Remembering Lundquist Hardware
Local Business A Fixture Of Brooklyn Square For Decades
Lundquist Hardware was a fixture in Brooklyn Square for many decades. Operated by three generations of the Carl and Ellen Lundquist family, the store was located at 2 S Main St., next to Noah’s Ark.
An informal slogan at Lundquist Hardware was “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” As expected, the business carried items commonly found in a hardware store, plus lumber and millwork for home construction. Lundquist Hardware also catered to sportsmen, selling guns, fishing equipment, camping gear, and other supplies for outdoor activities. Many local residents bought their hunting rifles from Len Johnson, among others, in the gun department. Len also set up several of the skeet shooting ranges in the county.
Lundquist’s also sold housewares and appliances, such as heaters and washing machines. The wide variety of goods the store carriedwas illustrated in ads they sent out, such as a 1931 50th Anniversary ad from the Jamestown Evening Journal and a 1958 Christmas ad from The Post-Journal.
All this merchandise was housed on five floors of a downtown building.Clerks brought purchased items down from storage on higher floors, using a vintage freight elevator with a wooden gate.
Some customers were invited to visit the rustic basement of the hardware store.There, one could peer down between the floorboards to see the Chadakoin River, which flowed underground. The River ran unnoticed under Brooklyn Square, and the River was covered up in large parts of the old industrial corridor. Many people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, like me, were unaware there was a river flowing through downtown Jamestown. Thankfully, the city has reclaimed the stream and has created an attractive Riverwalk.
Lundquist Hardware had a rail spur out back. This meant larger items could come in by railroad and be off-loaded directly to the store. Also behind the store was a large dirt parking lot off Main Street.
The most commonly recalled feature in Lundquist Hardware was a cable-and-wire railway operating near the first-floor ceiling. Research located two vivid descriptions of that cash carrier. Art Kinney describes the railway as follows in his chapter of Brooklyn Square The Lost Neighborhood and Beyond (Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist ed.): “Cash and the receipt for the item purchased were put into a metal cylindrical cartridge [by the clerk] that was propelled along a cable, anchored at a station close to the check-out counter for easy access by the clerk, and then stretched out across the ceiling of the store. Once in place, the cartridge would be whisked off to the office [located on the second floor], where change, if it was needed, was placed inside it as well as the receipt marked ‘Paid’ and then sent back to the check-out area. The constant whirr and ‘click, click, click’ of the electrical connections that propelled these cartridges were unforgettable.”
As described in an equally vivid reminiscence from the January 31, 2014 edition of The Post-Journal: “Lundquist Hardware in Brooklyn Square used a system that carried the cash boxes on constantly moving cables that zipped around edges and corners and dashed across straightaways up near the high patterned tin ceiling. In the process the clip that spliced the cable ends together went, tick, tick, tick as it passed through the pulleys. It was all an enormous source of fascination for boys.” It was indeed mesmerizing to watch the containers dart around, and to hear the click-click sound. The vertical portion of the system, where the clerk loaded the customer’s payment in a cartridge, arguably can be seen to the right of the elevator in a 1960 interior photo of Lundquist Hardware.
Research disclosed those mechanisms are called “cash railway systems” or “cash carrier systems.” There is a superb website that describes the different types of railways, has photos, lists manufacturers, and even identifies stores that had a particular system. (http://www.cashrailway.co.uk/index.htm) Lundquist Hardware had the “cable” type of railway, while Bigelow’s had the “pneumatic tube” style.
The cash railway at Lundquist Hardware took money to a second-floor office, where change was made and where the cash was stored in a safe. The safe was an irresistible target for some robbers. Newspaper articles describe that, after burglers were almost successful in opening the safe in the 1930s, the store management attached a tear-gas deterrent, which was successful in foiling a robbery later in the 1930s. One safe-cracking scheme was successful in the 1960s.
For someone who first visited Lundquist Hardware in the 1960s, the store had the look and feel of a bygone era. That is fitting, as a hardware store had been operating at that location since the late 1890s. The first floor had a high tin ceiling, merchandise covered the floor space, and drawers held nails and other smaller objects. The 1960 photo of the interior of Lundquist Hardware provides a good sense of that space.
There may be a Swedish connection to the look of Lundquist Hardware. On a visit to Stockholm around 2013, I visited Skansen. Historical Swedish buildings from different areas and eras were brought to, and reassembled on, this island to create an outdoor museum. One of the restored buildings was a Swedish hardware store from the 1880s. I blurted out to my daughters that this reminded me of Lundquist Hardware in Jamestown. Much to my surprise, someone else inside the store said “Yes, it does.” This gentleman and I talked; he was visiting Sweden from Warren, PA, and had been a customer at Lundquist Hardware. Small world. The commonalities in design make me wonder if, when Elof Rosencrantz and Carl Lundquist, both Swedish immigrants, were building their hardware store in 1897, they borrowed elements from the hardware stores they had seen growing up in Sweden.
