This is the information that was presented to the State Historical bard for the purpose of getting the Main Street of Seneca on the Historical Register. This information was e-mailed to me by Dale Nimz, He had presented this to the State Historical for approval April 4, 2006. following the presentation ad is as follows.
The information below is from Architect Dale Nimz,
Several early trails and roads crossed the area that became Nemaha County. Explorer John C. Fremont led an expedition through the area in 1842 and Mormons used Fremont's route as they moved west toward Utah in1847. Two years later, the "49ers" followed the same trail as they rushed to the new California gold fields. Many emigrants also headed to Oregon and passed through the area in the 1840s and 1850s as they journeyed from St. Joseph, Missouri, to connect with the Oregon Trail west of Seneca at Marysville, Kansas. On the military road laid out in 1849 west from Fort Leavenworth, soldiers and supplies traveled to Fort Kearney and on to Salt Lake. The Overland stage and freight line of the 1850s, which originated in Atchison and passed through the new settlement of Seneca, eventually became the Pony Express route of 1861.1
Early settlers of Nemaha County were primarily northerners from Illinois, but there were settlers from other states such as New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa. Further immigration into the county brought families from Germany and Switzerland. German proper names still abound in Seneca. Other European nationalities represented in Nemaha County were Irish, English, Southern Europeans, Scottish, Swedish, Norwegians, Danish, and French.2 Nemaha County was organized in 1855 with a population of only 99 residents. By 1870 the county population was 7,339. Seneca had a population of 6 in 1858 and an estimated population of 800 to 1,000 in 1870.3
With a constant demand for services from travelers, Kansans responded. The Smith Hotel in Seneca, for example, became one of the best-known hotels in northeast Kansas Territory. John Smith established the hotel in 1858 at the present-day location of Fourth and Main Streets. [This is now the center of the Main Street historic district.] The building also served as a restaurant and school. Although the Pony Express mail delivery system lasted only eighteen months, from 1860 to 1861, Smith's Hotel was one of Kansas's home stations.4 The station keeper was the backbone of the Pony Express event though the keepers did not receive as much attention in later history as the Pony Express riders. Seneca was an indispensable service point. Beside the Pony Express, and the Overland stage line, the local post office, established in December, 1858, was a mail station on the overland mail route with entrepreneurial John Smith as postmaster.
During the territorial period, the struggle to secure Kansas as a "free state" was nationally significant. Because the outcome was critical to both Northern and Southern sympathizers, many settlers came to Kansas to support one side or the other. Most of the Nemaha County settlers supported the Free State cause.
Prosperity in Nemaha County depended not only on the procession of travelers that used the services of towns and hamlets in the county, but also on early agricultural production. There were many difficult early years of farming, but by 1876 Nemaha County was fairly well settled and there was no free land left. The progress in increasing farm production was documented in agricultural reports as early as 1878.
In 1858 the territorial legislature approved a special election to select a permanent county seat in Nemaha County. Each town offered what it could to attract votes. Most offered town lots because lots could be sold for cash, which could help a new town finance its public buildings and services. Seneca offered to build a courthouse and donate it to the county as well as a number of town lots. The town's candidacy was helped along by the number of free state settlers. After a series of votes in 1859, Seneca was chosen as the permanent county seat. The town's location and the promise of a permanent place for conducting county business was enough to attract residents. By 1864 Seneca's population had grown to 301.5
From a fledgling town site called "Rock Castle" to the Nemaha County seat, Seneca's early development was typical of many settlements that began through the efforts of a town company. J. B. Ingersoll first claimed the site in 1857 and gave the "Rock Castle" name to his hoped-for community. Ingersoll was joined by several other men in promoting the town: Samuel Lappin, Charles G. Scrafford, Royal Torrey, and Finley Lappin. These men formed a town company, surveyed and platted the lots, and changed the name to "Seneca."6
Seneca's first building was a dog trot or double-pen log cabin which served as a grocery, hotel, register of deeds office, dwelling, shoe shop, and carpenter shop. Most early buildings were log or wood frame. Saw mills were established early and John Smith, proprietor of the Smith Hotel began a saw mill operation in 1858. Seneca thrived on the continuing stream of westward immigrants. By 1865 Seneca had three general stores, one hardware store, one jewelry store, a grist and saw mill, two hotels, and a newspaper with "the entire number of buildings, business houses, dwellings, schoolhouse and public buildings, being fifty-six."7
It is impressive that a railroad was built in Nemaha County as early as 1870. Every Kansas town sought a railroad line because most new towns would not survive without the access to agricultural markets, trade opportunities, and passenger traffic. For those living near or in Seneca, for example, a round trip by ox cart to St. Joseph, Missouri, the nearest market place, would take a week. Just as important at the railroad was the telegraph that came with it and connected all communities across the nation.
