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.
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.”
It turned out to be relatively easy to find information on the fire in the photo above – because “The Kandy Kitchen” provided a great clue. In the article published on April 14, 1923, the Humboldt Times reported on the “most expensive fire loss yet sustained in Eureka.”
The Red Cross Pharmacy, Mathew’s Piano House and the Toggery men’s store were among those impacted and the Bon Boniere candy factory (located in the basement of the building) reported that their stores of chocolate and sugar had been soaked by what some complained was excessive water use by the fire department. The fire chief, naturally, defended his crew and resented the criticism. Please check out the story below to read more about the fire and all the tenants housed in the Gross building, which still sits at the corner of 5th and F Streets.
While I agree that the trees and other greenery planted along our roads enhances our community, it can be rather frustrating when lining up old and current photos.
It is hard to imagine how amazing it was for folks to be able to capture and hear voices and music back then. For those who are interested, here’s more information on the Victor Talking-Machines written by Paul Edie and posted on http://www.Victor-Victrola.com.
A Quick History of the Victor Phonograph
The foundations for the Victor Talking Machine Company date back to the late 1880’s, when a creative entrepreneur named Emile Berliner invented the mass-producible flat phonograph record. Thomas Edison had invented the cylinder phonograph 10 years earlier in 1877, but there was no practical way to mass-duplicate his cylinders at that time. Berliner’s flat disc design allowed copies to be made of audio recordings in the manner of a printing press. The story of Victor’s emergence as the giant in the phonograph industry is very complicated, but in summary, Berliner asked Eldridge Johnson (picture at left), the owner of a small machine shop in Camden, New Jersey, to assist him in developing and manufacturing a low-cost spring wound motor for his disc phonograph. The resulting product showed much promise, but there were many competitors in the mix who were also battling for a share in the growing phonograph market, and Berliner had limited capital to support his new business. Before long, the infant phonograph industry turned into a “free-for-all” between rival business owners, with blatant patent infringements, legal wrangling, shady underground deals, and a seemingly endless stream of lawsuits. Berliner was eventually forced out of the market in the USA, and subsequently moved to Canada where he continued his phonograph production operations. Eldridge Johnson emerged as the dominant force through all the turmoil, initially incorporated as the “Consolidated Talking Machine Company” and soon as “The Victor Talking Machine Company” in the summer of 1901. Victor quickly became the major player in the explosively growing phonograph market. From his experiences in working with Mr. Berliner, Johnson had already learned a great deal about the emerging home entertainment market, as well as in the efficient production of phonographs. In 1901, phonographs were still basically “crude novelties”, which neither sounded very good, nor performed very reliably. But people loved the idea of listening to bands play, or to hear an opera singer belt-out a Wagnerian masterpiece. And many opportunities for improvement of this novel invention were quickly becoming apparent.
The earliest Victor Talking Machines utilized a “Consolidated Talking Machine” or an “Eldridge Johnson” ID tag. Mr. Johnson used the Consolidated name for a short period before Victor was formally incorporated in October, 1901. The famous “dog and phonograph” logo began appearing on some machines by the end of the year.
By the end of 1901, all Victor products used both the Victor name and famous “Nipper” logo as an official product identification.
Winship School replaced the old Grant School and was opened in 1890 with 500 elementary grade children. In 1896, it became the first high school in Humboldt Co. It became an intermediate school for 7 and 8 grades in 1914 and was closed in 1926. The old Winship was then demolished and the Eureka Municipal Auditorium was built at the location. (Please note, though, that other folks are saying that the Muni actually incorporated some of the original school building)
Source: Humboldt County Office of Education Collection
102 F ST – CAFÉ WATERFRONT Originally: THE WAVE SALOON/THE WEAVER BLDG. (1st & F St) Style: Eastlake Built: 1892 This building remains substantially unaltered from its original design. Originally the Wave Saloon, a gathering place for fishermen, stevedores and later on, loggers. “The Bluebird Rooms” (a brothel) were on the second floor. [Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau]