The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
This week saw the ribbon cutting and open house for the Wellman Building, this time as a residential building.
Pictured are coin silver spoons made by James Harrison, a Jamestown silver smith from 1828-1844. Harrison had a jewelry shop, repaired watches and practiced his silversmithing while preparing to be a dentist.
Built in the late 1890s, the Wellman Building became the address for many professional offices in Jamestown. Lawyers and doctors occupied many of the three-room suites available on the upper floors. At least one fraternal organization had meeting rooms in the Wellman Building.
Retail space was available on the ground floor along West Third Street. A second building, fronting on Cherry Street, was soon built and expanded the available space in downtown Jamestown. Eckman's Music Store moved to the fifth floor of the new Wellman Building in 1911. That is where the now 101-year-old Norden Club was organized. After the Gokey fire, the Floss Palace Bowling alleys were located in the newer Wellman Building.
So what do the two silver spoons in the picture have to do with the Wellman Building? For people alive today, the Wellman Building has always been what is on the corner of East Third and Cherry Streets in Jamestown. We forget to ask what was there before the Wellman Building. Part of the answer is connected to the two silver spoons.
Early in Jamestown's furniture manufacturing history, R.V. Cunningham became known for the chairs that he manufactured. These chairs were sold in the local area and were taken to markets to the south along the river system where they became well-known and sought after. Cunningham built his home at the corner of East Third and Cherry streets.
In 1828, James Harrison arrived in Jamestown and set up shop as a silversmith, jeweler and watch repairer. His shop was then on Main Street about 50 feet south of Third Street. Later he moved the shop farther south on Main Street.
Besides his silversmithing and jewelry shop, he prepared himself to become a dentist. In 1844, he changed his profession from silversmith to dentist. He soon moved to the home built by Cunningham on the corner of East Third and Cherry streets. Here he and his wife, Rebecca, raised a large family, and he had his dentist office. Harrison had other property in later years. In 1873, as he was returning from the oil country in Pennsylvania, he stopped at his farm near the state line in Kiantone and "was struck with paralysis." He was brought to the home of his son-in-law, Dr. J. B. Rawson, in Jamestown, where he died Feb. 21, 1873.
The two silver spoons plus a tablespoon made by James Harrison are in the collection of the Fenton History Center. These spoons were made for the Frank family. The initials on the spoons are "EF," and it was thought by the donor that they were for Elizabeth Frank, wife of Michael Frank.
Michael was the son of Lawrence Frank, an early settler of Busti. He married Elizabeth Steward, daughter of Eliphalet Steward, also an early settler of Busti. Lawrence Frank and Eliphalet Steward were both soldiers in the American Revolution. Eliphalet Steward was also a veteran of the War of 1812, so he may appear in a future "Hometown History."
We end this with a "thank you" to all who are involved with the return of the historic Wellman Building to a new and continuing life as a vital part of Jamestown.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.