32 and 36 N. Third Street, Easton PA


No. 32 (brownstone building to the left in the photo) was the Hohl House, but currently is divided into apartments and a retail store.  The 3 1/2 story Second Empire style brownstone showcases the typical Mansard roof and a decorative cornice.   George Hohl, a retired baker, purchased the property in 1872, although it was several years before he occupied the house.  Richard F. Hope’s research indicates that a stone house on the property was referenced in 1867, whereas previous sales had indicated a frame house on the site.  A reference to the “brownstone residence” in 1885 is likely the same as the current brownstone, according to Hope (Easton History).  Hope has extensively researched Easton history, and published a number of books on his work. Walking Easton is a collaborative effort to promote tourism and history.


The Thomas Rinek Mansion, currently the Easton Computer & Electronics store, is an “ornate stone-fronted home, with second floor balcony protected by stone railing…” (Hope, Walking Easton).  According to Hope, it was built in 1884 and continued with family ownership into the 2oth century.

Easton’s Architectural Heritage: City of Eason Historic District Commission described it as

Romanesque style building (late Victorian 1870-1910) featuring heavy rounded arches, towers, gables, balconies, and bays…p. 4)

Rinek was president of the Northampton County National Bank, and also partnered with his brothers in a cordage company–a company that produced rope.  The building has passed through the hands of numerous owners since Rinek’s death.


Posted in Historic Downtowns, Pennsylvania, Romanesque, Victorian | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

20 No. 3rd Street: former Dr. Innes House (Easton, PA downtown historic district)


Currently the home of Quadrant Book Mart & Coffee House, the Gothic/Jacobian Style house once had an indoor conservatory.  The property was sold to Charles Innes in 1847, with “right to use the Southern Wall of the Stone Messuage” (a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use).  According to historian Richard F. Hope,

…the actual features of the house, which include ‘a polychromatic exterior finish’ (that is, a contrast of building materials colors between the stone corners and the brick walls), as well as the apparent flat root (instead of a gabled one more usual in early Gothic buildings), suggests that the visible architectural style more nearly reflects the later ‘Victorian Gothic’ of the 1860-90 period, as remodeled from an earlier, simple style of building.  That same flat roof, as well as the recessed front entry, and very simple entablatures retained above the windows, may indicate that the earlier house style was in fact ‘Greek Revival’, typical of an earlier period.

Hope also indicated that comparison of purchase and sale prices of the former owner (Beidelman) and Innes suggest that Beidelman built the house.  Dr. Innes began residence in the property at least by 1852, however.  In 1874, the current street numbering scheme was initiated, and Innes’ property became 20 No. 3rd Street.  Hope suggests that the large increase in sale price in 1887 suggested “significant improvement was made to the property” and that the 1880s was “consistent with the time period when the ‘Victorian Gothic Revival’ architectural styles were in vogue” and that the current facade could date from that period.

Hope documented the successive occupants of the first floor retail space and upper floor residences throughout the following years until in 1976, Easton Redevelopment Authority obtained the building by eminent domain.  The proposed urban renewal project to widen Church Street from Fourth to Third called for the removal of the Innes house and two buildings on 4th street.

This plan engendered a multi-year political controversy in Easton, which raged between pro-development and pro-preservation forces.

The controversy was eventually settled with widening Church street half way, and leaving the building at No. 3rd in place, though by then owned by the Northampton County Industrial Redevelopment Authority.  Bookseller Richard Epstein transferred his Quadrant Book Mart to the property in 1979, and finally was able to purchase the property in 1990, only to sell it in 2003.  It continues as a bookstore, art gallery, and meeting place for political and arts community members.

Note: The Hulick Mansion next door was constructed in 1885.  To read about it, visit the Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles.

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Northampton Street: the Sherer Building


Route 611 (Front Street) runs alongside a section of the Delaware River in Easton and intersects with Northampton Street, which extends across the Free Bridge into Phillipsburg, New Jersey.


