|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 Salems
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 Salems 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 towns 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
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.