103 Main Street: The Crane Building

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Bordwell homestead

George Shearman homestead

Smith store lots

103 Main Streetben Smith's brick store block comprised two buildings, 101 Main and this one. They were built at the same time (probably just before 1836, when Smith sold them) and were very similar in appearance.

In this case, Smith sold to Darius W. Ogden, who more or less immediately turned it around to Saunders Crane and Elisha W. Huntington, who were boot and shoemakers. It remained the home for a shoemaking business, with intervals, until at least 1936.

The store was 21 feet 4 inches wide on Main Street, and came back into the Crane family in 1858 when it was sold to Joel W. Crane by Henry S. Wheeler, the identical lot that Smith had sold off more than 20 years before. Just as with all the lots on this side of Main Street, the lot contained an alley in the rear which was a common right of way between Jacob (East Elm) Street and the lane between the Benham Hotel and the little store at 145 Main.

Crane sold to Edward S. Curtis in 1875, Curtis to Caleb W. Bishop in 1880, Bishop to his wife Sarah a year later. Sarah Bishop held on to it until 1936, when it was sold to two sisters, Matilda Gillette and Josephine Gillette Graves. Right through all these transactions the deeds explicitly stated that it was the same lot Smith sold to Ogden in 1836.

It was in all likelihood the same building all this time as well. The original facades of the two stores were in a simple Federal style, with no decoration above the ground floor except stone lintels over the windows and a narrow molding at the cornice. A slightly more decorative cornice was added during the late 19th century, probably around 1885, the same time 101 was heightened to three stories. Originally the new cornice at 103 had a projecting course of brick just below the little rank of corbelled arches, right where the old cornice had narrowly projected. Sometime later, in the early 20th century, parts of this course were removed, leaving some of it as visual support for the arches, which is how it remains today. Unfortunately, when the facade was painted, these visual effects, and the contrast between stone and brick, 103 Main Streetbecame no longer evident.

The best picture of the early ground floor facade is the one shown at the lower right on the page for 101 Main Street, taken about 1864. The building had big glass show windows, and a door to the second floor of both buildings. The latter was mentioned in an easement given first by Leonidas D. West (who owned 101) to Matilda Gillette, in 1907. She and her customers had access through this door and one connecting the upstairs corridors of the two buildings to a restroom in 101. The three-bay arrangement of the facade, with a door occupying the one on the south, has been preserved, but otherwise the old facade has been obliterated.

Top: 103 Main Street as it looks today. It is probably the same building Eben Smith sold to Darius Ogden in 1836, that is, the original building on the site. It's easy to see here how the white paint obscures the details, by flattening their aspect. The ground floor facade is modern, built before the Historic Preservation District was put in place in 1985.

People related to this lot and structure:

     David Wagener  
     Abraham Wagener

     Jonathan Bordwell
     George Shearman
     Eben Smith

Other related structures:

     101 Main Street

Related history:

     Looking Forward

Just above: 103 Main Street in 1907, after the projecting course was removed, but long before it was painted. Compare this photograph with the one at lower right on no. 101's page and see how similar the structure and massing of the building remained, even after the cornice was raised, presumably to keep the store from being dwarfed by the now three-story 101; and of course to keep up with modern fashion.

Above right: Before the projecting course was removed. It was at the level of the old cornice line; this new cornice was a false front, made to raise the facade to better match the buildings on either side. The Raymond Block to the north was just as built in 1858, but 101 to the south had just gained a third story and its own imposing cornice.


Click a button for an overall view of the whole south end of the 100 block.