The sign that still hangs out front says “Ben Franklin”, but the marquee at its crown says “M. Vertin”. This is the old Ben Franklin store on the corner of Elm, 400 5th Street. Now occupied by silk screening business Monkey Business, this old building seems to have a story to tell. Could this building have housed the humble beginnings of what would become the four story monolith of department stores on the corner of Oak and Sixth (otherwise known as the Vertin Bros Department Store)? Or was this just another Vertin in a long line of Vertins that settled the Copper Country? Either way, an interesting building once you take a closer look.
The large cornice and high arched window casings give the front of the building a very busy but regal look. Unfortunately the store front has been covered up in steel siding of some type, marring an otherwise attractive front facade. This seems to be a well-practiced renovation tactic. Just cover it up with whatever you can find. A shame really, but I’m sure when this was done historical detail wasn’t a large concern. Cost was.
A close look at the window headers reveal an intricate etching. Most likely this detail is pre-fabricated, especially considering each window has an identical design. What I find interesting is the fact that the arch is built from bricks, bricks that have been rounded off on the inside corners. A very interesting, and I assume costly, detail.
While the front of the building is interesting in itself, its the Elm Street facade that is most interesting to me. Corner buildings were valuable real estate, as well as expensive to build considering the need to create two beautiful facades for the public to see. Here on the Elm side there are a few windows without the intricate carving set on top. Instead, these wonderful arched windows take their place. Notice the rounded bricks in the arch as well as the hint of sandstone at the its ends.
Like most corner buildings, this one might have had a 5th street store front as well as an Elm Street store front. Here is the Elm street entrance, a large double door entryway with an arched window over the top. Leading up to it is a series of rounded steps to complete the package. Very impressive, but this was probably the main entrance for the Ben Franklin since the modern looking double doors don’t quite fit the rest of the decor.
And before moving on a close look at the buildings frieze along the base of the cornice. While the cornice sits atop the building, the frieze runs along the buildings face just below the cornice. In this case the two are part of the same pre-fabricated piece, featuring this repeating sun image. You can make out the seam in this shot – running right down the middle of the sun. What’s amazing about this building is how large this cornice/frieze work is and just how much of it is still in one piece. Check out the big picture to get a better idea.
Tomorrow: The State Farm Building…