The East Side of the Public Square
The east side of the Square in the early 1940s.
No where is the change in Knightstown over the past 50 years more evident than in the block on the east side of the Public Square. Only 2 buildings remain of what was once a bustling downtown setting. There must be a goodly portion of the population of K-town that have no memory of what it was like.
This page is an attempt to describe what it was like and to set down a record of the businesses that have come and gone in the block during the decades of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. My two main sources of information are the old Knightstown Phone books which Gary Plank gave me to use and old issues of the Banner. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get access to old property or business tax receipts. It appears they just didn’t keep records.
Even with these two sources of info it’s still extremely hard to build a picture of what was where. Several businesses just listed their addresses as “east (or west) side of the square”. Also, there were mistakes in the phone books which went uncorrected for years and years. For example, from 1935 until well into the 50s two different businesses were listed at 26 N. Washington. The businesses changed several times but the error was carried forward. Several businesses were never listed in the phone books and didn’t advertise in the Banner.
The page starts with an article written by Mildred Leisure Irvin and published in the Banner in 1947. It gives an early history of the businesses in the block. Ms. Irvin wrote several historical articles about Knightstown in the late 40s. I am so grateful that she did. Otherwise, a lot of important history would be totally lost to us.
History of East Side of Public Square
Reveals Change in Many Businesses
by Mildred Leisure Irvin
The Alhambra building dominating the east side of the Square was built in 1897 by Odd Fellows Lodge No.99. It is one of the newer structures in the business district, as all the other space on this side of the Square had been used for business buildings from the beginning of the town. At first, Main Street was used mostly for dwellings and the business of the town was carried on around the open market place (Public Square). At the north end of this strip, stood an old factory, which burned at an early date and later E. A. (ED) McGraw built a dwelling and store on the lot. The store, a buggy and harness shop, as may be seen in the picture, gave way to the National Refining Co. which was completed late in 1937.
This picture was with this article in the Banner and gives a 1912 view
of the block with Ed McGraw’s store at this end. McGraw’s buildings
were torn down in 1937 and a filling station was built on the site.
Just south of this space, was a building owned by Sam Richardson who also owned the ground east of McGraw’s lot, and had a blacksmith shop facing on Brown Street. Several opinions as to the use of the ground on the south of McGraw’s have been given, but most people think farm tools or something of the sort occupied this space, while some think it was a part of the blacksmith shop which had been there at an earlier date. Whatever the use, Mr. Richardson built the present building in 1895 and it was used by Charles Lee for a buggy shop for a while before it was bought by Charles Risk the present owner. Since then it has been use for farm machinery and seeds, with John Willis selling Farm Machinery there and then John Craven farm equipment and seeds. Last week the management changed hands again and Cecil McNew became the new owner. He will handle tools, engines, oil heaters and radios. This indeed is a far cry from the old blacksmith shop. As for the ground occupied by the Alhambra building, Heaton’s farm implement building stood there before 1897; a livery barn dated even farther and; the old stage coach barn originally faced the alley at this point The present building is one of the two tallest buildings in Knightstown, housing the club rooms for the Odd Follows lodge on the third floor and the movie house, Flory’s gift shop, and Nelle Behem’s dress shop on the street floor. The second floor has apartments and the theater projection room and balcony. Originally, the Alhambra was an opera house with gilt boxes and curving stairs which had a stage large and deep enough to accommodate regular stage productions, and many a fine play was enjoyed by the people of Knightstown; it bowed to no theater in the larger towns in beauty or seating arrangement. Since then it has been remodeled and is now a movie house with most of the old glamour still intact.
Still south of this, Tritt and McBride had a large store in which they sold farm tools, seeds, and harness. No one seems to know what was there earlier, though some think it was livery barn for at that time, another building occupied the lot. Harold Ratliff’s jewelry store, White’s card room, Richey’s jewelry store, and Culbertson’s hardware store are in this building now.
