6 East Main Street

 

One of Evansville's first hardware stores was located at 6 East Main Street.  The business was owned by Aaron Baker, who had a small shop where he did tin work and sheet metal work.   

In 1864, the business was purchased by Caleb Snashall and Stillman Parker.  They removed the building Baker had been using to a lot on North Madison Street where it was converted to a residence.  Parker and Snashall then proceeded to build a two story building, 22 feet wide and 60 feet deep, fronting on East Main Street. 

The men filled the store with merchandise generally found in a well-stocked hardware store of the day.  Two years later, Parker sold his interest in the company to Albert Adams and the firm became known as Adams & Snashall. 

Caleb Snashall was a native of England, born in 1840 and had come to the United States at the age of 9 with his parents.  They settled in New York and at the age of 24, Caleb moved to Evansville and purchased the hardware business.  Two years later, he married Emiline Adams, the daughter of his partner.

Albert Adams and Snashall were in business together until 1871 when Adams sold his portion of the business to Lansing Mygatt a native of New York.  The new partners changed the name of the firm to Snashall & Mygatt. 

The new partners purchased an adjoining store and began enlarging and improving their property.  A twenty foot addition was made to the north side of the building making the floor space nearly 5,000 square feet.  They added more stock to their hardware business, including shelf and heavy hardware, revolvers, cutlery, stoves, farm implements, tin, copper, sheet iron and coal.  They also advertised the Senaca Falls Iron Well Pumps and offered to install the machines in wells.

Snashall and Mygatt also carried windmills as part of their merchandise and in February 1873, as a demonstration and advertisement, the firm erected a windmill at the public well in Evansville.  The apparatus was well received and proved to be a foreshadowing of another enterprise in which Snashall and Mygatt would become partners.

That same month, Allen S. Baker, William Smith, Almeron Eager, Levi Shaw and Snashall and Mygatt formed the A. S. Baker & Co. to do general machine work and to build a rotary steam engine that Shaw and Baker had invented.  Caleb Snashall became the first president of the firm that would later be known as the Baker Manufacturing Company and would become known world wide for its windmills.

While Baker started manufacturing the rotary engine, Snashall & Mygatt continued to operate their hardware business.  They began to manufacture cheese factory implements for new factories that had started operation in the Evansville area.  Their connection with the Baker foundry and machine shop gave them additional facilities for manufacturing the vats, heaters, hoops, and cans that were shipped to cheese factories in neighboring communities. 

The following year, 1874, Snashall and Mygatt's experience in the windmill business proved advantageous when they became the general agents for the Monitor windmill manufactured by the Baker Company.  The hardware merchants reported that the sale of the mill was meeting with success far beyond any expectations the owners of the firm may have had.

Farmers contacted by Snashall and Mygatt wanted to buy the windmill, even before it had been thoroughly tested.  The merchants described the windmill design as simple and easy to erect.  When it was in operation, the machine could withstand the heaviest winds or changes in the weather.

While the windmill proved a successful product for both the manufacturer and merchant, the hardware store continued to supply other merchandise.  They employed an English immigrant, Ed. Sargent, to work in the store.  Sargent handled the tin shop, repairing and putting on tin roofs in the Evansville area.

In 1877, Snashall and Mygatt once again enlarged their store.  They purchased an adjoining store owned by George Magee, removed the partition wall and made one large room where they could display their hardware merchandise.  A foundation was laid for an addition to the rear of the building.

The new floor space was said to be the largest and best equipped hardware store in Rock County.  While this may have been an exaggerated local claim-to-fame, it was certainly the largest store in Evansville in 1877.  The new store covered the area 42 x 82 feet and included a large cellar.  The floor space covered the same area as four of Evansville's largest stores.

Partition walls separating the stores on either side of Snashall and Mygatt's store were made of brick and extended above the adjacent roofs for fire protection.  A tin roof was also put on the building for added fire proofing.

