Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Candee Block

(From the archives of the Waterville Historical Society.)

Fire Destroys Candee Block

by Mary C. Cleary

(from The Waterville Times of 20 January 1982)
(Note: This edition is mis-dated as 1981)

Waterville lost a landmark last week.
An early morning fire on Friday, Jan. 15, destroyed the three-story brick Candee Block on Main Street.
The Building, owned by Spencer and Clifford J. McLaughlin Jr. was a total loss. It had housed many different stores and offices during the past 94 years. It escaped the last major fire in Waterville in 1929. That time the fire which swept through the south side of Main Street was stopped at the Candee Block.
This time the fire began and ended in the Candee Block, which housed six tenants, the New York Pizzeria, Green Acres Florist, H&R Block on the first floor, and the dental offices of Dr. John F. Upcraft, the law offices of Donald J. Whelley, and a Karate Studio on the second floor. The third floor, originally built as a ballroom was empty. Part of the building was also used as storage area for McLaughlin's Department Store across the street.
The alarm was turned in by Kim Hull of the Huddle, at 2:28 a.m., when he noticed smoke and flames coming from the pizza parlor. He hurried to the firehouse to turn in the alarm.
Area residents who heard the siren blow for 16 minutes tumbled out of bed, close behind Waterville firefighters. Some residents of White Street, a short distance from the fire, smelled smoke in their homes, and knew the fire was very close even before looking out of their windows or donning overcoats to run down the street.
Through Mutual Aid, fire companies from Deansboro, Oriskany Falls, Clinton and Willowvale responded quickly to assist. The North Brookfield Department stood by in case other fire calls came. The Clinton Fire Department led by Jack Nester, brought an aerial ladder truck, which immediately began to direct water on the upper story and the roof, but the fire had gotten such a head start before the firemen were called, that by 4 a.m. the entire building was engulfed in flames.
At 4:29 a.m. there was a gigantic "pop" and the roof caved in. Miraculously the front of the building withstood the fire.
By 4:50 a.m. the back wall had caved in, and much of the side wall nearest the Grand Union had collapsed, leaving a mass of bricks at the corner of the building looking like a leftover piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
At 5 a.m. spectators watching the fire noted an eerie green flame mixing with red flames at the second story window over the pizza parlor.
by eight a.m. the fire was brought under control, although it continued to burn. Part of Main Street was closed to traffic. Early morning motorists and the school buses had to detour on Osborne Street to Sangerfield and to Madison Street to reach the high school.
Ice froze the hydraulic mechanism on the aerial ladder. A giant heat blower provided by Eastern Rock Products was borrowed to thaw it, so that the truck could return to Clinton.
There were no major injuries, although three firefighters, Merle Foster and William Malpezzi of Oriskany Falls and Robert Pound of Waterville were treated after a wall of the building collapsed and sent sparks shooting at them. They later returned to continue fighting the fire.
Two hundred firefighters fought the blaze for over six hours. Firemen chilled in the zero temperature, took turns running into Morgan's Store, which had been opened by proprietor Jim Morgan and his family. There they warmed themselves at the radiators and got dry gloves. other firemen went briefly to the firehouse to get hot coffee which was served by the Waterville Firemen's Auxiliary who had gotten supplies from Garrett's Store which also opened briefly. Evelyn Gerhardt, Louise Mayne and Donna Belfield, Auxiliary President began working only 15 minutes after the fire was discovered.
Workmen from New York State Electric and Gas led by Harold Steward, foreman, responded quickly to turn off gas service to the building.
The firefighters worked very hard to prevent damage to Woodhouse Liquors and the Waterville Pharmacy which flanked the larger Candee Block. The two establishments which suffered smoke damage were not able to open Friday.
Waterville Fire Chief Robert Winfield said that the fire apparently originated in the rear of the pizza parlor on the first floor. He said that an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fire, but was incomplete. Further investigation by the Oneida County Sheriff's Department was resumed Monday after the building had been leveled by Central Steel Erecting Co. Inc. of Chadwicks on Friday Afternoon.
A skeletal force of Waterville's firemen remained on duty all weekend to hose down the smoldering remains, which were still burning Monday.
On Saturday, a shift of the wind carried the still strong smoke directly across the street to McLaughlin's Department Store, Moore's Coffee Shop, Scerbo's Store and Morgan's Hardware Store.
Representatives from the C&U Telephone Corporation and NuView Television labored all weekend in severe weather to restore telephone and cable service. By late Saturday afternoon most of the service had been restored.
The owners of the building, Spencer and Clifford McLaughlin, could not give an estimate of the damage, but the said the had paid $25,000 for the building when they bought it on Nov. 1 1978 from Richard S. Woodman and Lois Lloyd.
Spencer McLaughlin said the loss would be higher than that because they had done quite a bit of remodeling for their tenants. He said the firemen had done a "super job."
"Our tenants have lost a great deal, but the town has lost even more." he said. "It was an attractive building. Buddy and I had even talked about removing the white signboard which covered part of the stone work on the front of the building."
One of Spencer's sons, Scott, is a fireman. He said Scott returned home from answering the alarm, and told him about the fire.
Mayor Stanley Dziekonski commended the efficient way the fireman fought the blaze. He said the new water main which had been laid recently provided excellent water pressure.
Several tenants are relocating. Attorney don Whelley said that he will temporarily have an office in part of Gardner A. Callanen's office on the corner of Stafford and Putnam Streets. Cindy Wratten's Green Acres Florist Shop will be closed until she moves her business into a new location on Main Street. The plans of the other tenants have not been announced yet.
The McLaughlin brothers said that at this point they have not decided whether or not to rebuild.
Several people who watched the fire from a vantage point across the street remarked that they were glad that the Waterville Historical Society had sponsored a tour of Main Street, on Aug.. 16, 1981, which had included the Candee Block. Mrs. Edward S. Barton narrated the tour and took participants through the building. In addition Carlton Alsheimer, proprietor of Modern Electric Used TV Center on Main Street, videotaped the tour and Mrs. Barton's talk.
Harry Northrop Jr., from a vantage point in Morgan's Hardware, filmed videotapes Friday afternoon when the front of the building was torn down as a safety measure.
The staff of The Waterville Times was kept busy answering inquiries from news media in Hamilton, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Watertown and Oneida who called for details of the fire. The Times received calls Friday, but could not place outgoing calls.

