
When the Rolands moved out, Western Auto moved in offering a wide variety of merchandise until 1956 when the colorful Frannie Mack moved his “Mack Hardware and Appliance” from across the street where he’d had “Curry and Mack“. Jack Gadberry continued the hardware tradition when he bought the property in 1972. His step son Larry Marn took over from him until his untimely death in November 2018.
Vogel and Thomas Hardware opened January 1, 2019. The new owners, Darrell & Diane Hein, are taking a step back in time to provide an immersive hardware & general mercantile store to recreate the experience from the 1920’s-30’s era. A front portion of the building is now dedicated to Farm Keepsakes where unique one-of-a-kind treasures are sure to be found. The old freight elevator is once again operational and frequently used. There’s a new shelving system installed allowing for better use of the space and the original wooden floors are gradually being brought back to life. It appears that this retail space is in loving hands and will proudly be on Main Street for decades to come.
Written By: Steve Gruba, Main Street Corning Public Relations
Edited By: Marti Gebbie, Executive Director
Struggling to find an identify, 613 Davis is a building which has seen its fair share of retail merchants and an abundant aroma of food centric businesses. Located in the Commercial Historic District of Corning, Iowa this building is nestled in a proud Main Street Community of over 30 years.
Constructed on Lot 649 in 1908 by the First National Bank of Corning, Agnes Widner, the second daughter of bank president F.M. Widner, was the first landlord. On April 13, 1909 Cain’s Clothing with Peregrine Piano moved from their 700 Davis location to be the first tenants at 613 Davis. A fire in the rear of the store forced them to close in February 1915. This allowed J.H. Dunn to quickly move his “racket store”, coincidentally previously located at 700 Davis, in March of the same year. That peculiar term might surprise you as a racket store would be known today as a discount store. Unfortunately, tied to the closing the previous year of the First National Bank of Corning due to a run on it by depositors spooked by the 10 day presence of a bank examiner, Mr. Dunn goes bankrupt that November. Mr. C.G. Trent opens the Bee Hive Racket Store in January, 1916 but is out of business in November.
Spenser’s Café ushers in a long succession of food purveyors when it opens in that building in December of 1916. Spenser’s Café is sold to the Woodmansee’s in July of 1920. They, in turn, sell it to George Simpson, the former sheriff of Adams County, who ran a cafe there from October 1920 until he sells it to F.J. Walton in July 1921.
In 1924 Agnes Widner sells the property to Daniel Webster Turner and the building’s focus shifts to baking. Britt Drew moved in his bakery in that same year from a different location in Corning. He’d made the newspapers in 1922 for constructing a sidecar on his motorcycle capable of hauling 200 loaves of his “Blue Ribbon” bread for his delivery route to surrounding towns. He made the newspapers again in 1931 when, for mysterious reasons, he threatened a friend and then a policeman with a pistol in the bakery. His wife sold the bakery business to I.J. Costillo in 1931 who remodeled then opened under the name “Home Bakery”. That name endured through a long line of bakers until 1975 when the last Home Baker moved up Davis Avenue. Just for the fun of recognizing their names, the following is a list of those bakers and their year of assuming ownership of the business: Paul Miller 1931, Mr. Hansen 1934, Mr. and Mrs. Logsdon 1934, A.W. Steiner 1935 who installed a new oil burning Harper Reel Oven capable of baking 168 loaves every 30 minutes. In 1937, he thanked Corning for the success of their “Corning Maid” bread saying they use 360 pounds of yeast and 100 barrels of flour each month! Doggett and Sanders 1940, Lester Hite (date unknown), O.M. Sheppard 1944 who remodeled with a new building facade featuring large display windows, Harold Shunemann 1948 who had moved to the US in 1928, Bruce Wilson 1957, and ending with Steve Stueckradt 1964 until 1975.