Albert Snashall, Caleb's brother, was the building contractor.  Albert kept an office on the second floor of the store building and had his carpenter shop in the building as well.  He employed several men and was kept busy building houses and stores in Evansville.

In 1883, Lansing Mygatt's health was failing and he dissolved his partnership with Snashall.  While the two men continued to own the building, they turned their interests to other ventures.  Their tinner, Ed Sargent, bought an interest in the F. A. Baker & Company Hardware establishment and that firm became the local general agents for the windmill and pump business of the Baker Manufacturing Company.

The store was rented to another hardware firm, Clapp & Sausmann in April 1883.  They hired J. H. Benney to do their metal work, tin and iron work, tin roofing, eave troughing and other jobs a talented tinner could handle. 

Caleb Snashall turned his attention to another venture in 1883 when he, Allen Baker, Stephen Baker, Almeron Eager, William Smith, Lloyd and George Pullen formed the Evansville Manufacturing Company to make small nails and tacks in a building near the Baker Manufacturing Company.  Caleb also became one of the traveling salesmen for the Monitor windmill and pumps made at Bakers. 

In 1885, Snashall made a trip to the western states and the following year visited Illinois in pursuit of sales for the Baker company.  His brother, Albert, installed the windmills and pumps until 1889 when the work became too strenuous for him.

When Clapp and Sausman went out of business in 1886, Benney took over the hardware store and Walter F. Biglow joined him as a partner.  Biglow & Benny advertised that they were dealers in hardware and tinware at the old stand of Clapp and Slausman.

Walter Biglow decided to go into the furniture business and the two men split the business in January 1892. Benney maintained the hardware business and took in another partner, a Mr. Herbert.  Benney kept his hardware business in the east side of the building and built a partition dividing the store.  Within a month, the Benney hardware business was purchased by the Evansville Merchantile Association, the Grange Store, and Benney and Herbert became managers for the Grange hardware store.

Biglow set up his furniture store in the west side of the Snashall & Mygatt store and Will Halsted became his partner.  A year later, Biglow added an undertaking business. 

Every available space in the building was being used by early 1895.  Henry Monshau, a local harness maker, moved into the basement of the building temporarily in April 1895.  The need for space for local businesses was growing rapidly.

In June 1897, Snashall announced that the Snashall & Mygatt block was about to be rebuilt and would be one of the finest stores in the city.  The cost of remodeling was estimated to be $4,000.  It was noted that the new store was one of the most metropolitan appearing businesses in the city, with its beautiful long double front of plate glass.

By the following January, the building was ready for occupancy and Caleb's son, Dr. Claude Snashall, a recent graduate of the Chicago School of Dentistry, set up offices in the second story of the building.  There were also apartments in the second story that were considered to be some of the finest living rooms in the business district.  Charles Barnard occupied one of the apartments and Frank Young another.

The Fiedler and Cole barber shop operated in the basement of the newly remodeled building.  A red and white striped pole on the sidewalk advertised their business.

The new building was photographed by Elmer E. Combs for a special supplement to the Evansville newspaper, the Enterprise, in 1898.  The four-page brochure included pictures of prominent business people, including Claude Snashall, and pictures of houses, churches, commercial and industrial buildings.

The former hardware store became a clothing store, within a year after it was remodeled.  The Grange Store, at 19 East Main, was outgrowing its space and renting additional stores to house its various departments.  The entire first floor of the Snashall & Mygatt building was rented to house the men's clothing, boots and shoes offered by the Grange.  W. H. Doolittle and his son, Charles, were in charge of the store.  The Grange continued to rent the space until they built their new store in the first block of West Main Street in 1904.

The property had by this time been given to Caleb's children, following his death in 1903.  The Snashall's continued to own the building for another seventeen years. 

When the Grange clothing store moved out, another clothing store was ready to move into a larger space and Gillman & Sons, a men's clothing store operated by Ray Gillman and his sons, Fred and Nay, rented the first floor of the Snashall block.  The Gillmans had rented various locations on East Main Street before moving to 6 East Main.  