The St. Joseph and Denver Railroad Company came to Seneca because C. G. Scrafford, Samuel Lappin, and fifty-three other property owners agreed to guarantee the right of way (one hundred feet wide) and to donate the depot grounds (ten acres) in Seneca. rain service brought new residents and new construction. As one observer mentioned, "the coming of the St. Joseph and Denver Railroad stimulated building of a hundred new houses, representing an investment of $100,000."8 With the railroad and the county seat, leaders of Seneca secured for their town a reasonable expectation for future growth and prosperity.
As completed, the line, later leased to the Union Pacific, Eastern Division, connected to the B & M Railroad at Marysville to the west, and to the Missouri Pacific at Hiawatha to the east. Eventually, the line was constructed to Hastings and Grand Island, Nebraska, and renamed the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad in 1885. The railroad came through the heart of Seneca, parallel with the east-west Main Street and divided the town with the business district and county property near the tracks on the north side and residential districts further north and south of the tracks. The Union Pacific Railroad still runs freight trains through Seneca several times a day.
On May 17, 1870, Seneca was incorporated as a city of the third class and trustees were appointed until municipal elections could be held in 1871. Before 1870 Seneca was part of Richmond Township and had no municipal government of its own. Seneca's "city" status marked its new independence, and at the same time, its new civic responsibilities.
In two historic photographs of the 400 block of Seneca's Main Street from 1870, most of the buildings shown were one-story wood frame structures. There were a few brick buildings (the first constructed in 1861). The community had dirt streets graded just low enough to keep water out of stores and raised board sidewalks generously wide at ten feet.9
In the 1880s, the population of Kansas increased and the economy boomed. Seneca also prospered. As the town was described in 1883, "Seneca, the county seat of Nemaha County, is favorably situated on high rolling prairie land, surrounded on all sides by well cultivated farms and pleasant groves… The city is well built. There are, in Seneca, very many handsome residences… while the business portion of the place is rapidly approaching the appearance of that which belongs to a city." By 1890 the town had a well-established central business district, churches, schools, and railroad connections. One observer commented, "the business portion is built up like a city four times its size."10
Many businesses in the Main Street district had moved from early wood frame buildings into more substantial brick ones by 1890. One of the brick landmarks was the First National Bank, designed by John G. Haskell, architect of the Kansas capital building, in 1889. Several storefronts on Main Street have cast iron thresholds and fronts that were manufactured by the Butler Foundry in Seneca. Development of the businesses and buildings on Main Street from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century was recorded in the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company's maps for Seneca dating from 1885 through 1924. These show that most of the business buildings were constructed during this period and that more and more of them were constructed of brick. As an observer commented in 1895, "most of the business houses are large, elegant structures of modern design with plate glass fronts, heated by steam and lighted by electricity and are built of pressed brick. Upon the whole, the city presents an attractive appearance, and shows nineteenth century enterprise and genuine American progress."11
In the early twentieth century, technological innovation caused important changes in the Seneca Main Street district. By 1911 the town had a public waterworks and electric power plant. Kansans welcomed innovations such as the airplane, automobile, and the tractor. There was increasing demand for good roads. Cities and town invested in infrastructure, especially street paving. Brick paving was most effective at curing the ever-present mud, dust, and ruts along Main Street. Easy to lay and long lasting, vitrified brick streets provided a solution for street paving that was used in many Kansas towns. By 1924 Seneca had five miles of brick paving.
The growth of automobile transportation was reflected in the construction of service buildings on Seneca's Main Street as garages and auto dealers replaced livery stables. In 1922 the Williams Tractor Company was a dealer for Dodge Brothers automobiles and trucks. The Jerome Motor Company was a Ford dealer.12
During the early twentieth century, the Seneca community experienced a civic improvement revival in which leaders promoted the idea that the town needed to clean up its appearance. This revival coincided with national ideals about city beautification that were popular in major metropolitan areas and towns throughout the United States. The Seneca Business Men's Club led "A Model Seneca" campaign. The organization successfully promoted Jake H. Cohen as a write-in candidate for mayor of Seneca. As mayor from 1906 to 1910, Cohen encouraged a schedule of fix-up and clean-up days. As a local historian concluded in 1916, "the movement was the best thing that Seneca had done for years, and she is still feeling the effects of it."13 The movement provided benefits for the town, but community leaders also believed that civic improvement attracted new residents, businesses, and customers to town.