The corner building is really a historic spot, of course, as it was the site of the first building in town — Waitsell Carey’s Tavern. The Dillon House was here later and, after it burned, a grocery was built with the entrance four or five steps up from the street. The Hub Clothing Store was there later and several others from time to time before the B and C Diner, the present occupant located there.
One hundred and twenty years have gone by since the first building was built on the Square. The old carriage factories, livery barns, stage coach building and tavern are gone and forgotten; but the spirit that erected them still goes on — reaching always for the newest and best
East Side of Public Square Picture Gallery
Here are a few pictures of the businesses along the east side of the Public Square.
The East Side of the Square (More History)
In the style of the two previous pages I going to try to describe what businesses occupied the each commercial space along the block. I don’t have all the info yet but I’ll continue to work on it. If anyone can help me please do so.
We will start at the corner of Main and Washington and walk northward toward Brown.
202 East Main Street
Mildred Irvin has mentioned that this is the spot where the town began. It was the location of the very first house and also the first business. When the 20th century came around the location had already hosted several types of commercial enterprise.
The Hub Clothing Store occupied the space by 1912 and had been there several years before that. They sold upscale men and boys clothes and were in business there until the late teens when they moved to New Castle. They were still in business in New Castle when I was a kid.
Here’s an advert for the Hub from a December 1912 issue of the Banner.
B & C Diner
In April of 1941 Red Childress opened the B & C Diner on the corner of Main and Washington opposite the square. I haven’t a clue what businesses occupied the space from the late teens until the B & C was there. There were several concerns that just listed their addresses as “East Side of the Square” and are candidates. A restaurant called “The Oasis” listed it’s address as “East Main Street” so it may have occupied the corner for a few years. I just don’t know how to find the information but I’ll keep looking……
The B & C was a successful business and was open for at least 10 years.
Here’s an announcement of the opening of the B & C Diner that appeared in the Banner in 1941.
In 1953 Glen and Jeanette Mattix bought the B and C Diner and renamed it “Mattix Restaurant”. Jeanette did a wonderful job of running the place and their food was inexpensive and very good. It was a very successful business in the mid 50s. I’m not sure how long the Mattix’s ran the restaurant but it had different owners by the early 60s and began to go downhill.
Here’s a picture of the inside of Mattix’s Restaurant taken after a basketball game.
9 North Washington Street
This location was a store fronting on Washington Street but in the same building as the corner location fronting on Main Street. I don’t quite understand how the building was configured in the rear to accommodate this.
Knightstown Hardware Store
There was a hardware store at 9 N. Washington for a number of years in the 20s, 30s and 40s. I think there was also a grocery at the location for a few years. Exact information has eluded me.
Culbertson’s Hardware Store
Culbertson moved his hardware store here in about 1936 after they tore down the big building on the southwest corner of Main and Jefferson Streets to build the Texaco Filling Station in 1935.
Harold Ratliff moved his Jewelry Store to 9 N. Washington in the 60s.
11 North Washington
There were gorcery stores at this location for most of the first half of the 20th century.
The Walton Grocery was here during the first few years. The Howard Grocery was here from 1911 until 1920 when C.K. McDermond took over in 1923. Then, L.H. Watts ran the grocery until 1941. That was the last grocery here.
Manning’s Radio Store
In 1941 a radio store took over the premises at 11 North Washington.
Sullivan’s Package Liquor Store
In 1948 Joe Sullivan opened his package liquor store. It may have been the first in K-town. It remained there throughout the 1950s. I remember going in there and buying a half pint of Old Grand Dad the night of my Senior Prom. Things were different then……
15 North Washington
I think this location was occupied by a grocery and then a bakery during the early 20th century but I have no proof. I’m still looking. If anyone can help, I would appreciate it.
Richey’s Jewelry Store
My classmate and early girlfriend Kay’s dad had his Jewelry Store here during the 40s and early 50s.
Morgan’s Quality Bakery
When Mr Richey moved out Cloy and Sadie Morgan opened a Bakery at 15 N. Washington. They seem to have only been in business for about a year.
