From the Ashes - 702 Davis Avenue
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