One achievement of this period occurred in 1916 when the town cleared several wood frame buildings from Main Street and constructed an elegant city hall for city offices and the fire department as well as public meeting rooms and restrooms. Later, the new Masonic Temple was constructed in 1917 just north of City Hall on the east side of Fifth Street.
In the great Depression of the 1930s, banks failed, individuals lost the savings and homes, and farmers lost their land. Between 1930 and 1938, scores of Nemaha County farms were sold at auction. To make matters worse, the drought from 1934 to 1937 and an infestation of grasshoppers brought hard times. Many federal programs were established to reduce unemployment and stimulate the economy. Federal financial aid assisted with the construction of a new Seneca Post Office built on Main Street in 1938-1939. This is one of twenty-four post offices listed on the National Register as part of a Kansas Post Office Art work thematic resources nomination.
Trends that affected the Seneca Main Street after World War II were the movement of population from farms to cities, the development of the federal interstate highway system, and the decline of railroads. During this period, railroad passenger service to Seneca ended and the passenger depot was demolished. Although there are fewer farms and farm residents in Nemaha County, agriculture remains the base of the local economy. The Seneca Main Street still is an active business district anchored by public services including the City Hall, Post Office, Library, and the nearby Nemaha County Courthouse and medical offices.
Based on the Seneca Main Street Historic Survey, the major periods of development on Main Street occurred from 1858 to about 1880, from 1880 to about 1900, from 1900 to 1940, and from 1940 to the present. The commercial architecture of the area is representative of Kansas architecture during these periods of development. Buildings constructed in the late nineteenth century represented the Late Victorian Italianate, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles. Buildings constructed in the early twentieth century include examples of the Beaux Arts and Classical Revival styles. Also, there are a number of early twentieth century commercial style business buildings.
Architectural styles prevalent in the district: # Late Victorian Italianate, # Romanesque, # Renaissance … Some of the most prominent buildings in the District date from the early twentieth century from (1901 to 1940), … City Hall, Masonic Temple, Post Office.
The following properties are included in the historic district.
1. Seneca Theater. 301 Main Street, circa 1927, contributing.
Although the Opera House Block was built on this site before 1885, most of the building was demolished in 1927 when the Royal Theater was constructed on the site by M. P. Lamb. The shaped brick parapet and other features of this two-part commercial block are characteristic of early twentieth century commercial style architecture. The upper floor was used as the Royal Hotel in the 1930s and later converted to apartments. John H. Kongs was listed as the property owner in 1954 and 1965. The earlier Opera House Block was built by Charles G. Scrafford and his partner, J. H. H. Ford., who established a general store. Scrafford was an original partner in the Seneca town company and served as the town's first mayor. He also established the first bank in Seneca. Later after 1889, the building housed the Opera House Grocery, P. J. Asenbacher, proprietor. At that time, the block was "the leading place of amusement in the city."
2. 305 Main Street, circa 1925, contributing.
This one-story brick Commercial style replaced an earlier wood-frame building shown in the 1911 and 1924 Sanborn Insurance maps. The Goodrich-Thompson Garage and tire shop occupied the building in 1930 and in 1939 when they sold implements, tractors and trucks. Charles and Helen Haug were listed as the owners in 1954 and 1965.
3. 307 Main, circa 1924, contributing.
This building was recorded in the April, 1924 Sanborn map as an auto sales business with an office in the southeast corner and a repair shop in the rear. In 1930, the property owner was John Kongs. In April, 1932, 307 Main was listed as the Clifford Jerome Hardware Company in the telephone directory. Jerome may have rented because John Kongs was the owner in 1939 and the use was hardware and implement sales. Joseph H. Strathman was the owner in 1954 and 1965; the building was listed as a garage in 1954 and a store building in 1965.
4. 315 Main, circa 1924, contributing.
This property was listed as a vacant lot in 1917. The building use was recorded in the 1924 Sanborn map as auto sales with an office in the southwest corner. The business was listed as Williams-Snyder Auto Sales in 1930, Monteith Chevrolet Company in 1932, and Snyder Auto Sales and Service in 1939. Thomas McKinney was the owner in 1954 and Savilla Winterscheidt in 1965.
5. 317 Main, circa 1911, contributing.
This building was recorded in the 1911 and 1924 Sanborn maps as a garage. The business was listed as the Hart Motor Company in 1932. The business was still auto sales and service in 1939.
6. 319 Main, circa 1945, contributing.
A one-story detached building was shown at this location in the 1924 Sanborn map. 319 Main was listed as the Koelzer Garage in 1932. According to the 1965 appraisal record, this brick facade was constructed in 1945 between the two adjacent structures without its own party walls. Arthur Usher was listed as the owner in 1954 and 1965.
7. 323 Main, circa 1885, non-contributing.