Everything in this part of the country deals with the Colonial history of the early years of the nation.  Washington did visit a tavern in Easton (more on that later), and there was an army hospital in Easton.  Easton was strategic in location, due to having a ferry that crossed from Easton to New Jersey and warehouses that could be used for storage (Verenna, 2014, Easton’s Missing Dead).  The mural, by Robert Ranieri, depicts Sullivan’s March campaign of 1779 against the Iroquois (Richard F. Hope, Easton History)


Northampton Street has a lengthy history behind it.  The Sherer Building originally housed several businesses earlier, and the Sherer Brothers opened their first clothing and hat store for men in rented space on Northampton Street in 1880 (Richard F. Hope, Easton History). They purchased the property 4 years later, and twice enlarged the store, in 1890 and in 1904.  A photograph of the section of Northampton c. 1895 showed a four-story Italianate Building under the “Sherer Bro’s” sign, and it “did not extend as far toward Front Street,” the street to the left of the photo above.  In 1903, the Sherer Brothers purchased flood-ruined property adjacent (next to Front Street), which provided

the opportunity to construct the massive Sherer Building structure of today….A picture of the building in 1905 showed a structure looking much as it does today: three tall stories, with seven window bays: a central oriel surrounded by three double-story arched windows on each side, with picture windows on the ground floor and a bracketted [sic] moulding at the roof line. (Richard F. Hope)

Apparently, the Sherer Brothers constructed their building on top of foundations from the earlier buildings, and incorporated exterior walls of earlier buildings into the new construction.  A staircase abruptly ended at a wall on the third floor, suggesting the four-story building was cut down to three (Hope).  The Sherer heir (Samuel’s widow) sold the building in 1944, following the deaths of Samuel in 1934 and Moses in 1943.  It is currently occupied by the Kaplan family, who manufacture awnings.


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Phillipsburg, New Jersey


Phillipsburg is located at the forks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.  The Morris Canal started in Phillipsburg, and extended to Jersey City on the Hudson River.


Facing the Delaware River

Not only was the river important to transportation and commerce, but the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway was significant to the history of the community.  Delaware River Railroad Excursions is based out of Phillipsburg.


Union Square

Something about this stretch of downtown reminds me of Simon’s Town, in South Africa.  Phillipsburg “is no longer a common destination for durable goods on their way to and from America’s largest markets” (New Jersey Sklands,  Destination Phillipsburg).

Commerce was conducted on two rivers, three canals, five railroads, five streetcar and interurban railway companies, and numerous stagecoach, bus and truck enterprises.  Phillipsburg was also the terminus of two historic trans-New Jersey turnpikes, and the home of a number of manufacturing companies directly and heavily involved in transportation.

It has been selected to house the future New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center to preserve New Jersey history.

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Northampton Street Free Bridge


The first crossing of the Delaware River between Easton, PA and Phillipsburg, NJ was ferry in 1739, at the junction of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.  The ferry operated for 50 years until greater commerce and travel between the two cities rendered it obsolete.

Timothy Palmer, considered one of the best bridge builders, constructed a covered wooden bridge which opened in October 1806.  Palmer’s work was so exceptional, his bridge remained standing even though storms and floods on the river caused others to fall (Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission).  Increasing volume of traffic and use of trolley cars resulted in the need for yet another new bridge.


James Madison Porter III designed the current bridge in 1896.  Northampton Street Bridge is one of the oldest and most unique bridges operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

It’s an engineering landmark.  Only one other cantilever bridge of this particular style…spans the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary. (Frank McCartney, Executive Director of the bi-state Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission)

The bridge is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Posted in Bridges, Pennsylvania | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fighting a Revolution with a flintlock musket


Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where the Continental Army wintered after the British invaded Philadelphia is now a National Park.  We spent several hours there on our way from Philadelphia to Easton.  (For a visit to the train station, Washington’s headquarters, and the soldiers’ housing, go next-door to Lottabusha County Chronicles and learn more.)

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According to historian J. Lloyd Durham, because muskets were not accurate beyond about a hundred yards, a style of fighting had to be developed that considered the disadvantages inherent in such a weapon.  Regiments lined up and fired two or three volleys (firing all the muskets at once) before charging with bayonets that could be affixed to the musket.  The rationale was to ‘fill the air with massive amounts of lead’ to increase the odds of lead striking the enemy soldiers, creating gaps in their line of soldiers.  These gaps were then exploited by the opposing army to charge with bayonets, forcing either the surrender or retreat of the other side.

It was a carefully orchestrated “by the book” activity for loading and firing.  Although it seemed to me to take an inordinate amount of time, trained soldiers could reload and fire about 4 times a minute according to Durham.  First, the chamber that held the gunpowder had to be loaded.  The soldier pulled a small pack of powder from the pouch he carried, bit off the end with his teeth, spit out the paper, and poured a small amount of powder into the chamber.  The remainder of powder and lead balls was poured into the barrel of the gun, along with the paper, and rammed down using the steel tamp stored alongside the barrel.  When the gun was fired, flint struck steel, and the resulting spark set off the gunpowder in the barrel of the gun, causing it to fire the volley of lead balls.  (Some muskets used a single large lead ball, and others used several smaller balls fired all at the same time.)  After France became an ally, they sent French muskets, lighter in weight and firing a smaller lead ball, and were preferred by the Continental soldier over the British “Brown Bess.”  American gunsmiths also made flintlocks for the soldiers, along with the American long rifle used by scouts.