For the next thirty-four years, Gillman & Sons was located in the Snashall & Mygatt building.  Ray Gillman had operated a livery stable in Evansville in the 1800s and then joined Michael Maschler in the clothing business.  In 1889, Ray and his sons began to operate their own men's clothing store.

The store at 6 East Main was prominently featured in a 1907 photograph of thirteen new Rambler automobiles owned by Evansville people.  The local Rambler dealer, Clarence Baker, arranged for the cars and their owners to line up on the street in front of Gillman's Store to record his successful sales.

A barbershop continued to operate in the basement of the building.  Fiedler & Cole were replaced by William Douglas in 1907.  Advertising himself as a tonsorial artist, he offered bath facilities as well as the usual hair cuts and shaves.

Several years later, in 1913, William J. Cleveland operated the same shop.  Cleveland sold his business to Frank Ringhand and Mark Moore who continued the barber shop business.

The Snashall's sold the building to E. H. Garret in March 1920.  He continued to rent the main floor of the building to the Gillman's and a new dentist, Dr. C. B. Cain moved into the offices in the second story, where Dr. Claude Snashall had his dentist office.  Cain advertised X-ray diagnosis.

When Ray Gillman died in 1926, his sons continued the clothing business.  Although Fred was an owner of the store, most people knew him as the City Clerk and as the Police Chief of the City of Evansville.  Fred was known for his aggressive pursuit of criminals on the run.

The Gillman brothers operated the store until 1938 when they quit the business.   Fred Gillman was the oldest clothing merchant in Evansville at the time of the store's closing. 

The brothers held a liquidation sale to get rid of their clothing stock.  They hired a firm that handled closing-out sales to mark down the merchandise and handle the final disposal of their merchandise.  In all the years of operation, the Gillman store had handled only three brands of cltohing, including work shirts from the Racine Shirt Company, a brand the store had sold for more than 40 years.

In February 1939, Julius Jensen moved his Central Billiard Parlor from the store located at 4 East Main between the Snashall Block and the Bank of Evansville.  (This store was demolished and the area was incorporated into the Union Bank & Trust building in 1951.) 

Jensen opened his new Central Billiard Parlor in the rooms vacated by the Gillman Clothing Store.  Before moving in, Jensen remodeled the interior and moved four billiard tables from his old location.  He planned to expand to eight billiard tables and add booths and tables for the tavern business.

Following Jensen's death, James Rowley opened Rowley's Tavern in the Snashall block in 1944.  He purchased the building from Katherine Cheriee of Chicago.  The Rowley family moved into the apartments above the tavern at 8 1/2 East Main.  Rowley also purchased the tavern and pool business from Burr Jones, located in the Biglow building, east of the Snashall block.

In the 1954, Rowley sold the business to Ron and Peg Berg. 

Berg sold to Gib Farney and Wallace Fink and the business name was changed to Gib and Wally's.  Fink sold his half of the business to his partner.

During the time that Farney owned the business, the front was remodeled with wood paneling replacing the plate glass windows.

In May 1969, Farney sold the business to Lee Zurfluh for $42,000.  Zurfluh updated the restaurant and bar by adding a walk-in cooler and remodeling storage space.  He also added air conditioning and a new heating system.  In 1971, he remodeled the former barbershop in the basement into additional tavern space.

Zurfluh turned the business over to Jim Martin in the early 1980s.  The business was sold to Steve Lord in the early 1990s and the name of the restaurant/bar was changed to the Field House Bar & Grill.

Today the restaurant is a pizza parlor, opened in 2002, after a fire closed the same business in 2001. 

The building was purchased by the Union Bank & Trust Company in 2002 and the upstairs is being remodeled for offices for the bank. 

Through many changes of ownership and building style, the business property at 6 East Main has been a prominent feature of Evansville's commercial district since the 1860s.