Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lost Glories: McMahans Furniture Site and the Griswold Block

One of the downtown empty lots is in the news today. Writing in the Statesman, Michael Rose says that a bank wants to buy the lot and erect a new building.
Columbia Bank intends to buy the lot at 260 State St. and construct a building on the property, said Mark Shipman, a Salem attorney who represents Columbia. The bank wants to open a branch in the proposed building, which also would have space for other office and retail tenants, Shipman said.
The lot at present is a gravel wasteland, the sole residue after the 2006 fire that destroyed the McMahan's furniture store. (The SJ story has more on that, as well as Robert West's historical page - scroll down to item 9)

Before the building operated as McMahon's it was a Hogg Brother's furniture store.

But even that was a second or third round of redevelopment. In 1940, the earlier building had been demolished.

The history on the first and second set of buildings is not entirely certain and in the interest of time we haven't verified the online accounts.

According to West, the Griswold Block was one of very first brick commercial buildings in Salem, originally built in 1858. It was enlarged to 3 stories in 1862, and survived a fire in 1865.

In the early 1900s, architect Fred Legg seems to have had an office in the building, by then called the Murphy Block. During the snowstorm of January 1937, someone took a photo from the sidewalk near Alessandro's site, looking across to the Pioneer Trust building and the hotel. (For a better scan and detail see here.)

The new building in 1940 was then also called the Murphy building.

The corner of Commercial and State was hopping at one time. We saw some of the activity in the images of the parking lot next to Alessandro's. It is one of the prime corners in Salem, and it should be hopping again. This section of State Street can be lovely, and full of activity.

Hopefully the bank's desire for a parking lot and a drive-through window can be tempered. Downtown doesn't need more parking lots! It needs lovely buildings and inviting storefronts!

(Top image here, all historical images from Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Collections.)

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