The uniform of the soldier was generally a shirt of linen or cotton, a vest of linen or wool, and wool, linen, or cotton trousers.  The American hunting shirt was made of homespun linen, and had rows of fringe around the edges.  Apparently, Washington favored the hunting shirt–which from the description, I assume the two soldiers in the photos are wearing.

It’s the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service, so go find your park!

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Stevens Kitchen on Farish Street

Stevens Kitchen sign

Number 604 N. Farish Street–like other locations in the district–has a storied past.  From 1947 until 1961, Shepherd’s Kitchenette was listed in Victor Greeen’s Travel Guide for the African American motorist as located at this address.  According to Flucker and Savage (2008), Shepherd’s was originally located above the Crystal Palace.  Shepherd’s Kitchenette was known for

…famous oyster loaf, a Jackson version of a New Orleans po’boy.

David Shepherd was reported to be the “best” cook in Jackson (Sweet & Bradley, 2013), and the only one better than the Edward Lee Hotel’s kitchen, run by Allie Lee and her sister.

Stevens Tourist Home and Stevens Bar-be-que were listed in the Green Book for several years, at a location described only as Highway 49 West.  The Mississippi Department of Archives and History identifies the building at 604 N. Farish as c. 1930, as only a commercial building with one large and one small commercial space. The cornerstone depicts “Welcome to Stevens” but no date.

Smitty’s Lounge occupied the building in 1979 when the nomination form for the Farish Street Historic District was written.  Stevens Kitchen also operated a nightclub called the Rose Room–the walls were papered with a rose design, and it was a popular spot with the locals.  Flucker & Savage include historic photographs of many of Farish Street’s locations, including Shepherd’s Kitchenette, Stevens Kitchen, and the Rose Room.


Posted in Historic Black Business Districts, Mississippi | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

“When did the focus change from the Farish Street Historic District?”

Rosalind McCoy Sibley asked that question, and it needs an answer (Farish Street-A Slightly Different Perspective, Jackson Advocate, 2015).  I do not have it, and apparently, neither does any one else who has followed the “miscalculated missteps” of the project, or perhaps had a role in developing those missteps.  I am sure there are plenty of opinions about it, and likely depending on whether one thinks it should have been about preserving a historic district or developing an entertainment district.

After all, development is generally that–developing something, and the something is intended to make money for the developer.  There is possibly nothing wrong with that plan (making money) as long as it does not come with the consequences of destroying the way that residents make money (the shops and businesses that were there prior to ‘development’) or live (homes razed to make room for something deemed more desirable), and the ensuing displacement of the community.  The ‘development plan’ as thus carried out seems to have done all of this: at worst, demolishing buildings and destroying businesses that were still in operation, and at best, creating hardships and hurdles for those that have hung on and continue trying to hang on, through infrastructure disruption. And yes, razing housing and displacing community.  Sadly, or perhaps even more strongly wording it, disgustingly, there is essentially nothing to show for it that has occurred as a result of the ‘project’.

Stevens Kitchen and City Barber shop

In completing a research project on the African American Travel Guides (in particular, Victor Green’s Travel Guide, but there were others in use throughout the years of segregation and Jim Crow laws), I was photographing remaining extant sites on Farish Street that had appeared in the Green Book.  There are not many of them left.  Another compounding factor is that street names and numbers sometimes are revised over the years.  Records differ as to what was where and when.  I go back to the newspaper archives frequently, and that supplies additional perspectives to the business of life on Farish Street.

City Barber shop

City Barber Shop is identified by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory, as the building at 600 N. Farish Street, c. 1923, with an “original transom” and “stepped parapet roofline.”  The originally-identified City Barber Shop in Victor Green’s guide was listed at 127 N. Farish, the first block of the “Mecca of Black Business” in Mississippi.  Historic photographs reveal a picture not many people would recognize.  The City Barber Shop of Green’s guide is the storefront visible in the second from left building on the right side of the photograph below.  Ruth McCoy Sibley, writing about the demolition of the 100 block of N. Farish, references Griff Dixon in connection with the City Barber Shop.  Sweet and Bradley (2013) called it the “largest African American Barber Shop in Jackson.”


