Jun 08, 2010 Steve McMahon Uncategorized
There’s a little hamlet in the very northwest corner of the Town of Lysander. For more than 100 years, there’s been a store in the building on the northeast corner of the hamlet. That was, until a few years ago. Like the churches, post office, schoolhouse and grange hall years before, the general store closed its doors, too. But, last week the little store reopened once more.
The little hamlet is Lysander. According to Clayton’s 1878 “History of Onondaga County,” it was “first settled about the year 1810, and went by the name of Vickery’s Settlement, a family or two by that name having located here. About the year 1817, Chauncey Betts, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Skinner, located here .At this time it began to be called Betts’ Corners, and went by that name until a post-office was established; they then gave it the name of Lysander.”
Fagan’s Atlas of 1860 shows Lysander with about 35 houses, 185 inhabitants and stores on three of four corners. Sweet’s Atlas of 1874 again shows stores on three corners. By 1878, Clayton claimed that Lysander had “about 70 dwelling houses, two churches, Methodist and Congregational, two stores, general merchandise a hardware store and tin shop combined a blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, a hotel a shoe shop, harness shop, two millinery shops, two physicians a foundry and a churn factory.”
That same year, L.W. and J.E. Connell exchanged their store on the northwest corner of Lysander for one in Baldwinsville owned by their uncle, Edward Connell. The Baldwinsville store would expand over time into the Connell block that dominated the east side of Oswego Street. Their uncle sold his remaining interest in the Lysander store to J.B. and W.M. Gillett.
Twenty-five years later, disaster struck the little hamlet of Lysander. On Nov. 20, 1902, the front page of the Baldwinsville Gazette & Farmers’ Journal displayed a headline that screamed, “A Great Conflagration. Fire destroys nearly all of the business blocks of Lysander – – post office, hotel, three stores and several dwellings burned to the ground – – loss $30,000.” This may not seem like much, but it equates to nearly $800,000 today.
The article said, “The buildings destroyed were all near the central four corners of the village, the burned area extending to the east and north. The fire started in the general store of the Gillett Bros., the largest store in the village, which was located on the northwest corner . was a large one and was valued at about $7,000 (about $180,000 today). It comprised dry goods, groceries, small hardware, tinware, drugs, produce and everything found in the general stores of the country towns. They did a large business and the loss of this trade until they can reopen will be serious.”
Apparently, there was a critical shortage of both water and firefighting equipment. One local paper said, “Soon after the flames broke out it was perceived that the business center of the village was doomed unless the progress of the fire was immediately checked, and it was suggested that help be summoned from Syracuse. The total lack of water, however, was a problem, which not even the most skillful firemen could successfully meet. Calmer heads prevailed and it was immediately recognized that even had 1,000 fire engines been on the spot, they could do nothing unless the requisite water was at hand.”
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, W.B. Gillett reopened his store in 1903, relocating it in 1906 to the northeast corner. On Feb. 2, 1911, W.M. Gillett advertised his “pre-inventory sale,” including both men’s and ladies’ four-buckle gaiters, and Saskatchewan robes.
By 1924, a man named Fred Blake ran a Red & White Store on the northeast corner. An old photograph shows gas pumps out front. By the 1950s, it belonged to Bob Curtis and Don Ward, who operated it until 1972. Most folks today can remember the Curtis & Ward store. One of those folks is Jack Kline, who last week reopened the little store on the northeast corner.
Jack said, “When I was kid, my dad used to fix the refrigerated truck for Bob Curtis and Don Ward. They used the truck to carry sides of beef to bring back here to butcher. While Dad was out front, they’d cut me a slice of baloney or ham to eat. That was back when it was a real general store with two doors. They had everything from a full meat counter to nuts and bolts. They even threaded pipe and cut glass down in the basement.”
The new store, called “Kline’s Cozy Corner,” offers a bit less inventory. But, it’s just right for the local folks of Lysander or those just passing through. It carries an assortment of candy, snacks, soda, gifts, knick-knacks and, of course, plenty of coffee.
As I grabbed a soda from the cooler, Jack recounted the recent history of the store. “My mother, Flo Kline bought it from Curtis & Ward in 1972 and kept it until the late 1980s. That’s when Danny Rogers bought it. Then, Doug Housel bought it 1997. He still owns the building, but I rent the place from him. I always said I’d like to have it back in the family, and I guess now I do.”
For more than 100 years, there’s been a store in the building on the northeast corner of the little hamlet of Lysander. Fire doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat to the store these days. First, I’ve seen the shiny engines sitting in the firehouse up on the hill. And, there’s plenty of water out in this neck of the woods. And the new owner, Jack Kline, is a Lysander Fire Commissioner.
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Jack Kline stands on the front porch of Kline’s Cozy Corner, which opened last week in the hamlet of Lysander. Jack’s mother, Florence “Flo” Kline, ran a general store in this spot from 1972 through the late 1980s, after which it was owned and operated first by Danny Rogers and then by Doug Housel. The racing flag refers to the hobby enjoyed by Jack, his wife, Joanne, and their four kids, Melissa, Scott, Joey and A.J. According to Jack, ‘It’s kind of a family ritual for us all to race on Saturday night.’ He said that just as they do when racing, the whole family will pitch in and work together at the store.