This building was recorded as a bank in the 1885 and 1896 Sanborn maps. The original façade is shown in a line drawing from the 1887 Atlas. The property was a hardware store in 1901, a pool room in 1911 and a billiard parlor in 1930. The property was an office in 1954 with Ruby H. Hash as the owner in 1954 and 1965.
8. A. J. Felt Block. 327 Main, 1880, contributing.
Soon after coming to Seneca in January, 1880, Andrew J. Felt built this two-story brick block with a double storefront at a cost of $8,000. Later, Felt served as lieutenant governor of Kansas from 1889 to 1893. The Felt Block is an elaborately detailed and well-preserved example of the Italianate style with a cast iron storefront. In 1885 the building housed a grocery with printing on the second floor to the east and a variety store with offices to the west. In 1896 the store to the east was vacant with printing on the second floor and a clothing store with offices on the second floor to the west. From the 1921 to 1987, G. John and Edward Strathman operated their Department Store in the building. There were dry goods, groceries, a photography studio, electrical repair, a mechanical shop, and printing press in the building. The Felt Block is now occupied by the Pony Express Museum.
9. 26 North Fourth Street, 1924, contributing.
When this property was recorded in the 1924 Sanborn map, the building had auto sales to the south and auto repair to the north.
10. Ace Hardware. 401 Main, 1959, non-contributing.
11. 405 Main, circa 1896, non-contributing.
This was recorded as a two-story store building with a rear elevator in the 1924 Sanborn map. The business was listed as a men's furnishings store in 1917 and as the Buehler Clothing Company in 1932. Emmett Mealy was the property owner in 1954. When the adjacent buildings to the north collapsed in 1959, the roof and second story of this building were damaged and most of the second story was removed.
12. 407 Main, circa 1885, contributing.
This property was recorded as a two-story building in the 1885 Sanborn map. The business was recorded as a clothing store in the 1896, 1901, and 1911 Sanborn maps. The business was a restaurant and confectionary in 1917, the Blue Goose restaurant in 1932 and a restaurant in 1939. The property owner in 1930 and 1939 was Mrs. Emma Enderlein. Bernard Kampert was the owner in 1954 and William F. Woltkamp was the owner in 1965.
13. 409 Main, circa 1885, contributing.
This property was recorded as a two-story brick general store in the 1885 Sanborn insurance map. The business was a grocery in 1889 and 1896. The business was a hardware store with a tin shop in the rear and Turner Hall on the second floor in 1901. The business was a furniture store from at least 1911 to after 1939. W. R. Woltkamp was listed as the owner in 1932 and William F. Woltkamp as the owner in 1954. Harry D. Gudenkauf was the owner in 1965.
14. 413 Main, 1908, contributing.
This storefront has the name "Snyder, 1908" in the cornice. The business to the east was listed as a barbershop and the business to the west was listed as a doctor's office in the 1911 Sanborn insurance map. The building housed city offices and an electrical supply shop in 1917. In the 1924 Sanborn map, there was a store to the east and an office to the west. 411 Main was listed as the Florence Ann Shoppe, ladies wear and millinery, in 1932 and 1939. 413 Main was the office of Dr. H. G. Snyder, the property owner, in 1939. Richard W. Woltkamp was listed as the property owner in 1954. Alta Mae Carman was the owner in 1965.
15. 415 Main, circa 1896, contributing.
This one-story brick building was listed as a boot and shoe store in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map. The business was listed as a bank in the 1901 Sanborn map. The building housed a real estate and insurance office in 1911. The building housed a barber in 1917 and 1930, an office in 1933, and a restaurant in 1939. C. E. Carman was the property owner in 1933 and in 1954.
16. 417 Main, 1888, contributing.
This property was recorded as a two-story brick bakery in the 1889, 1896, 1901, and 1911 Sanborn insurance maps. The business was a restaurant in 1917 and the Criterion Café in 1932 with offices on the second floor. J. L. Northcott was the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
17. National Bank. 419 Main, circa 1901, 1930, contributing.
This property was recorded as a two-story brick bakery in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map and what appears to be the same building was described as a bank in the 1901, 1911, and 1924 Sanborn maps. 419 Main was the address for the National Bank of Seneca in 1932. Dr. S. A. McCool and dentist John C. Grindle had offices on the second floor in 1939.
The National Bank was established in 1897 as a successor to the Bank of Nemaha County established in 1891. By 1916 this was the largest bank in town, leading in capital, loans, and the volume of business. The property owner was the National Bank in 1954 and Citizens State Bank in 1965. The stone Art Deco style façade appears to date from about 1930.