City Barber Shop

Farish Street, March 21, 1944. Daniel Studio, Al Fred Daniel Collection. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/series/daniel/detail/4024

There were a number of barber shops that operated on Farish Street in addition to the City Barber Shop at 127 N. Farish.  John Edgar Conic and Albert Shaw owned and operated City Barber Shop at 615 N. Farish from 1950-1975 and Clarence Gray and John Clay operated a barber shop at 414 Farish in the 1930s (Tucker & Savage, 2008).

When did the focus change from ‘the Farish Street Historic District’?


Posted in Historic Black Business Districts, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Grand Opera House and Mississippi State’s Riley Center

Riley Center front and side 2


The block containing the Marks, Rothenberg & Co store and their Grand Opera House was constructed 1888-1890, designed by architect Gustavus Maurice Torgerson, an immigrant from either Switzerland or Sweden (depending on which census record is used) (Mississippi Department of Archives and History;  Nomination form for National Register of Historic Places).

Marks and Rothenberg, two half-brothers of a Jewish immigrant family, constructed the huge Marks-Rothenberg department store on the corner.  It was successful, so they built the Grand Opera House next door to their business, and for a brief period, it also enjoyed success, bringing entertainment and excitement to Meridian.

next door Riley Center front elevation

Grand Opera House

Benefitting from its location on the Atlanta-New Orleans circuit, the Grand Opera House attracted vaudeville and minstrel shows as well as opera and drama, and in its relatively brief existence it became known as one of the best facilities of its type in the South. (Maddox, D. 1972. Grand Opera House. National Register of Historic Places nomination form)

The opera house operated until c. 1919 as a live entertainment venue, and then was used as a movie theater until it was closed in 1927 (MDAH), in the midst of a lawsuit involving Rothenberg and Saenger Theatres.  In a seemingly unbelievable turn of events, the grand facility sat empty other than for use as a warehouse and storage until 2006.  The block of buildings was restored and is now the Mississippi State University Riley Center for its downtown Riley Campus.

Posted in Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Plaza Theater Building: Canton, TX

Plaza Theater

Canton is a short hop off Interstate 20 heading home from Texas to home in Mississippi.  I was already dragging and had stopped to take a little stretch and headed toward downtown.  The Plaza Theater caught my eye–not particularly because it was so stunning, although I do love a marquee and ticket window of any kind–but because of the building attached to it.  Turns out, trying to find out something about the building was far more time consuming than I might have anticipated, and was limited at that.

Art Moderne front  and corner elevation

Joe Hackney, theater operator, has constructed the most attractive amusement building in the county.  The architecture, the lighting effect, equipment and building arrangement has complete harmony in every detail.  In addition to the theater department the structure includes three private business offices and like the theater is air conditioned and has effective lighting equipment.  These offices will be occupied by Addis’ Beauty Shop, Emmett Sneed [sic] Real Estate and the Elliott and Waldron Abstract Co. (New Buildings Near Completion. June 27, 1946. Canton Herald, p. 1) Note: It was actually the Steed Real Estate Company.

Joe Hackney moved to Canton from Henderson in 1939, and purchased the old theater.  In 1946, he built the Plaza Theater Building, which consisted of the theater itself, and the Art Moderne offices on the side.  I was assuming that the Art Moderne structure was a separate building.  Running across a comment about the Plaza Theater Building, I found the above article indicating they were done at the same time.  Lo and behold, searching for images of the Plaza Theater Building, I located one that showed just the edge of the attached wing, and that it was originally white with maroon trim and maroon tile, just like the theater.  A later photograph showed the Art Moderne corner ell as having damage to some of the maroon tiles, so it appears they were removed entirely from the section by the far left door next to the theater, and replaced in the other areas.  The building was painted blue or gray–hard to distinguish as faded as it is, but in “person” it appeared to be a light blue.  In fact, that had me searching for Greyhound Bus Stations in Canton, just in case.

Maroon tile was a fairly common feature in theaters built around that time.  I recall the old Queen Theater in Abilene, Texas, where my mother worked while in college.  It had an abundance of maroon tile, although it was considerably more elegant than the Plaza pictured here.  It was a sad day for me (and many of us in Abilene) when they tore it down.

If there are additions or corrections to this information, I would be thrilled to hear from anyone in the know about Canton’s Plaza Theater Building, and any renovations or changes that may have been done on either of them.

Posted in Art Moderne, Historic Downtowns, Texas | Tagged , , | 4 Comments