Friday, March 18, 2011

Woodmen Hall

Woodmen Hall, probably in December 1913
Woodmen Hall, at 102 N Main and Ohio, on the northeast corner of the center of town, was built in 1905.  Those involved in its construction include SA Wilson and his brother Joseph.  A clipping from the Fountain Museum, possibly from a promotional flyer dated 1906, states that the Gore Mercantile Company was owned by CA Gore and Henry Link.  Gore was the manager, assisted by John Redmond.  The building was built by the local lodge at a cost of $8000.

Joseph and Rosa Wilson
The building has a main room downstairs that has been used as a store for the past 100-plus years.  The hall upstairs was used by civic groups, and to show movies in the 1940s and 50s, though on occasion a movie was projected on the outside wall of the building during the heat of the summer, and people sat in the adjacent lot to the north.

Occupants of the store have included: (Charles) Gore's Merchantile, 1905-1920, William and Charles Torbit's grocery in the 1930s, Martin's grocery store in the 1940s-1950s.  Hylton operated a store there for a year or two in the late 1950s, and Liz's Variety Store operated from 1968 into the 1980s.  Fountain Furniture had a sign on the building as seen in a 1976 photo.  God's Pantry has served the community from this location since at least 2005.  More details on the dates and tenants are welcomed.

In addition, a room on the south end of the 1st floor was used as the Post Office in the 1950s and possibly earlier.

On the south side of Woodmen Hall, where the sidewalk is now, used to be a horse trough and hitching rings.  The trough was taken out before 1976, as related in a story from Clarissa Toothman Wilson.

Woodmen Hall

1968 Fountain Valley News

North of Woodmen Hall was WG Riddoch's Real Estate office in 1910, and his investment company in 1918.  Riddoch's Fountain Lumber and Supply Company operated near here from about 1900 to 1920, and went bankrupt in the depression.  Also north of the hall were George Metcalf's Uneeda Restaurant in 1921, George Clark's house painting business from at least 1918 into the 1920s (though he was also on the west side of Main Street by Torbit's store), a barber, Pelfrey's bakery or restaurant.  Ferguson's Feed Store stood east of the hall.  Photographs of some of these businesses can be found on the About Town page at right.

This data has been compiled from old newspaper clippings, census records, business directories and photographs.  See the Wilson Farmstead historic register nomination and the N. Torbit interview for more details.

The building was evaluated in 1976 as part of the inventory of historic sites in El Paso County.  Its owner at the time was William Bouk.  The building boasted a tin roof on its twelve foot ceilings downstairs. Sixteen by eighteen inch timbers support the ceiling, and leaded glass windows spell out WOW in purple glass on the front of the building. History included a elaborate theater with curtains upstairs where dances and meeting were held.  "Spanish-Americans were forced to dance in the basement."  By 1932 the building held a store with a butcher shop in the back.  It was later an auction house, and in 1976 was a furniture store.  The upstairs had been closed because the floor was unsafe.

Marguerite Bulkley added that the first store in the Woodmen Hall may have been that of Henry Williams.  After the Lock Ames store burned, the town had no place for meetings or dances, and the upstairs floor of the Hall was used for this. 

Charles Torbit Jr.

Fountain Trading Company (Torbit)

Weekly Gazette Oct 24 1901

This clipping is from a column in the Gazette, with various news from the town of Fountain.  Seems there was another store at this location, northeast corner of main and Ohio, before the Woodmen Hall was built.   The census sheds no light on the identity of Will Wright or Mr. Collins.

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