18. Seneca Variety. 425 Main, 1969, non-contributing.
19. First National Bank. 427 Main, 1889, contributing.
The First National Bank building was designed by noted Kansas architect John G. Haskell, and constructed by contractor Lewis Wetmore in 1889. The bank organization began with Lappin and Scrafford's Bank established in 1870. They sold their old banking rooms to A. H. Burnett in January, 1884 and purchased this site. The name was changed to the First National Bank in 1887 with prominent local merchant, George W. Williams, as president. The First National Bank moved into their landmark building in the spring of 1889. Later in 1916, John G. Clark occupied the building. The property was listed as a bank through May 31, 1933, but was recorded as a beauty shop and office in 1939. William W. Kinsley was listed as the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
20. 501 Main, circa 1884, 1939, contributing.
This two-story brick building was recorded as a general store in the January, 1885 Sanborn insurance map. The rear block facing Fifth Street appears to have been added between 1889 and 1896. In 1901, 1911, and 1924, the building housed a general store with lodge hall on the second floor as well as a rear warehouse with a photography shop on the second floor. The business was listed as Wempe Dry Goods and clothing in 1930. Elmer Eitner has the photography shop in 1932. Since the property was listed as the J.C. Penny Company in 1939, the storefront may have been remodeled at that time.
21. Fashions Unlimited. 503 Main, 1961, non-contributing.
22. 507 Main, circa 1928, non-contributing.
Although there was a two story building on the west half of Lot 6 from 1889 to 1901, the property was vacant in the 191 and 1924 Sanborn insurance maps. This building was constructed between 1924 and 1930 when the business was listed as a grocery. W. J. Donaldson was listed as the owner in 1954 and 1965.
23. 509 Main, circa 1889, contributing.
This building was constructed between 1889 and 1896 when it was recorded as a hardware store in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map. This use continued through 1939 when Ray Eley was the proprietor. John W. Luebbe was the owner in 1954 and 1965.
24. Citizens State Bank. 511 Main, circa 1884, contributing.
This two-story brick building was recorded as a bank in the Sanborn maps from 1885 to 1924. The property was recorded as the Citizens State Bank from 1930 to after 1954. The Citizens State Bank began in September, 1894 by a reorganization of the Scoville Exchange Bank established in 1888. C. C. K. Scoville was president and A. L. L. Scoville, a hardware merchant, was vice president. C. C. Scoville sold his interest to his associates in 1920. Joseph H. Strathman was the property owner in 1965.
26. 513 Main, circa 1884, contributing.
The west half of the two-story brick block was recorded in January, 1885 as a dry goods and grocery store with offices on the second floor. This business continued through 1901. In 1911 the business was a hardware store with a one-story rear warehouse. The business again was Levick and Sons Grocery from 1930 to after 1939. Mildred M. Firstenberger was the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
25. 515 Main, circa 1896, contributing.
This one-story brick building was recorded as a dry goods store in the 1896 and 1901 Sanborn insurance maps. The Burnett name is presented in the metal eave cornice. From before 1911 to 1939, this business was listed as the Strathman-Firstenberger Racket Store in fire insurance records. Joseph H. Strathman was the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
26. 517 Main, circa 1895, contributing.
This storefront has an 1895 date in the metal cornice. The business was recorded as bakery and restaurant in the 1896, 1901, 1911 Sanborn insurance maps. The business was the Sunflower Bakery in 1932. Otto Kelm was the owner from before 1930 to 1965. The property owners were Otto Kelm and John Grintle in 1954.
27. 521 Main, circa 1925, contributing.
This building may have been built for a Post Office in 1925. The Post Office was recorded in this location in 1930 before the current Post Office was completed in 1939. The building housed offices in 1941. Robert V. Vardy was the property owner in 1965.
28. Seneca City Hall. 525 Main, 1916, contributing.
In July, 1916, Seneca's citizens voted almost unanimously in favor of bonds for the erection of a new city hall and municipal building that would cost $20,000. The building was designed to house city offices, the fire department, a public restroom and assembly room. Later, the community library occupied space in the building. Local resident George A. Shaul was the contractor. At the time, local historian Ralph Tennal commented that the edifice was "modern in every respect and will be a matter of pride to every Senecan when completed."
29. Masonic Temple. 25 North Sixth, 1918, contributing.
The Seneca Masonic Temple was constructed in 1917 and dedicated January 1, 1918.