History of the Candee Block

(Waterville Times 20 January 1981)
Researched by Mrs. Edward S. Barton
and M. L. Peterson
(The Candee Block was destroyed by fire on 15 January 1981)

The Candee Block had a long and interesting history.
The three story brick building was built by Mrs. William B. Candee in memory of her husband who had died in 1886.
Two buildings were removed to make way for the building. One frame building was torn down. A second one, on the eastern side, was moved to Stafford Avenue, where it stands as a garage. This building had been built by Amos Osborn for his son-in-law Julius Candee in 1839, and was used as a dry goods store.
Construction of the Candee Block was started on July 27, 1888. It was designed by A. J. Simmons, a Utica architect. Construction was supervised by A. B. Cady, who had built many homes in Waterville. According to the Waterville Times, the entire cost of the building was about $25,000. The Candee Block measured 66 by 71 feet. The facade of the first floor was built of Oxford blue sandstone, and the second and third floors were built of Philadelphia pressed brick. The flat roof was fabricated of asphalt and gravel.
The hall was officially dedicated with a dinner dance sponsored by the Waterville Grange, and reported in the Jan. 3, 1890 issue of The Waterville Times. According to the article, the party was a great success. A supper was served from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Jerome Hale, Master of the Grange presided. He introduced H. B. Bigelow, who delivered the main address. Following the ceremonies a dance was held, and dancing continued until 5 a.m. Saturday morning. The dance floor, reported the Times, was spacious enough to accommodate 12 sets of square dancers.
The Hop Extract Plant rented space in the building on July 19, 1889, to be occupied upon completion of the building.
A. H. Weber moved into the building on Dec. 20, 1889 and sold men's clothing. He occupied the western section (last used full-time as a Ben Franklin Store) until the early 1920's.
Avery and Nolan moved into a barber shop on the second floor at the right at the top of the stairs on Nov. 29, 1889. He advertised "all modern conveniences with two large bathing apartments with hot and cold running water." In the center was a marble topped lavatory with two decorated bowls and shampooing attachments. On one side was a beautiful case with mirrors, shelves for cups, bottles, and two barber chairs.
On Dec. 20, 1889 the Grange held their last meeting in the Putnam Block, and later moved to the third floor of the Candee Block, where monthly suppers were held as well as regular meetings. The Grange held children's parties annually in February there, as well as strawberry festivals in June.
Various organizations held dances on the third floor.
The Waterville Firemen's Ball and the Borden's Condensery Balls were annual events which were always well attended. St. Bernard's Church also used the third floor for parties, dances and other social events. The Senior Ball of Waterville High School for many years was also held there.
A Homecoming banquet was also held there in 1902, as was the dinner commemorating the local school's 50th anniversary.
Other will-known tenants of the building were Charles G. Green and Son who occupied part of the first floor which was last used as a pizza parlor. the Green operated a private bank from about 1890 to about 1920. Later I. D. Brainard and Charles Green Brainard used the same space for an office to sell hops and investments.
From about 1920 to 1961 this area on the first floor was a post office. The postmasters during this period were A. C. Salisbury, E. J. Conger, Charles Green Brainard, Sr., G. Francis McNamara and Mrs. G. F. (Thelma) McNamara. In 1961 the Post Office moved to the present location in the Grand Union Shopping Center.
The Post Office was a favorite meeting place for young and old. There was a wide wooden seat in the window where people could sit while the mail was being sorted. It was a narrow, deep office with the service windows along the eastern side, and lock boxes for everyone who did not get general delivery. In the days before home delivery, people would wait in the long lobby and "chew the fat" while waiting for the mail to come in. Some of the clerks who worked for many years were Bessie Hilsinger, Lulu Avery and Kate Terry. Truman Jones for many years was the special delivery messenger.
After the post office relocated, there were several different tenants in that location on the first floor including a newsstand and bakery run by Howard J. Welsh and his sister Donna Melvin. Joan Olsson's woodworking shop, the Essential Aquarian; the Macramania, an arts and crafts shop. Frank Pumilio opened the New York Pizzeria in Feb. 1980. It became a favorite place for teenagers and other pizza lovers.
The middle section of the first floor was last occupied by Green Acres Florist, run by Cindy Wratten. It was originally occupied by J. B. Wells and Son, whose parent store was located in Utica. From sometime in the 1890's John M. Luker ran a dry goods department store until about 1948 when Foedish Corset and Lingerie Shop moved in. Later Keith Gilman ran a dry goods store there. A Ben Franklin Store operated by Edward Iversen occupied this space as well as the western end. Clifford McLaughlin bought the Ben Franklin in 1964.
The western end had currently been in use as an H&R Block office and for storage for McLaughlin's Department Store.
Some tenants to occupy the second floor at various times in addition to the barber shop were Julius N. Candee, a lawyer; C. M. Wickwire, a lawyer; Dr. Irving Rice, a dentist, two other dentist, Dr. Thompson and Dr. York, and most recently Dr. John F. Upcraft, a dentist.
Also Weller and Smith, lawyers, and Gardner Callanen, a lawyer had offices at one time on the second floor. c. G. Brainard Sr. occupied two rooms on the second floor for an investment office complete with tickertape. The Rev. J. Winslow Clarke, a rector of Grace Episcopal Church, also had a small two-room apartment on the second floor during the late 1920's and early 1930's.
Donald J. Whelley had his law office on the second floor for almost 30 years.

