Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thistle Building History

Thankfully, no lives were lost in the terrible fire that destroyed the Thistle Building over the weekend. Due to safety concerns regarding the structural integrity of the building, however, it will have to come down. (Here is the story.)

Thus, another piece of historic Downtown Lorain is lost.

What were some of the significant tenants in the building over the years? I turned to the city directories at the Lorain Public Library to find out.

It appears that before the 1924 Lorain Tornado, there was a Thistle Building at 676 Broadway as early as 1907. There were furnished rooms for rent and offices as well. A real estate company (Hayes-Francis) was at 700 Broadway.

Apparently, the tornado changed that arrangement.

By the time of the 1926 city directory (the next available book), the Thistle Block was now located at 700 Broadway. The main store tenant at that time was Geo. Clark Co., a jewelry store. Geo. Clark Co. would have a long run at that location, lasting until the mid-to-late 1940s – but another well-remembered Lorain business would be there even longer.

Also in the Thistle Building in that 1926 directory were various physicians, as well as the Knights of Pythias, who used the building's third floor auditorium as their hall for most of the 1930s. Later in the 1940s, the Boilermakers Union 358 would take over the third floor.

During the 1930s and 40s, other stores joined Geo. Clark Co. at 700 Broadway, including Jordan’s (a clothing store), and Aquila Bros (a meat market). Various doctors, lawyers and insurance agents continued to occupy the upstairs rooms.

By 1950, Geo. Clark Co. was out – and Harry’s Men’s Wear was in. Harry’s Grand Opening at the 700 Broadway location was in November 1950. Harry’s would continue to call that location home until around 1986.

Other businesses shared the 700 Broadway storefront with Harry’s in the 1950s, including Young Timer’s Shop. But during the 1960s, Harry’s had the address all to himself. Two beauty salons shared the address with Harry’s in the mid-1970s.

Sadly, the building was vacant around 1986 as Downtown Lorain continued to suffer its rapid decline. A few years later, a few new businesses – Bizcomp (1988), Ana Travel (1988), Great Lakes Limousine (1993) – called 700 Broadway home.

But the building’s heyday was largely over by then. And with the tragic fire over the weekend, the book on the Thistle Building's history has been closed.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting Dan, thanks for sharing.

Rick Kurish said...

Just wondering, but does anyone know the origin of the name Thistle? The 700 block of Broadway was known as the Thistle Block, but I'm not aware of any prominent person in Lorain with that name. The building name would usually be associated with the person or organization who financed the building. Can anyone help me out?

Dan Brady said...

Boy, now we're in trouble! I was counting on Rick to figure out who the building was named after!

Diane Fort-Alloway said...

Thanks for writing this. It's very interesting to hear of all the uses for that building.

BroBax said...

Thanks for the info.. Now who was Thistle??

Dan Brady said...

I dug through the city directories all the way back into the 1890s but couldn't find any reference to anyone with the last name of Thistle. There are also some early 1900s souvenir books highlighting businesses in Lorain that I was hoping might include a reference to the Thistle Block; while several of the other named buildings on Broadway were mentioned, the Thistle building was not. Hopefully something will turn up eventually, if I can find an article from around the time it was built.

Florence Ellis said...

Is it possible that the Thistle is not a family name? Maybe it was named in honor of Scotland's national flower, the thistle. Perhaps the original owner had Scottish origins?

Dan Brady said...

Hi Florence,
I think you're right. In fact, Rick Kurish did some research and has the best theory yet. 'Thistle' might refer to Thistle Lodge No. 3 of the Daughters of Scotland, which was the Lorain chapter, which had been around since 1905. Rick thinks they might have been the original group behind the Thistle Block. I think he's right and have been trying to do the research to back up his theory.