Lundquist Hardware actually evolved from a series of partnerships that began in 1881, when a Brooklyn Square hardware store was established at 12 North Main St. as Rosencrantz & Price. The store then became E. Rosencrantz & Co. In 1889, Elof Rosencrantz sold a minority partnership interest to Carl A. Lundquist, who had been a clerk in the store.
Around 1897, Rosencrantz and Lundquist built a larger store across the street at 2 South Main Street in the western corridor of Brooklyn Square. That hardware store remained active at the 2 South Main address from 1898 until the early 1970s.
In 1911, Rosencrantz retired and sold his remaining partnership interest to Carl Lundquist and his eldest son, Harold V. Lundquist. Their initial name for the hardware store was C. A. Lundquist & Co.
Other sons of Carl Lundquist joined the business when they became of age. In 1931, the business was incorporated as Lundquist Hardware, Inc. The building sign was changed from “C. A. Lundquist & Co.” to simply “Lundquist.”
Lundquist Hardware was a family business that spanned three generations. Carl A. Lundquist was the initial President. His sons Harold, George, Ralph and Paul participated in the business for several decades. The third generation was composed of two of Carl’s grandsons, Harold Roger (“Bud”) Lundquist and Paul F. Lundquist.
Bud Lundquist, Harold’s son and namesake, served with distinction as an airman in World War II. Upon his return to Jamestown, he entered the family business. Bud was President of Lundquist Hardware in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bud is on the right in the 1960 photo of the interior of Lundquist Hardware.
The author is distantly related to the Lundquist Hardware family through an unusual event. In 1891, there was a Jamestown marriage between unrelated people named Lundquist. Carl A. Lundquist married Ellen Lundquist. Ellen was the eldest daughter of my great-grandfather Olaus “Hatmaker” Lundquist, who had a hat-making business near Brooklyn Square. Carl, and Carl and Ellen’s children and grandchildren, ran Lundquist Hardware. My immediate family, which traces back to a son of Olaus Lundquist, had no role in that business.
My memories of Lundquist Hardware come from visits in the 1960s. It was a treat to see the store. I remember riding the freight elevator, going down to see the Chadakoin River flowing below the store, and viewing and hearing the cash railway system. I became acquainted with Bud Lundquist (and played with his son Bruce) because both Bud and my father sailed at the Yacht Club, and often brought their families.
Research turned up an 8-page supplement to the Jamestown Evening Journal that, in 1931, announced the “Golden Jubilee” or 50th anniversary of Lundquist Hardware. The supplement invited the public to come to the store for an open house, with gifts, an orchestra, a large cake, and no goods to be sold during some Jubilee hours. Sponsoring a celebration was a nice gesture during the Great Depression, and perhaps boosted business.
Advertising a 50th anniversary in 1931 arguably involves some creative math. Under a strict legal accounting, “Lundquist Hardware, Inc.” had just been formed in 1931, and it lasted until the early 1970s. But there was a Lundquist family hardware business, including “C.A. Lundquist & Co.,” since 1911, with earlier Lundquist partial ownership going back to 1889. And the partnerships that ultimately became Lundquist Hardware do date back 50 years, to the 1881 start of Rosencrantz and Price. The 1931 supplement gives due credit to those pioneers.
Moving forward in time, by the 1960s I suspect that Brooklyn Square building owners and business managers knew the heyday of the old business district had passed. Plus, there were increasing signals that urban renewal was coming. This made the owners less inclined to invest in modernizing the buildings and stores. This, is turn, made the buildings in Brooklyn Square feel more dated when compared to other shopping districts (e.g., Third Street and the rise of suburban stores). And, truth be told, some Brooklyn Square buildings were run-down. But looking back, those buildings and businesses were classic, and they produce nostalgic feelings in many who remember the old Brooklyn Square.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, urban renewal came to Jamestown. Italian-American homes and long-standing businesses in and near Brooklyn Square were destroyed, leaving only memories of the Lost Neighborhood. The old commercial buildings in Brooklyn Square were demolished, after compensating the building owners and those who ran businesses. This spelled the end for many family-owned businesses, including Lundquist Hardware. It was great to grow up in an era when the old Brooklyn Square businesses and neighborhoods were present.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank the Fenton History Center, the Prendergast Library, the Jamestown newspapers of record, and websites like Classic Jamestown for supplying much of the information (e.g., photos, newspaper articles, remembrances) relied upon in creating this piece. Special thanks to Joan Cusimano Lindquist, who has written extensively on Brooklyn Square and the Lost Neighborhood, for gently encouraging me to write this article and for her guidance. I would welcome receiving any corrections regarding the recollections in this article, any insights on and memories of Lundquist Hardware, and any interior photos of that store.