Brammer Electric did Plumbing and Electrical Contracting. They also sold Philco Appliances out of the store at 15 N. Washington. They were only there in 1955 and 1956. I don’t know who was at that location when they left.
17 North Washington
Knightstown Auto Parts
They occupied the premises from 1937 until the mid 1940s. I don’t know who was there prior to that but I think it was likely a grocery or bakery.
Whites Card Room
I don’t know much about this except it was there when Mildred Irvin wrote her history of the Square in 1947. They never advertised nor were they listed in the phone books.
I do know that gambling was rampant in Knightstown during the first half of the 20th century. It wasn’t legal but went on just below the surface. I’m going to devote a page to the subject sometime.
Here’s a picture of a poker chip used by one of the card rooms called a “Cigar Store”. These were used to keep actual money off the table.
19 North Washington
This location was next to the alley on Washington. It had access to the alley and was used as a livery stable in the early days of Knightstown.
Schweitzer Motor Company
Richard Schweitzer Jr. ran the Auto Dealership at 19 North Washington. He was the son of the man who owned the Fence Factory in Knightstown and lived in the beautiful big house at Washington and Carey Streets. They sold upscale General Motors Cars and were in business from 1935 until the late 1930s.
Here’s a picture of a hang tag that came on the 1935 K-town Phone Book.
Ratliff’s Jewelry Store
Harold and Harriet Ratliff had sold fine jewelry out of rented space inside the Waggoner Hardware store on Main Street since the 1920s. They opened their own shop at 19 N. Washington when Schweitzer Motors closed about 1940.
In 1941 they got the License Bureau franchise and also ran that at the same location. They moved their shop up the street to number 9 in the early 1960s.
Here’s an advert for Ratliff’s that appeared in 1942 and a notice about the License Bureau from 1941.
So here we are at the alley. I had to leave out some businesses in the half of the block I just described because they only gave their addresses as “East Side of the Square”. Mettel’s Bakery is an example. They were in business for about 15 years starting in about 1922. They sold some groceries but were mainly a bakery. The Modern Appliance Store is another. I’m not sure how long they were there. I’m sure there were a lot more I don’t know about.
The building to the north of the alley was the largest building in town. It was built in 1895 by the Odd Fellows Lodge and housed the biggest auditorium in eastern Indiana. They certainly were optimistic about the future growth of Knightstown in those days.
21 North Washington
Nelle Behem’s Ladies Wear Store
Nell Behem opened her shop in the south side of the Alhambra building shortly after the turn of the 20th century. She was there until sometime in the 1940s. I think she made her own ladies hats to sell and also sold dresses and other things for women. It was one of longest running businesses in Knightstown.
Here’s an advert from a 1912 Banner for Nell’s hats.
This Ad is from 1940. 84 cents for a dress…!! Can you imagine…???
Joe Chew Studio
In 1955 Joe Chew opened a photography studio at 21 N. Washington. He was there until the early 60s. He sometimes took the school photographs.
25-29 North Washington
Well, here we are at the Alhambra. It had so much significance in the life of our little town during the first half of the 20th century that I have dedicated a separate page to it.
There’s a link at the top of this page or you can use this one:
The Alhambra link
31 North Washington
I don’t know what year Louie and Jane Flory opened their little shop next to the Alhambra. I think it was in the late 1930s. I have no idea what kind of business was in the location before Flory’s. Both Flory’s and Nelle Behem’s shop were very small since they sat on either side of the Alhambra lobby and in front of the auditorium.
Flory’s was a wonderful place to a little kid. They sold penny candy and hardly a day went by that I didn’t stop there on my way to school to buy something sweet to eat at recess. (I think that’s why I had problems with my teeth most of my life.) I got a quarter a week allowance and usually spent at least a couple of pennies of it at Flory’s every day. You got quite a bit of candy for a nickel in those days. They were called a “gift shop” but all I can remember them selling was candy, magazines, and comic books. I don’t know how the either of the Florys had the patience to stand there at the candy counter and wait for us little kids to make up our minds what kind of candy to spend our pennies on.
