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A “Grate” History Mystery Solved!

May 29, 2015
Westfield Republican

By Marybelle Beigh

Westfield Historian

Many of you readers may recall that between 2009 and early 2012, your Westfield Historian started and ran Parkview Ice Cream Parlor at 3 East Main Street in the Spencer Block building at the NE corner of Main and Portage. When setting up for our second season, we did a major "spring cleanup" of the basement of the entire building, clearing out a lot of debris, plus loads of metal scrap from old furnaces, water heaters, and the like. In the process, we found a large heavy decorative iron grate that we assumed must have been part of the dcor of the building faade maybe a hundred or more years before.

Article Photos

Photo by Marybelle Beigh
A photo of grate taken in 2010, in alley behind 3 East Main.

Vince, the Executive II barber, who owns the entire building, was consulted about this historic item, but he was unable to find any evidence of where it might have been located on the building. A search of old photos was made, but the only one that was located that showed a business with such decorative grates was of Wiser's store, which had been located several buildings further east on Main Street. And those grates did not match the pattern on the grate found in the Spencer Block basement. Vince was happy to just get the basement cleared out and allowed one of the local metal dealers to remove the grate and the furnaces and old water heaters from the premises.

A couple of photographs were taken of the grate standing in the alley just before it went to its "doom" in the metal scrap heap.

Fast forward to a lunch at The Parkview restaurant in spring of 2015, and while waiting for the meal to arrive, your Westfield Historian was examining the greatly enlarged old photos on the walls. What a surprise to see the grate very prominently located on the North Portage side of the corner of the building in one of those photos! A search of the photo-postcard archives at the Patterson Library (for something else, actually) lead to the discovery of a postcard showing this same grate. The postmark dated the photo to sometime prior to March 1911, and signage showing Portage Inn nearby limit's the earliest date of the photo to 1908.

Please enjoy the photos showing the "grate" mystery from 2010, and the postcard from a century earlier, with the grate at "home."


More Highlights Discovered in the History of the Spencer Block!

While looking for something else in my historian files (of course!), "New Furniture Firm" headline jumped out at me from a photocopy out of the December 21, 1892, Westfield Republican. Quoting from the article, "The announcement has already been made that Frank and John Wolfe have bought the furniture stock and business of H. Bannister. While we are sorry to lose Mr. Bannister from our business ranks, we are glad that his place is to be filled by two home young men the Wolfe Brothers" Based on the note about a previous announcement, further research on the NYS Historic Newspapers website found that notice in the December 7, 1892, Westfield Republican.

Just after the BeeLines about the Spencer Block history appeared, I was messaged by John Paul Wolfe, CCHS McClurg Museum curator, that the Wolfe Bros. were his family. In a recent interview, John Paul shared more about this, and was pleased that additional information had been located. So now there are two more pieces of Wolfe family history to add to the story.

You may contact Marybelle Beigh, Westfield Historian, with information, documents, articles, photos, memories, comments, questions, and requests for historical research and stories by email:, or by phone: 397-9254.



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