Ownership of the building passed from Daniel Webster Turner to Wendell Bell in 1974. In 1975, Steve Stueckradt moved to another location on Davis Avenue and 613 Davis apparently sat empty until Deke and Linda Schafroth bought it in 1979 to open their Sears store. Around 1991, Frank and Gidget Dennis converted it into a video store and arcade. Following historical pattern, it became L and J’s Kitchen in 1996 and in 2006 Boz’s Kitchen. Carley Pappas purchased the building in late 2017 and began the tedious work of exposing the original brick walls and 14ft ceiling with its’ original tile, laying flooring, and transforming the building into Sunset Boutique, a clothing store which opened in 2018. There were also façade improvements made with the help of a grant from Main Street Corning and local banks. Unfortunately, Sunset Boutique closed in 2019 and the building has sat empty ever since except for a pop-up shop in 2020 during the holiday shopping season.
The potential for this building, whether food, retail, or something altogether different, is only a dream away for the next tenant. Time will tell who will be fortunate to call 613 Davis home in this ever-evolving piece of history.
Main Street Corning
Edited By: Marti Gebbie, MSC Executive Director
The former Iowa State Savings Bank building at 620 Davis Avenue is one of the most eye-catching buildings downtown. Partly for its standout light colored brick, but also for its arches and large windows. This handsome structure has a very colorful history.
Although A.F. Oakley ran Corning State Savings Bank in 1892 at another location, he teamed up with his brother-in-law C.H. Vernon to build a new bank on property owned by Mr. Vernon. On April 19, 1900, the brand new Okey-Vernon Bank opened for business at 620 Davis Avenue boasting two fireproof vaults, one for money and the other for safety deposit boxes. Presumably, it was business as usual until 1915 when there was a two day “run” on the bank probably triggered by a rumor. $30,000 was withdrawn on a Friday and another $10,000 on Monday as people stood in line loudly demanding their money. To assure the public and the bank investors, $100,000 was brought in by special train from Omaha (it was the fastest way to travel then) and ultimately $175,000 in bills and gold were piled on the back counters as visible proof that the bank was solvent. The bank survived the “run” in good shape and in the next year moved to a new location on Davis Avenue.
On May 13, 1916 O. T. Hutchison and his son Hayden, always known as Hayde, moved their harness shop from next door into the remodeled former bank. It now sported an addition to the east housing a large skylight and a big oil tank made of concrete. The tank was handy for treating the tack required in the horse-and-buggy days. The older part of the building was used to display their goods. Dolores Parcher remembers having her good brown shoes dyed black at Hutchison’s in 1927 when she was in the seventh grade. They lasted her through the six years she was in band.
According to an August 9,1961 article from The Des Moines Tribune, Vernon Ashenfelter apprenticed to Hayde at age 19 in 1922 and bought the business from him in 1945. The need for harness sales and repair had gradually slacked off with the changing times, but Vern retained show harness repair and saddlery as he diversified the business into shoe sales and repair, sporting goods, and hand-crafted jewelry. This odd mix came about from Vern’s hobbies of rock collecting and polishing and his marksmanship with firearms and archery. A shooting range in the basement allowed the potential buyer to try out the weapon right on site!
Vern’s son Richard (Dick) started part time work at the harness shop while in fifth grade; partly sorting harnesses, but also sweeping out the shop and washing the windows. By 1944 he was working full time in the shop. Vern passed away in 1966 and Dick purchased the business from his mother Bernice and renamed it Ashenfelter Repair Store, even though shoe sales remained a big part of the business. His wife Betty worked side by side with him repairing clothing, tarps, awnings and so many flags that she got the nickname “Betsy Ross of Corning”. According to his daughter Janet (Ashenfelter) Buzzard, the motto of the shop was “We mend the rips, patch the holes, build up the heels and save the soles”.
In 1989 the building came full circle as Dan Dunlap of First National Bank-Lenox restored it back to its original glory. The stamped metal ceiling was polished, the brick walls exposed, and the wood floors waxed to a shine. An attractive modern vault was installed in plain view behind the teller cages that looked like something right out of the Wild West. However, no gun slinging was allowed in the open dirt floored basement original from the earliest days. The old oil tank/harness production area got converted into offices.
In 2020, this branch of Iowa State Savings Bank (who had taken it over from First National Bank) closed. This jewel of a building now sits empty. Soon, there will be activity bustling from inside the walls of this magnificent building. A local company, Balance4ward headquartered out of Nodaway, will be the next owner. With so much potential, the next chapter of this building is on the horizon.
Main Street Public Relations Committee
Main Street Corning Director
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