30. Emergency Services. 601 Main, circa 2002, non-contributing.
31. Seneca Post Office. 607 Main, 1939, contributing.
This building is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Federal financial aid contributed to the construction of the new Post Office in 1938. According to the building cornerstone, Louis Simon was the supervising architect and Neal Melich was the supervising engineer. This is one of twenty-four post offices listed as part of a Kansas Post Office Art Work Thematic Resources nomination (1936-1942) for its mural "Men and Wheat." The Post Office was selected in a national competition to receive a mural from the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts. The Seneca Post Office is an example of one of many smaller class C or D type post offices that received artwork in Kansas.
32. 304 Main, circa 1920, contributing.
Although a construction date of 1920 for this building was noted in the 1924 Sanborn insurance map, fire insurance records listed a garage on this property in 1917. The property was vacant in 1911. This building was the C. C. Firstenberger garage in the 1930s. The Nemaha Coop Association was the property owner in 1954.
33. 314 Main, circa 1924, non-contributing
This property was recorded as a vacant lot in the 1911 Sanborn insurance map. There was a one-story store building on the property in 1924. The business was a tire and battery shop in 1930. Local residents reported that the building housed Luebbe's Café later in the 1930s. The business was a café in 1954 when Durwood and Curtin were the property owners. Florence Shoemaker was the owner in 1965.
34. 316 Main, 1895, contributing.
The construction date for this two-story brick block was noted in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map. The business was a furniture store in 1896, 1901, and 1911. The business was recorded as a battery repair shop in 1924. Jermane and Emery were the owners in 1930. The business was the Kansas Pipe and Gas Company office with a dwelling on the second floor in 1930 and 1932. Charles J. Jermane was the property owner in 1954. Jane B. Emery and Jermane were the owners in 1965.
35. Nemaha County School District. 318 Main, 1976, non-contributing.
36. 320-322 Main, 1910, contributing.
This one-story two-part building was recorded in the 1911 Sanborn insurance map. The east half was recorded as a hardware store and warehouse: the west half was a restaurant in 1911. The east half was a blacksmith shop and the west half was a produce station in 1924. 320 Main was a cleaning and pressing and tailor shop in 1930. 322 Main was vacant in 1932. Polly Ann Leedy owned the east half and R. E. Foltz owned the west half in 1954 and 1965.
37. 324 Main, 1910, storefront altered circa 1932, contributing.
This one-story brick building was recorded in the 1911 and 1924 Sanborn maps without a setback from the street. The front was altered later and moved back several feet from the street. The east half was an office in 1911; the west half was a printing office with a tailor shop in the northeast corner. In 1924 the east half was a store and the west half housed a printing shop with another store in the northeast corner. In the April, 1932 telephone directory, the business at 324 Main was the Hanna Poultry and Egg Company, but the Skelly Oil Company, auto service, was listed at the property by October 21, 1932. The property owner was the Skelly Company in 1954 and 1965.
38. Kennard & Vickers Block. 402 Main, 1888, rebuilt 1902, contributing.
This is a landmark business block; it is one of the buildings associated with prominent early settler George W. Williams (1848-1917). Williams began a successful hardware business in 1870 and built this building between 1885 and 1889. He was involved in several area banks and acquired thousands of acres of farm land. As a local history concluded, Williams "has taken an active and substantial part in the work of creating a great county from a wilderness of prairie and wild land."
According to the 1889 Sanborn insurance map, Kennard & Vickers operated the "Great Variety" store in this building. This was a general store with offices on the second floor. The building was damaged by a fire on January 18, 1890. The proprietors rebuilt, but the building was damaged by a second fire on February 5, 1902, when J. E. Hatch owned the property. The building housed a hardware store in 1911 and W. P. operated a department store at 404 Main in 1932. From about 1930 until after 1965, the Knights of Columbus had a lodge hall on the second floor. The Knights of Columbus were the property owners in 1954 and 1965.
39. 406-408 Main, 1884, contributing.
This building was recorded in the 1885 Sanborn insurance map as the Commercial House hotel in front with an adjacent wood-frame dining room to the east. Also, the rear housed an office and billiard room east and the Post Office to the west. In 1889, the businesses were boots and shoes to the east and the Post Office. In 1896, the businesses were a jeweler to the east and boots and shoes to the west. In 1911, the businesses were millinery to the east and boots and shoes to the west with a cobbler in the rear. In 1932 Kill's Plumbing & Heating Company occupied 406 Main and the B&M Shoe Store occupied to 408 Main. Gordon Alvis was the property owner in 1954 and Ruth Alvis was the owner in 1965.
40. 410 Main, 1900, non-contributing.
There was a one-story building on this property constructed between 1885 and 1889. This two-story brick block was recorded in the 1901 Sanborn insurance map. The second floor facade has been considerably altered.
41. 414 Main, 1888, non-contributing.
This two-story brick building was recorded in the 1889 Sanborn insurance map. The first floor façade has been considerably altered.