Ron Short just reminded me that in about 1957 Flory’s got a soda fountain. I think they bought the one that Bill Siler took out of the old Woods Drug Store.
Here’s a little anecdote about both the Alhambra and Flory’s sent to me by Reid Brenan.
“When I was young I had a paper route….as did several others my age. We used to fold our papers sitting in the entrance to the theater. The Alhambra would give us what they called ‘theater bills” which we would insert in each paper as we “rolled” them. We would do this once a week. The “bills” would show what movies were coming for the following week. For doing this, we would receive a small card which would have a certain number of small circles on them, which could be used to get in to the theater and see a movie…FREE! An attendant would punch the card each time we attended a movie. “What a deal that was!”.
During the winter months the Florys would let us….usually there were three of us…fold our papers right inside the door of their store. However, when we would get a bit too loud Mr. Flory would threaten us by saying, “If you boys don’t ‘quiet’ down, you will be outside folding those papers!” He only had to say that one time, believe me! We thought, at that time, he was the meanest man in town!” Thanks much Reid, great story..!!!
Flory’s was there next to the show until around 1959 when they moved to the south side of Main St in the premises once occupied by Wood’s Drug store.
33 North Washington
This is the building that was just north of the IOOF building that housed the Alhambra. Mildred Irvin tells us that it was built in 1895. That’s about the same time the IOOF building was built. It originally held a Buggy Factory. It is one of the only older buildings left on this once busy block.
Risk Farm Implements
Since Farming was the biggest commercial activity in the area much of the business in Knightstown supported that activity. Charles Risk sold large farming implements under the International Harvester (IH) franchise and all sorts of other tools and supplies in support of farmers. IH was formed in 1902 by banker J.P. Morgan from the McCormick Reaper Company and other companies and dominated the farm machinery market.
Charles Risk ran the store at 33 North Washington from sometime in the teens until the mid 1940s.
In 1941 Risk started an insurance business which he also ran at this location. I just learned he was the Grandfather of one of my classmates, Patsy Sorrell Nicholas.
Willis Implement Company
Willis took over the business in about 1945 and also sold large farm implements and tractors at this location. He continued with the International Harvester franchise. In 1947 he moved his business over to 224 E. Main in 1947 where there was more room for the large implements.
Knightstown Implement Co.
As Mildred Irvin noted in her history, Cecil McNew took over the location in 1947 and sold farm supplies, tools, engines, oil heaters and radios under the name “Knightstown Implement Co. He was there until 1950.
The Ewing’s bought the business at 33 North Washington in 1950. I think they sold some household appliances and some farming supplies. They also ran a bottled Propane Gas business at the location. Ewing’s was there throughout the 1950s.
37/39 North Washington
McGraw’s General Store
Here we are at the corner of Washington and Brown Streets. Ed McGraw built a house and general store here in the late 1800s. He lived here and ran a general store until in 1937 when his buildings were torn down and a filling station was built. You can see the McGraw buildings in the picture at the top of the page. The filling station building is still there but long closed (like a lot of K-town businesses).
Tydol Super Service
In 1937 a new filling station was built here. It was run in partnership by Harold Trump and Lowell Cooper. I’m not sure what brand of gas they sold.
Pitts White Rose Station
I’m not sure when the station at the corner of Washington and Brown changed ownership but by 1945 it sold White Rose Gas and was listed in the phone book as “Pitts White Rose Station”.
Redick’s Auto Sales
Frank Redick had the Buick Dealership here during the late 1940s.
This Ad is from 1949.
C & W Sales and Service
In 1953 Lowell Cooper and Robert Walda went in business at 39 North Washington. They sold Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles as an agent of Howard Holt of Greenfield. They also sold car batteries, tires, oil and did minor repairs. They were there until 1959.
So this is the end of the block and thus, the end of this page…….
If you have any corrections or additions please let me know and we’ll make the changes.