Candee Block Lot to be Sold
(From the 27 January 1982 edition of the Waterville Times)

Main Street in Waterville, already considerably altered by the fire of Jan. 15, seems to be in the throes of further change.
Patrick Doyle, spokesman for McLaughlin's Department Store, confirmed to the Waterville Times that the lot on which the Candee Block stood is in the process of being sold to Frank and Rosa Pumilia of Frankfort.
The Pumilias operated the New York Pizzeria, one of the businesses destroyed by fire. The Pumilias signed a contract of sale with intent to purchase the lot "as is" on Saturday morning, Doyle said. The closing is due to take place in the near future, he said.
Mrs. Pumilia said that her husband and she plan to erect a building in which to locate another pizza parlor after the debris is cleaned from the lot.
Other former tenants have also been busy re-locating this past week. The Karate Studio operated by Bill Doheny and Efren Reyes will be temporarily located in the auditorium of the Schoolhouse Apartments on Stafford Avenue until a suitable location can be found.
Attorney Donald J. Whelley is temporarily located at the law offices of Callanen, Foley and Hobika, at the corner of Putnam and Main Street. He would like all his clients to know that all the wills and other valuable papers stored in his safe were retrieved intact.
The plans of Dr. John F. Upcraft, who had a dental office on the second floor of the Candee Block, are still incomplete. Dr. Upcraft told the Times that he would like to continue the practice of dentistry if suitable office space is available.
The office of H&R Block will re-open Saturdays, according to Ward and Margaret Ellsworth of Leonardsville, co-owners of the tax-service. The new office will be in the Cherry Valley - Senif (Sunoco) office building on Route 20 at the eastern edge of Sangerfield. Telephone installation of the currently listed number is scheduled for Jan. 29, but the alternate number in Leonardsville may be used until then.
Ellsworth said that apparently existing files were destroyed in the Candee Block fire, so plans for replacement of those "Valuable papers" depends upon former clients bringing their copies of last year's returns when filing this year.
Norman Levy of Dumar Realty Corporation of New York City, stated Friday that a contract of sale for the former Grand Union Shopping Plaza had been signed but the closing had not yet taken place.
Cindy Wratten, owner of Green Acres Florist, whose place of business was also destroyed in the Candee Block fire, plans to relocate in the building by spring.
The closing of the sale of the former Opera House building, which occupies space on both Main Street and White Street, took place Friday afternoon. The building was purchased by Francis A. Clarke Jr. of Clinton from Elizabeth Lemieux of Chadwicks.
The new owner, through his spokeswoman, Sara Borek, said that he plans to repair the building, and will remodel the interior to suit prospective tenants. The Opera House building at one time housed the Waterville Times and Times Print Shop, the Strand Theatre and other businesses.