42. 416 Main, 1986, non-contributing.
43. 418 Main, 1895, contributing.
This building was recorded in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map as a clothing store. The business was a billiard parlor in 1911 and 1917. By 1930 this was the F. A. Jenkins grocery and meat market. Myrtle Jenkins was the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
44. 420 Main, 1884, contributing.
This building was recorded in the 1885 Sanborn insurance map as a grocery. In 1896 and 1901, the building housed the Post Office with offices on the second floor. The building housed a jewelry store from about 1911 to after 1939. The Sperling Jewelry Store was listed at 420 Main in 1932. Ida May Shreve was the property owner in 1954 and George Shreve was the owner in 1965.
45. 422 Main, circa 1900, non-contributing.
This one-story building was recorded in the 1901 Sanborn insurance map. According to appraisal records, the storefront was remodeled in 1956.
46. 426 Main, circa 1895, contributing.
This two-story brick block was recorded in the 1896 Sanborn insurance map. There was a restaurant to the east with printing on the second floor and a meat market to the west with a dwelling on the second floor. By 1911 the restaurant remained with a drug store to the west. In the 1930s, there was a plumbing and heating business to the east and a clothing store to the west. Dr. H. G. Snyder had his office at 4261/2 Main in 1932. Snyder was the property owner in the 1930s. J. L. and E. G. Northcott were the property owners in 1954 and 1965.
47. Harsh Drug Store. 420 Main, 1960, non-contributing.
48. United Bank & Trust. 502 Main, 1959, non-contributing.
49. 506-508 Main, circa 1889, contributing.
This building was recorded in the 1889 Sanborn insurance map as the Commercial House hotel with a parlor, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor to the east and an office on the second floor to the west. This appears to be the building shown in an illustration from the 1887 Atlas. G. H. Rohenkohl was the proprietor of the Commercial House at this time. In 1896, the building housed a racket store to the east and a grocery to the west. By 1901, there was a printing office to the east with a telephone office on the second floor and the racket store to the west. In 1911 the building housed the Post Office to the east and a millinery store to the west. The Post Office remained in 1924. 508 Main was the address for Heffron Millinery in 1932. From about 1917 to after 1939, the telephone exchange was located on the second floor. John W. Luebbe and others was the owner in 1954 and 1965.
50. 510-512 Main, circa 1904, contributing.
This building has a construction date set in leaded glass over the central entrance. In 1911 the first floor of the two-story brick building to the east was vacant with a printing office on the second floor. The first floor to the west housed a grocery with a club room on the second floor. In 1917 there was a millinery store to the east with a printing office on the second floor and a grocery to the west with offices and a club room on the second floor. In 1930 there was a dry goods store, Boeding Economy Store, to the east with an office and dwelling on the second floor. To the west the printing office of Emery-Jordan, publishers of the Courier-Tribune occupied the building. In 1932 W.F. and J.O. Thompson had their real estate office at 5101/2 Main. Attorney R. M. Emery, Jr. had his office at 5121/2 Main. H.E. Johnson owned 510 Main in 1954. Alice and Roy Vorhees owned 512 Main. Florence Koelzer owned 510 Main in 1965. The Seneca Publishing Company, Alice Vorhees and James Adriance, owned 512 Main in 1965.
51. 514 Main, 1895, contributing.
This two-story brick building was recorded in the 1895 Sanborn insurance map and appraisal records corroborate the 1895 construction date. The building housed a clothing, boot and shoe store in 1896 and 1901. There was a lunchroom on the first floor in 1911. The building housed a meat market in 1917 with office s and the firemen's hall on the second floor. From about 1930 to after 1939, J. M. Thomson's optometry office occupied the first floor. The second floor was vacant in 1930. Lenta C. Thompson and Ethyl Corby were owners in 1954 and 1965.
52. 516-518-520-522 Main, 1926, contributing
This one-story building with a four-part storefront replaced four small one-story wood frame buildings recorded in the 1924 Sanborn insurance map. The construction date was documented in tax appraisal records. Jermane Music House occupied 516 Main in 1932. Abbie W. Kennard's insurance office occupied 520 Main. Dr. D. H. Piper's office occupied 522 Main Charles A. Germane owned 516 Main in 1954 and 1965. Polly Anna Leedy owned 518 Main in 1954 and 1965. J.O. Thompson owned 520 Main in 1954. Louise Houston owned 522 Main in 1954 and J. Howard Gilbert owned 522 Main in 1965.
53. 524 Main, 1900, contributing.
