A Letter to the Editor of the Windham County Transcript in the November 15, 1973, paper from Ruth A. Fiske
The announcement in last week’s Transcript of an important real estate transfer of property brought to mind many memories of the way in which our borough has changed in appearance. Buildings are gone, never to return; old landmarks- and now another is on its way: the Exchange Block. It would seem very timely for someone to take a picture of this block and put it in the Transcript before it is gone and too late to preserve for the future.
I have traveled Main Street by the Exchange Block, either right side of it or across the street going on the easterly side of Main Street many times. If I had a penny every time, I am sure the weight would be so great it couldn’t be lifted easily.
It so happens that my home was situated on the westerly side of Main Street. One had to cross the railroad track somewhere along the line. At times, in the earlier days, we crossed at various places, where the freight station used to be made the difference. If the freight extended up too far, we used the lower place to cross, not always at the crossing where the gates were, but above wherever was an opening in the freight cars.
At first the long platform extending the north way was comparatively short and most everyone crossed the track at the corner of the Wood Building, later called the Pellett Building, which entered Railroad Square, making a shortcut. Later on, the board plat-form was extended. Even later, the Railroad Company built a fence much higher up Railroad Street and this barrier was respected more by more people than before.
Each time the railroad was crossed on the short cuts it was necessary to travel through Central Street, which was only a very short street. Exchange Block was to the right and side of the street and all open across the back of the block on Railroad Square.
The square was a very busy place, the railroad station next to the tracks with passenger trains coming through at scheduled times and there was much freight service. Of course, we were well notified ahead by the train whistles and the lowering of the railroad gates when all traffic had to stop and wait no matter how far it extended.
The rear of Exchange Block was a busy place. The horse-driven vehicles were parked there. The stores had entrances for loading in the rear where there were steps and facilities for loading heavy boxes and groceries.
In the building as one looks at the front, the upper right hand store was a grocery store for many years, the A. H. Armington Store. Mr. Armington opened the store in 1888 and it was carried on for many years. He was later assisted by his son Frederick, who carried on after his father’s death in 1924.
Grocery stores were different than today. Most customers bought things in large quantities; a barrel of flour was usual and the homes were built accordingly to have a barrel of flour under a counter in a cupboard. There was an appropriate gadget to hold the barrel off the floor so it would swing around easily. When not in use, it was hidden away out of sight.
The next store to the grocery store was a barber shop run by Mr. Healy, then later by Gaston Maindon.
Then the last store in the building, on the end, was a drug store. Rockwell Lyon was owner of the store for a long period. When he became older and unable to carry on as well, Charles H. Burroughs entered into his employ and upon the death of Mr. Lyon, in 1901, he took over the entire business.
The Exchange Block is three stories high. In early pictures, one can see an emblem on the outside of a third story window which indicates the meeting place of the Masonic Lodge.
On the second floor, at one time, early in the 1900’s, a Girl’s Club held meetings there. The club was a part of a larger organization. At one time, delegates attended a convention in Pennsylvania and another occasion at Smith College.
On the same floor, George Pappajion opened up a studio and took many photographs before he moved to another building across the street near the railroad.
Other reasons why it was necessary to pass the Exchange Club in one’s daily life was the fact that the United States Post Office was situated in the south corner of the present Town Hall Building where C. A. Potter was postmaster. Everyone in those days had to get their mail at the Post Office, before the time of rural delivery. Later, the Post Office was moved to a building on the short street of Central Street and it was diagonally across from the Exchange Block. George M. Pilling was postmaster at that time.
The bank, the library and the churches were all in the upper part of Main Street so necessitated much travel through this area. Also my twelve years of grade and high school, making four trips a day, made many trips up and down that portion of Main Street.
It is hoped that some people will remember the building next to this block in question and see in their mind the white life-size horse in the window of Call Brothers, a harness shop. In the opposite end of the building was a grocery store, owned by A. N. Smith.
Underneath, down the wooden stairs, was a meat market run by a Mr. Phillips.
This building had several wooden steps as I remember. Main Street, through hills and vales, apparently wasn’t very level on its banks, this building being up steps. Then above, on the opposite corner of Central street, in 1840, was a hill where the Methodist Episcopal Church was first built. Later the small hill was removed and a basement portion built and raised up the first structure.
In later years there was some more indication that there were hills when the filling station above the town hall was built on the lower level, after removing a hill on which was a two-tenement house.
It is now time to be thinking about the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence in 1776. May this short story stir up your memories of the days gone by, especially those people who have lived in the Borough of, first Danielsonville, and now Danielson.
The more recent inhabitants, we hope, may become interested in our past history.
Ruth A. Fiske