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216-220 Commercial Street NE
(Historic Downtown Salem)
 
Classification: Historic Non-Contributing
Historic Name: England Block
Current Name(s): Dave Wilson Jeweler/Mr. Mystics
Year of Construction: c.1877; c.1940s; c.1980s
Legal Description: 073W22DC08100, Salem Addition, from Lot 5, Block 32

Owner(s): Kenneth Dalke, et at
PO Box 5170
Salem, Oregon 97304

Description: This is a red brick-faced two-story commercial building having design elements of the Modernistic style. The ground floor has three bays. The southernmost and middle bays provide access to two separate retail businesses; the third, northernmost bay provides access to a stairway leading to the second floor. The second story has four sets of windows of steel casement windows that appear to date from the c.1940 renovation (this is the only portion of the building that currently displays historic features).

The storefront consists of anodized aluminum display windows with newer brick "bulkheads" and recessed entryways, appears to date from the 1980s, and does not contribute to the historic character of the building. No transoms are visible. The umbrella-shaped awnings are not compatible with the historic character of the district. The number of changes to this building over the years have significantly altered its appearance and it does not contributed to the district in its current condition.

History and Significance: The England Block, probably built around 1877 and remodeled after World War II, conveys a sense of evolving commercial development in Salem’s historic district. The building has retained much of its second-floor exterior physical integrity since the late 1940s. The property is associated with one of Salem’s early wagon makers, William England, as well as other leading Salem business people, including R.M. Wade and the Fitts family (William S. and Lulu Fitts and Ira and Ruth Fitts).

William England purchased this site in the 1860s; mortgages taken out against the property in 1877 suggest that the existing building may have been constructed that year. The "England Block," which included an additional adjoining building to the north, appears on the 1884 Sanborn fire insurance company map of Salem, Oregon. This building also appears in an 1886 photograph of Commercial Street. At that time and for the next seventy years, the southern two-thirds of the two-story brick England Block (comprising the present building) featured two store fronts, each with three sash windows with semi-elliptical heads and low relief ornamentation above. Typical of most Italianate style buildings, the England Block featured a projecting roof cornice with decorative brackets below, and an ornate plaque with finial raised above the roofline parapet. (This ornamentation was later removed.)

Very little is presently known about William England. He arrived in Salem early in the town’s commercial development, and owned the parcel on which this block stands from the 1860s to the mid-1880s. In an 1873 city directory, he is listed as a wagon maker. In the 1880s the building on this lot was used for a "carriage repository"; in the 1890s two shops occupied the building, a sewing machine shop and a bicycle shop. R. M. Wade bought this building from England in the mid-1880s.

Robert M. Wade, overland immigrant to Oregon in 1850, founded R. M. Wade & Company in Salem in 1865. "Wades," as it was generally known, sold agricultural and household equipment from the two-story brick structure (constructed in 1869) at the corner of Commercial and Court streets, adjoining the England Block. The Wade & Company eventually specialized in farm equipment, carrying all the latest iron tools and equipment manufactured in the 1870s and 1880s and, eventually, tractors. The company also pioneered the use of sprinkler irrigation equipment known as "Wade Rain." By the early 1890s, when R.M. Wade established the company headquarters in Portland, Wades distributed its goods throughout the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest. In 1902 the Salem branch of the business became "Wade-Pearce & Company."

W.S. Fitts apparently acquired this building in the mid-1920s. Born in Alabama in 1868, W.S. Fitts came west in 1891, first to Walla Walla, Washington, then to Salem, where he farmed. In 1901 he opened a fish market in the 400 block of Court Street. Over the years, he and his son, Ira J. Fitts, built up the leading fish and poultry market in Salem. W.S. Fitts also invested in the Newport Ice and Fish Company, and the Hotel Marion in Salem (once on the southeast corner of Commercial and Trade streets). W.S. and Lulu Elliot Fitts parented three children: Clifford W., Inez G., and Ira J. Ira J., with his second wife, Ruth Staples Fitts, operated the Fitts fish and poultry market until they retired in 1952, and moved to Rancho Mirage, California. The Fitts couple owned this property until the late 1970s, when Ruth Fitts's heirs, Franklin and D.K. Fredericks, acquired it.

 

 
Current photo of 216-220 Commercial Street NE
Current photo of 216-220 Commercial Street NE
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