This two-story brick building was recorded in the 1901 Sanborn insurance map and corroborated form tax appraisal records. The building housed a grocery with rear warehouse in 1911 and 1924. There was a lodge hall on the second floor in 1917. The business was listed as Floyd & Jack's Grocery in 1932. Joseph H. Strathman was the property owner in 1954 and 1965.
54. Koelzer Lumber Company. 532 Main, 1911.
The J. H. Hatch Lumber yard was located on this property in 1885 and the property was recorded as the Holton Lumber Company in 1901. J. P. Koelzer came to Seneca to work for the Holton Lumber Company and soon bought the Seneca lumber yard which has been operated by the Koelzer family since that time. The rusticated concrete block store building now standing on the corner was depicted in the 1911 Sanborn insurance map from plans. The adjacent two-part store front was constructed before c. 1919 and the middle section (which closed a driveway shown in the 1911 map) was recorded on the 1924 Sanborn map. Other warehouse buildings in the rear of the property probably date from the early twentieth century. In 1930 the Koelzer Lumber Company office occupied the two end offices. The next storefront housed a cobbler and the storefront to the east, 526 Main, housed Waller Electric Company.
55. Seneca Universalist Church. 606-612 Main, 1867, circa 1998, contributing.
One of the earliest surviving buildings in Seneca and on Main Street is the old Universalist Church, now the Seneca Free Library. The Universalists and other religious congregations intended to establish a landmark for the young community and they accomplished this goal. In effect, this building was the beginning place for organized religious congregations in Seneca. Although religious congregations met in the 1850s, Seneca had no church buildings before construction of the Universalist Church in 1867. On April 30, 1867, residents held a meeting to consider building a church. The Universalists organized, pledged $1,600 and let a contract in May for construction of a building. They purchased a site on the south side of Main Street in an excellent location. Stone masonry was finished October 20, 1867 and the building was occupied for the first time on January 1, 1868, but the church was not fully completed for several more months. The first religious services in the new church building were held July 17, 1869. The building was used by the Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists in common until other churches were built. Catholics organized St. Peter and Paul Church in 1869. The Congregationalists built a church in 1870 and the Methodists in 1877.
The Universalist Church was described as thirty-nine by fifty-five feet in size, thirty-two feet from foundation to gable with a belfry thirty feet in height. Costing about $7,500, the church was a "commodious and handsome edifice." The old church has mixed features of both the Gothic Revival and Italianate architectural styles.
In the early twentieth century, the Seneca Free Library was organized in May, 1917. After the Universalists disbanded about 1920, the city of Seneca purchased the old church building after approval in the April, 1928 city election. Finally, the library moved from rooms in City Hall to the old church in July, 1931.14 The library building was rehabilitated and a compatible addition constructed about 1998.
1 "Project Report: Seneca Main Street Historic Survey," 6
2 Ralph Tennal, History of Nemaha County, Kansas (Lawrence, KS: Standard Publishing Company, 1916), 75. Nativity data from 1875.
3 Dale Nimz and Cathy Ambler, "Project Report: Seneca Main Street Historic Survey," Prepared for the City of Seneca and the Kansas Historic Preservation Office (August 30, 2004), 3-4.
4 William G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas, "Nemaha County, Part 3," (Chicago, IL: A. T. Andreas, 1883), at www.kancoll.org/books/cutler/nemaha/nemaha-co-p3.html.
5 Tennal, History of Nemaha County, 79.
6 Local historian Ralph Tennal believed that the source of the name "Seneca" may have been from the Seneca Indians or the Roman statesman. See History of Nemaha County, 79. However, Finley Lappin emigrated to Kansas from north central Ohio, where "Seneca" was the name of an adjacent county. See Michael Philbrick, "Seneca: 125 Years Ago," (Seneca, KS: G&R Printing, September 1995).
7 Cutler, "Seneca, Part I," History of the State of Kansas, 5.
8 "Anniversary Edition," Seneca Courier-Tribune (15 December 1938), 201.
9 Michael Philbrick, "Seneca: 125 Years Ago," (Seneca, KS: G&R Printing, September 1995), 4, 6, 7.
10 Cutler, "Seneca, Part I," History of Kansas, 3 of 5; John Lethem, Historical and Descriptive Review of Kansas Volume 1. The Northern Section. (Topeka, KS: John Lethem, 1890), 139.
11 Souvenir of the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad
Illustrated W. P. King, compiler. (St. Joseph, MO: Lon Hardman Press,
12 Atlas of Platbook of Nemaha County (Des Moines,
IA: G. W. Anderson Publishing, 1922), 44.
13 William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement
(Baltimore, OH: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 302; Tennal,
History of Nemaha County, 88.
14 "Anniversary Edition," Seneca Courier-Tribune December 15, 1938, 166, 183.