Saturday, April 8, 2017

JC Penney Celebrates 100 Years Downtown

The paper's got an early version of a nice piece about the 100th anniversary of a JC Penney store downtown.

Salem's original JC Penney Storefront
in the now-remodeled Metropolitan Building at 160 N. Liberty
circa 1918, via Oregon State Library
The piece is focused on the mid-century stories of two old-timers, and places less emphasis on social history and urban development, things we might find more interesting here. (It may be worthwhile to circle back for a more developed post!)

Unfortunately, they didn't share the storefront picture from the State Library. The photo seems to be from 1918, just two years after the Hughes-Durban building was erected in 1916 (though in the past year, two buildings along here in the historic district have been re-dated, so this 1916 date may not be certain). In the photo there are at least a couple of interesting details and tangents!
  • Wigan, Richardson are hop merchants who gave their name to Wigrich, the area and road on American Bottom, southeast of Independence, that Rogue has repopularized. Wigan, Richardson was a British firm dating back at least to 1766, and this shows something about the international scope of the hops trade.
  • On the right is Ye Old Liberty Theater, perhaps Salem's first movie theater, and something swallowed up by the history of Fred Meyer and Engelberg Antiks.

Teasing the next day's opening!
JC Penney Opened April 11th, 1917
April 10th, 1917
The store opened on April 11th, 1917. In the piece, they claim that Penney's is the second-oldest downtown business, but there's a few they missed.
With the recent closing of Barrick Funeral Home and Greenbaum’s Quilted Forest, JCPenney is the second-oldest business in downtown Salem after Saffron Supply Co., a hardware store that opened in 1910.
Ladd & Bush Bank is a lot older. Pioneer Trust Bank is a little older. So is Scott's Cycle. They even wrote an article about Scott's! Maybe there are others.

(Here's more on Scott's:
Part of this is an artifact of the historic district. It is easier to date and catalogue physical objects like buildings and much less easy to date institutions like a business that endure all while the people who constitute it pass in and out of employment and, of course, also die.

It may also be semantic. Maybe parsing "oldest business" excludes things like Ladd & Bush, which are part of huge corporation, and have had name changes, here to something like "US Bank, Ladd & Bush branch." So maybe its not important to be too picky - but at the same time, we don't give enough attention to businesses that have endured a century or more, as that is a hard thing to do.

Everyready battery ad, April 11th, 1917
Right around April 11th, there were a couple of other interesting things.

Eveready had run a national campaign to rename the "flashlight." The winner was "daylo," and several local advertisers were ready to run with that. Hauser Bros and Watt Shipp both were selling batteries and battery-powered bike lights. (Here's more on a slightly earlier period when Paul Hauser and Watt Shipp were partners rather than competitors.)

You might also remember the story about Frank and Clara Barton and their electric dream home on D and Capitol. Their business was "Salem Electric" at the top of the ad.

It is amusing that "daylo" never caught on! (Here's more at a flashlight collector's site.)

Farrar building of 1917, via Waymarking
April 11th, 1917
On the morning of the 11th, there was also a fire on State Street between Commercial and Liberty. The next day they announced a "modern building to take place of old ones burned yesterday."
Mr. Farrar said a wooden building would not be put up, even if it could be. The new building will, accordingly, be of brick and of modern tvpe.
Earlier in the year postmaster and hops dealer Squire Farrar had died, and 1917 may not have been a happy year for the family.

The current building looks to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, one of several in downtown designed by Fred Legg, and since an architecture firm resides there now, maybe they will mark it more publicly!

It's also a nice reminder of a time when they did not like empty lots downtown and promptly rebuilt.

This is all too scattershot, but there is lots of interesting Salem history to trace out from this April week 100 years ago!

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