The Derby Block

Jamestown lost a number of buildings to a fire in January 1861. Fire engulfed both sides of Main Street from Second to Third, and crept up Fourth Street for a few buildings.  After the fire a number of buildings were rebuilt, some of brick. The building boom along Main Street influenced the entire area. Along the south side of East Second Street beyond the bank on the corner, were some unsightly wooden buildings which could catch fire that would spread along the street just as the fire in January 1861 had done. These buildings were torn down and brick buildings replaced them. These buildings were called the Derby block. The address at the time was 7, 9, and 11 East Second Street. At some point in history the numbering of the buildings was changed and the south side of the street became the even numbers that we know today. The Derby block became 8, 10, and 12 East Second Street. Today 8 is still standing but with a condemned sign, and the building that was 10 and 12 is gone. That was the building that fell a few months ago and was an emergency demolition.

The Derby block was actually two buildings, one owned by the Derbys, and Mr. D. E Bush had the building at 8 East Second.  John K. and Silas S. Derby were the architects and builders and Mr. Bush did the work. This is according to an article that appeared in the December 11 issue of the Jamestown Evening Journal in 1863. That article described the two buildings in great detail. The block occupied 62 feet on Second Street and 50 feet on Potter’s Alley. The article pronounced the style of architecture as “very plain and neat.” Each had a fine basement and each was three floors. The three store fronts were of equal size.

The article goes into great detail about the windows on the front of each building, describing even the shapes of the different lights (window panes) in each window and door. Yes doors, there were doors at the second and third floors, except the third floor of the Bush building, that were above the doors on the first floor. These doors opened out onto balconies with latticed railings. I wonder when those balconies disappeared.

In 1863 the first building (no. 8) had on the first floor “two compartments that were suitable for a restaurant and a cigar store”, the second story was a Billiard Hall. The second building, housed in the beginning a meat market at what became 10 East Second, but in December of 1863 was vacant. The third store at 12 East Second was the Derby brothers painter’s and glaziers store. Mr. John K. Derby occupied the second and third floors of rear part of the building as his residence. The second story front was occupied by Mrs. N. A. Arnold as her milliner’s shop. A Mr. Wilkinson occupied parts of the other floors as a residence. Stairs between the two building allowed access to upper floors and a hallway ran through the center of the buildings on the upper floors allowing access to the front and rear sections.  A stairway on the alley side provided access to Mr. Derby’s residence.

Over the years a variety of businesses moved in and out of these buildings. At one time, at least in the 1880s and 1890s, the Palace Hotel occupied at least 8 East Second Street. There was a bar located there also which led to many instances of a mention of the Palace Hotel in the local newspapers.

The article in 1863 had the added details that there was a constant store of water in the basement and “by an ingenious arrangement of a windlass wood, etc. could be raised with ease to the upper stories. The roof is of Gutta-percha cement, and is one of the best in town.  The building contains 225,000 bricks and 66 cords of stone. It was commenced in June 1862 and occupied in April 1863.” The cost of the building was $6,000.

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