More Buildings We’ve Held Onto- 2nd and F Streets

Source: Cal Poly Humboldt, c. 1905 (So many great details- please click to enlarge)

I recently ran across this great photo of the Palmtag Building, which still stands at the south west corner of 2nd and F Streets. It is the same block as the one featured in this post, but looking the opposite direction.

It looks like Conry & Schnier tried to be a one-stop gift shop as well as pharmacy – and I think I would have loved to shop there.

It is still a stunning building…

And sometimes you get lucky, and other folks have done the work you thought you would have to do. Some time ago I ran across this great story in the Times Standard from 2006. 

The historic Palmtag Building — an Old Town icon


PUBLISHED: August 31, 2006 at 12:00 a.m. | UPDATED: July 30, 2018 at 8:53 a.m.

The evolution of Eureka’s Old Town is reflected in one of its most recognizable and centrally located structures — the historic Palmtag Building at the corner of Second and F streets.

These days, summer visitors and locals alike frequent the building’s familiar shops: Many Hands Gallery, Shorelines, All Under Heaven, Talisman, and The Antique Annex.

Perhaps these gift shops would make the Eurekans of 100-plus years ago blink is amazement. Back then, this area was the city’s main business district where the necessities of life could be found.

This was not the first building on the property. At least two other structures had been on the site before; they housed Pratt’s Furniture, the Humboldt Times, and Levy’s clothing, and were demolished to make way for the new, according to a series of 1893 Humboldt Times articles sited in the Eureka Heritage Society survey files.

The earlier buildings likely were simpler settlement-era structures prominent in Eureka’s first decades. By the 1890s, however, the town was booming, and many of these early buildings were being replaced with lavish, high-end Victorian-era styles.

The modern new building at Second and F would be no exception. Built for owner August Palmtag, it was constructed, and possibly designed, by contractor Knowles Evans.

Evans had just begun making a name for himself locally in this arena. He arrived in Eureka in 1887 at the age of 55, and worked as a secretary for the Lincoln Mill Co. before striking out on his own.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, Evans designed and/or was the contractor for numerous notable houses and commercial buildings. They include the Carnegie Library (1903), which he designed with B.C. Tarves, and the Georgeson Block (1903), the grand Second Renaissance-style building at E and Fourth streets.

The Palmtag Building was among his earlier achievements. Knowles applied lavish Queen Anne-style elements to it, leading off with a cantilevered round bay window at the corner of the second floor — which originally was capped with a copper dome. On either side are pairs of slanted bays joined by a shared pediment, all highlighted with a generous frosting of patterned shingles, brackets and dentil courses.

The building was immediately put into practical use in 1893. Palmtag opened his own wholesale liquor dealership in one of the building’s F-Street side shops. and the Pacific Pharmacy took over the large, main corner shop.

Upstairs, the venerable Drs. Felt took up residence, with their names painted prominently on that curved bay window.

The Felts were father and son, Theodore and Rae. The elder Felt and Dr. Jonathan Clark had been “the county’s only two physicians when the country was wild and new,” historian Andrew Genzoli later noted.

The Massachusetts native learned his practice at Transylvania College in Kentucky before heading west to mine for gold in Trinity County in 1849. In 1851, he headed for Humboldt County, where he began raising cattle and practicing medicine, settling at first in Hydesville.

Dr. Felt had a “rugged constitution and a hardy physique and could never refuse a visit to a sick or injured person because of the physical hardships it would entail.”

One tale, tall or not, tells of a time Felt improvised a surgeon’s saw “by using a butcher knife for cutting, being far from home and without means of procuring any regular surgical instruments for the operation — the amputation of a man’s leg at the hip joint.” The procedure saved the man’s life.

By the 1880s, the doctor had established a health resort, Felt Springs Hotel in Rohnerville. It proved popular, but two separate fires brought the dream to ashes.

In the early 1890s, Felt relocated to Eureka, soon opening his practice at Second and F streets. His son, a graduate of a University of California medical school who had served with the U.S. Marine hospital in San Francisco, joined him.

The elder physician died in 1898, and his son continued with the upstairs practice until 1916. He died the following year.

The downstairs Pacific Pharmacy was a fine complement to the Felts’ upstairs practice. While it had a handful of different owners over the years, it continued to be listed in city directories until 1932.

By then, other neighbor stores in the building had come and gone in an era before malls, supermarkets and department stores. They including two men’s clothing stores: Canepa Men’s Furnishings (1920) and Danielson & Peterson’s (1930), along with Burnett & Hill Cigars (1929-1933) and McNew Lon Sporting Goods (1932).

Yet it was the name Adorni, which began being associated with the building in 1898, that lingers to this day.

