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History of the NW Corner of Main and Portage Streets - Part II

April 16, 2015
Westfield Republican

By Marybelle Beigh

Westfield Historian

A later BeeLines will tell the story of the disastrous 1884 fire that destroyed the famous Westfield House hotel and stables on the NW corner of Main and Portage, along with the north end of the McClurg Block on the SW corner. Sanborn maps from 1886, 1891, 1896, 1902, 1907, 1912, 1923, and overlays on the 1923 map through 1954 were first sources used to determine the progression of structures in the devastated area.

The 1881 Chautauqua County Atlas maps show the Westfield House building occupying the entire NW corner lot, as well as 3 or 4 contiguous buildings that were businesses and homes, all of which were burned down. With one vacant lot between these and the first fire hall building, a direct westerly wind sent the fire away from that structure. The 1886 Sanborn map outlines the "Ruins of the Fire July '84" for the Westfield House, Stables, and building block along North Portage, and West Main. Address and lot numbering changed over the years, but according to current North Portage address numbers included 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, & 12 which correspond to lot numbers 205(12), 206,(10), and 207(8 & 6), but no lot numbers for addresses 2 and 4. On 1886 map, the hotel is listed for Main Street lot 415, the line of the upper bank of Chautauqua creek on lot 414, and the stable ruins on lot 413 (about where the level ground and driveway that goes back to the Little League field is now located.)

According to the 1891 Sanborn map, the ruins have been cleared away, and on North Portage there is a Cabinet Shop on lot 205 (12) and a Harness Shop on lot 206 (10). These two structures are also found on the 1896 Sanborn map, while the Fenner Block has been constructed on lot 204 (14 & 16). Lot 207 (6 & 8), and Main Street Lot 413 (NP addresses 2 & 4) remain vacant. Westfield's Centennial Year, 1902, Sanborn map shows a Music Shop in the building where the Cabinet Shop was located at 12 NP, the building at 10 NP is vacant, and a new building housing a Blacksmith Shop is located on lot 207 (6 & 8 NP). The 1907 Sanborn map shows that the music store (pianos) is now located in the Fenner Block at 16 NP, there is NO building at 12 NP, the little building at 10 NP sells fruit, and the former Blacksmith shop at 6-8 NP has been expanded and is now a Pool Room. But there are still no structures on the actual NW corner Main Street lot 413 (2-4 NP). Down Westfield Hill on West Main, the trolley tracks for the JC & LE RR are fully operational, and there is a depot or ticket office just to the east of the tracks (future BeeLines story and photo for this).

Finally, the 1912 Sanborn map shows a small structure at address 2 on North Portage which seems to be shaped more like a lunch car, with a covered patio running the full length of the structure, along the Main Street side. This mysterious structure appeared on a couple of old post cards circa 1910-15, two separate views - one looking west on Main toward the intersection from mid block between Elm and Portage, and the other looking northward up North Portage from the South Portage side of the Village Park. In 2012, a photo of this structure was located and purchased on eBay, identified as "Circa 1912 Photograph Lunch Diner Portage Main St. Viaduct Westfield New York." According to Diner Historian, Mike Engle, this first-known diner in Westfield, this diner is not likely a Closson Lunch Wagon, but may be an early diner built by Earl Richardson, or a diner made from a trolley car, since it is near the junction of two trolley lines. A July 1913 Westfield Republican notice tells that the little restaurant on the NW corner of Main and Portage had been purchased and was being run by Misses Mary Morton and Belle Anderson. A little class booklet, like a yearbook, several of which were published by WHS graduating classes in the early 1900s, this one called The Orange and White from 1907, contains an adverisement for "The Cosy [sic] Caf has Everything Good to Eat - Corner N. Portage and Main Sts., Westfield, New York. Manville & Giddings, Proprietors."

In the March 13, 1907 Westfield Republican, an article headlined "We Are Booming" included the following announcement: "The Odd Fellows have purchased the old Westfield House site of W. L. Minton for $4000, and will erect a $35,000 building upon it. The building will contain a first class Opera House." Whatever happened to this? Watch for the answer to this question, and a continuation of the history of the NW corner of Main and Portage, Part III in the next BeeLines.

Marybelle Beigh is the current Westfield Historian and writes the BeeLines column for the Westfield Republican on a weekly basis.



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