(from the Waterville Times dated 27 January 1982)

By Martha Cleary
Historical Research By M. L. Peterson

Four major fires have changed the look of main street through the years.
All four blazes struck in the dead of winter. All four occurred on the west end of Main street, and all destroyed several businesses.

The first fire hit The Waterville House on Jan. 1, 1876, at about 1 a.m. The Waterville House was located by the west end of the Tower Block, presently McLaughlin's Department Store. At that time it housed the Gibbs Brothers grocery and drug store, with Mrs. C.L.G. Gibbs, proprietor. There was also a jewelry store in the building.
The Waterville fire company's two hand engines were inadequate and a bucket brigade across the street helped confine the flames. Presumably they filled their buckets from the factory pond on the south side of Main Street.
A wooden tenement, owned by J. A. Berrill and Son, was also lost in the blaze. It was uninsured.
Gibbs' store lost an estimated $8,500 with $2,000 of insurance. The jewelry store lost $4,500 to $6,000, with $3,000 worth of insurance. The jewelry store's safe was recovered from the ruins.
Fire fighters concentrated on saving the Tower Block and Berrill's machine shop and store. The Tower Block had $2,000 to $2,500 worth of damage, all covered by insurance.

Fifty-two years later, of Feb. 7, 1928, a second fire struck the exact site. Two wooden, three-story buildings had replaced the Waterville House. The first one was the Melvin Block. Between the Melvin Block and the Tower Block was the telephone office.
There was a clothing store on the ground floor of the Melvin Block which was then owned by a Utica real estate man. The fire started in an apartment on the third floor of this building. The occupant of the apartment had been away for 10 days or more due to illness in the family.
The telephone operators next door stayed at the switchboard as long as they dared, calling for outside help.
Fire pumpers came from Utica, New Hartford, Clinton, Deansboro, Willowvale, Clayville, Brookfield and Norwich.
The second floor of the telephone building was occupied by a dentist, Dr. H. Clay York, who lost all his instruments and account books.
The total loss from the fire was estimated at $50,000. The telephone switchboard, which was a center for nearby communities, was valued at $20,000.

The third big fire happened exactly 13 months later, on March 7, 1929. The fire started at night and it was bitter cold.
This fire destroyed the Central Hotel and other businesses between the site of the Candee Block and Harold Tyler's apartment building.
On the west end it destroyed a three-story building used by Raymond Norton as a garage. It started in this building and spread both ways, east and west. It gutted a house next to the garage but fire fighters kept it from spreading to the apartment building, which at that time was the Huntington and Tyler Garage.
The fire took all of the buildings easterly, down to the Candee Block. First was a meat market, then it jumped over the creek and caught the O'Connor Block. The block held an auto sales, and electric shop, a jewelry store, and the A & P Tea Co. store. There were five apartments on the second floor.
Next the flames ripped through the Melvin and Ruane Blocks, which were occupied by a saloon, barber shop, meat market and confectionery store.
The fire engulfed the wooden Central Hotel before it was halted at the Candee Block.
Despite a new 500-gallon pumper, more help was needed. Fire departments were called in from Deansboro, Utica, Oriskany Falls, Chadwicks and Willowvale.
The brick Candee Block, saved in 1929, stood 53 years before being destroyed in the fourth fire on Jan. 15, 1982. Like the 1929 fire, fire fighters were hampered by the cold night. The temperature hovered at around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with a sub-zero wind chill factor. On-lookers remarked at how icicles formed on the firemen's hard hats, moustaches and eyebrows. Extra help came from Deansboro, North Brookfield, Willowvale, And Clinton, who supplied their aerial ladder, which was a great help in containing the fire to the one building.
Like the jeweler in 1876, attorney Don Whelley's safe was extracted from the rubble and found intact. Dr. John Upcraft lost the contents of his dental office, as had Dr. York in 1928.
One might note that the first and second fires were 52 years apart; the second and third were 13 months apart and the third and fourth fires were 53 years apart.

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