Two years before 1900, Eugenio Adorni opened a fruit store in the building. A native of Verpiana, Italy, he became a successful Eureka businessman. Adorni was one among the first board of directors for the First Savings Bank of Eureka, according to a Will Speegle column in the Times (Aug. 17, 1941).

By 1904, the Adorni store included cigars, and three years later it also advertised “confectionery” items. By 1910, sons Harry and Joseph Adorni were listed as running the shop.

While the listing continues only until 1930, the building by then had been purchased by the Adorni family.

It appears the large corner store was vacant for several years, through the Depression and war years. The other shops continued on, offering predominantly male-offerings: cigars, liquors, sporting goods, with the occasional restaurant, tavern and hotel being noted in Polk directories into the 1960s.

Upstairs, a dentist, J.A. Belfils, took up residence from 1926 to 1936, advertising himself as “painless Parker.”

In 1948, another pharmacy, Cooper’s, moved into the main central store, and it lasted into the 1970s.

By then, the building was owned by Eugenio’s son, Harry, who died in 1989. In his will, Harry bequeathed the building to longtime friends Ward and Jennie Maffia.

”My mother used to work for his insurance business,” said Lynn McKenna, the Maffias’ daughter who inherited the building herself in 2002. It was her mother, Jennie, who had offered much assistance to Harry and his wife in their later years.

”She was also responsible for having the Adorni Center built with Harry’s estate,” McKenna added.

And it was Harry — who began working in the building during the 1910s — who saw the great arch of change in this part of town.

Redevelopment of Old Town had begun in the 1970s, and by the late ’80s this part of town was thriving, including at the historic Palmtag Building. The likes of Old Town Bath and Body, Atlantis, Buffalo Bills, and Lora Jabot’s Vintage Clothing stores became familiar stops into the 1990s.

The building has housed them all. It underwent only one modest, first-floor remodeling in the 1920s, and lost its copper dome sometime after 1938.

As the Heritage survey notes, it continues as a prime example of “a very fine use of the Queen Anne for a nonresidential building, and an important piece of Eureka’s largely intact 19th century commercial area.”


6 Responses to More Buildings We’ve Held Onto- 2nd and F Streets

  1. From the Humboldt Times, June 18, 1922
    Conversion of one of the old landmarks of eureka into one of the most modern business blocks in the city is seen with the remodeling of the Palmtag building at Second and F streets.which today has become one of finest downtown corner buildings in the city. During the last few months more than $10,000 has been expended in improvements on the building which now houses three of these known business firms in the city among them the popular clothing store of Archie Canepa on Second street and the Pacific Pharmacy, corner of Second and F streets and the grocery store of E. Adornin andSlon. Particularly elaborate has been the the development of the Canepa store which had been extended back allowing a larger space of store room, while the store has also been arranged in separate departments with theclothing displayed in special cabinets, fitted in the walls while another department under the management of Harry Kazeee where the alteration and fitting of clothes is specialized in. The front, too has been remodeled along with the latest and most up-to-date lines which bring it in the ranks of the foremost clothing stores in the city. The building which Ed occupies a frontage of 60 feet on Second street and 60 feet on F street is one of the oldest buildings in the city and for more than 30 years has been a popular meeting place among visitors from all part of the county. In addition to the three smart stores which adorn the ground floor spaces, an elevator has been installed running to the basement while the premises overhead have remodeled into spare apartments and offices, one elite being occupied by the well-known dentist firm of Painless Parker

    • Barbara Saul says:

      I just posted two newspaper articles regarding the Palmtag Building and I don’t have my own URL so I posted it from the Humboldt Historical Society. I don’t work there, I am a member and an occasional contributor to the “Humboldt Historian,” but I didn’t know what else to put! I hope this is OKBarbara Canepa

      Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  2. From the Blue Lake Advocate, Nov. 2, 1923
    One of the most important business properly transactions of recent time occurred Thursday when the property known as the Palmtage estate, Second and F state., Eureka was transferred by Elizabeth Palmtag to A.A. Canepa, H.R. Simmons’s, J.R. And Eugenio Adorni.
    According to the revenue stamp notation of the transcript, the price paid for the property of which the price paid for by the purchasers are the present occupiers,was $40,000.

  3. Mark Conry says:

    Local historians may find it interesting that the Pacific Pharmacy, owned and operated by Conry and Schnier was, I believe, the second location of this business in downtown Eureka. Also, the proprietor, William Conry, born in County Cork, Ireland was the father of Humboldt County’s four-term District Attorney, Leonard Conry. Leonard passed in October of 1998.

  4. Barbara Canepa Saul says:

    My Grandfather, Archie Canepa bought the Mens’ Clothing Wear business from Harry Schwartz in the Palmtag building and re-opened it as Archie Canepa’s Menswear in 1911. He owned and operated the store until 1928 when he sold it to Dewey Danielson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: