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Front Page » August 19, 2014 » Emery County News » Co-op building/Hunter Drug pieces of Castle Dale history
Published 921 days ago

Co-op building/Hunter Drug pieces of Castle Dale history

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A piece of Emery County's past came tumbling down as the old two story Co-op building at 88 East Main in Castle Dale was torn down Saturday to make way for a new building. The Emery Water Conservancy District is now the new owner of the former drug store and Co-op building.

They purchased the Co-op building from the Montell/Kathryn Seely family. The building was constructed in 1904-1906 by James Peterson.

He had first opened his dry-goods store in his home at 225 East 100 North in Castle Dale some years earlier and was the first to sell notions and luxuries; up until this time merchants in the fledgling community, homesteaders began arriving in the area in the late 1870s, had handled only bare necessities.

Peterson began construction on the building in 1904. He was not an educated engineer, but with common "horse sense" he designed the rafters following the design of trusses on a railroad bridge. With his own "homemade" trusses, he spanned the width of the building, a distance of 56 feet. Thus, the upper room was a room 56 feet square, with no center support pillars. It was reputed to be the largest clear span building in Utah at the time, outside of the Wasatch Front.

Peterson moved his store to the new building on its completion in 1906. According to Paul C. Keller, the son of a later owner of the building, "Under the ownership of James Peterson, this building had a saloon on one side, a dry goods store on the other and a dance hall above, accessible only by an outside staircase at the rear of the building" A sign at the entrance to the dance hall read, "No whooping, hollering or spitting on the floor."

Feb. 14, 1910, was a date long remembered by the townspeople as the night that the dance hall caught fire. Helen Seely Dahl, who was born a couple of blocks away on that very night, tells of the incident in her personal history. "All the men were dressed up for the dance and had to go out and help put out the fire with a bucket brigade."

An unpublished manuscript of Helen's life story further describes the event: "While my birth was occurring, the town's young people were at the dance held regularly on the second floor of the Peterson Store (my mother's Uncle Jim's). The wind was blowing fiercely and suddenly the hall was in flames. An overheated stove was blamed. Since we had no town fire department, a bucket brigade was begun with the young dudes in their finery. The fierce wind carried sparks across an entire block to Grandfather Seely's wash house, an outbuilding of the red brick home built in 1889 by her grandfather, Justus Wellington Seely, II, on the corner of Center Street and 100 South.

Aunt Dora Seely, who was too young to attend the dance, remained at Grandfather Justus Wellington Seely's home to tend the younger children. She tells how the boys, wearing derby hats, carried water in a vain attempt to save the wash house."

Peterson sold his building and business later in 1910 to the Co-op Company, consisting of Samuel Singleton, Edmund Crawford, A.D. Dickson, Ole Sorensen, Mr. Beebe and others, who had been operating in the Moffitt building, farther up the street west.

Historical records are unclear as to when the saloon ceased to be operated in the one half of the main floor.

From 1910 to 1960, the Castle Dale Co-op was an official outlet of ZCMI the Zions Co-operative Mercantile Institution, "America's First Department Store." According to a commemorative plaque prepared by ZCMI and presented to then owners, Montell and Kathryn Seely, "This building, built in 1906, housed the Castle Dale Co-op beginning in 1910. Until 1960 it was part of the ZCMI cooperative system which serviced more than 150 communities in the Intermountain area with retail commodities and services beginning in 1868."

On Jan. 1, 1916, A.D. Keller was hired as manager of the Co-op store. When shares of stock in the Company came up for sale, Keller purchased them. Over the years he acquired all the stock and became the sole owner. At the beginning of A.D. Keller's tenure, the building was still divided by a brick wall extending the full length of the building but with an 8-foot archway in the center, giving inside access to both rooms. One room was used for sale of dry goods, clothing, shoes, etc., and the other for hardware, groceries, and grain. The wall was removed probably before 1920.

Details are sketchy as to when the top floor ceased to be used as a dance hall, but it was probably around the time that the saloon moved to some other location as well. Modern observation of the architectural elements of the building reveals that there were two arched doorways at the back of the second floor, so the stairs to the dance hall probably connected to a porch of some kind that ran the length of the building. Some time after the famous fire of 1910, the outside stairs were dismantled and an inside stairway and landing, with a trap door at the top, was installed for access to the second floor. Then a section was added at the back of the building wherein a partial basement was dug and a coal-fired boiler was installed.

Also at this time a large, manually-operated freight elevator was installed, which was used to transport heavy objects from the ground floor to the upper floor or from the ground floor to the basement. This addition of the basement and the back section of the building are thought to have occurred around 1934 because another unique feature of the basement is a cement-walled vault that utilizes the heavy vault door from the old Emery County Bank.

A.D. Keller had served as vice-president of the Emery County Bank. It closed in 1934 and merged with the Carbon Bank to form the Carbon-Emery Bank.

A records vault was constructed in the basement of the addition to the Co-op building, and the old Emery County Bank vault door was installed there. Old bank records were stored in the vault for a time, as well. Also in the time period of the addition, a walk-in cooler was installed on the main floor, with the body of the cooler in the added section. It was used to store perishable grocery items like eggs, butter, milk, cheese, etc. Larger-than-usual display windows across the front of the store were probably installed in the 1930s or 40s as well. A photo of the store from the 1920s shows four individual windows, one on each side of the two front doors.

The present windows span the length of the façade, and two recessed doorways allow for ample display space on platforms behind the windows. The two front doorways are a holdover from the days when the building housed two different business entities, though, as has been stated, the inner wall of the main floor was probably removed in the first 15 or 20 years of the building's history.

Keller hired Wallace Ryan to work for him (presumably in the 1930s), and after a short time Ryan became manager. In 1941, Keller sold the building and business to Wallace and Rosa May Ryan. The Ryans operated the Castle Dale Co-op as a ZCMI outlet until 1960 and continued as a general store until 1966, when they sold it to Ward and Ileen Jensen. The Jensens added appliances to the inventory, especially Maytag Washers. In 1970, the Jensens sold to Sterling and Hope Umphenour, who added a storage room at the back of the building. The Umphenours also began to stock a full line of fabrics in addition to the groceries and general store items. Another addition by the Umphenours was a large electric Pepsi-Cola clock installed on the outside of the building above the front entrance. During the Umphenours era they advertised their prices in the Emery County Progress. In 1973 Spam was selling for 69 cents per can. toilet paper was .89 cents for two packages; chili was .35 cents per can, grapes were .29 cents a pound.

From 1978 to the present time the store was owned by the Montell Seely family, who added food storage equipment and commodities. Seelys employed Fred Tubbs as manager for three years then assumed the management themselves and also phased out the groceries and expanded the fabric inventory. Kathryn Seely and Talma Atwood operated K-T Fabrics in the building from 1980 to 1983. Action TV, an electronics repair and rental shop, occupied the back room in 1981 and 1982. The fabric store closed in 1983, and Seelys rented the space to Maryla Adams and Ricki Edwards for a branch of Craft Corner, whose main place of business was in Price. This arrangement was in place from 1984 to 1985.

From 1985 to 2014, the building has housed other small businesses for brief periods: Dixie's Trade Center (second hand furniture), operated by Dixie Thompson; an exercise gym, operated by the Staley brothers; and a motorcycle sales and service business, operated by Derek Beagley. A few different people utilized the building for storing large items to be rented out for wedding decorations, Bonnie Swenson, Mindy Sorensen (now Jackson), and Rexanne Hulse. The picture windows at front of the building seemed especially suitable for showcasing their available backdrops and decorations.

In 2014, the Seelys sold the Co-op building to the Emery Water Conservancy District. It was a feature of the main business block of Castle Dale for more than 100 years.

Special thanks to Kathryn Seely who compiled the history of the Co-op building from Emery County and Castle Dale History books, journals and histories of residents of Emery County and her own recollections of the building and its history.

The old Co-op building will be demolished soon to make way for an office building which will house the Emery Water Conservancy District, Castle Valley Special Service District and the Castle Dale City offices.

The Seelys said about the Co-op building, "It's a historic old building and most of the local folks have fond memories of buying penny candy or trading eggs at the store. They remember getting their school shoes there. Many community members remember working as clerks and stock boys at the store."

The other building demolished was most recently used by TC West for the last 13 years which has relocated to Huntington. TC West prints logos on hats, shirts and other items.

The Hunter drug store is probably the most remembered store at this location. It was built in 1910 by S.P. Snow on the southwest corner of 100 East and Main Street. On Oct. 3, 1923, Lorin T. Hunter and Claire Hunter purchased the store and operated it for 52 years, until 1975 when it became Conover Drug. It was owned by Guy and Justine Conover. Justine Conover was a hairdresser and operated a shop in the back. Later she turned the drug store into a clothing shop called Sassy Pants. During the 1980s the store housed an upholstery shop.

The old buildings are now gone but the memories will linger in the community.

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August 19, 2014
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