As Oak Street attracted more and more business, the old residential homes that once called the street home became a dying breed. Those that survived found themselves alone and isolated, squeezed between the oppressive bulks of business blocks. Such was the case of the house found at 607 Oak, home to the Forster family. This building, built in 1905 to replace an earlier smaller home, found itself squeezed between the neighboring alleyway and the recently built Lisa Block. Worse yet it found itself in the shadow of a massive three story behemoth known as the Nelson – Schroeder Block.
The Nelson-Schroeder was built around the turn of the century,at the height of Oak Street’s construction boom. The massive building housed four storefronts on its first floor and a collection of apartments along its second and third stories. As originally built, two of those first floor storefronts were occupied by Schroeder’s Saloon, an establishment operated by Frank Schroeder and his son Joseph. It was Schroeder along with his business partner Lawrence Nelson who financed the construction of the building, an undertaking that cost over $40,000 to complete at the time.
Schroeder’s operated out of the building’s two most easternmost storefronts – seen above. This right side space was home to the saloon itself, while the neighboring space housed the saloon’s pool hall. Schroeder’s would continue to operate out of these spaces up until the start of Prohibition, when it and all village saloons were forced to go underground. Unfortunately the eighteenth amendment would mark the end of the old saloon, as it would never reemerge again.
The remaining two spaces of the Nelson-Schroeder block were originally home to a confectioners and milliner (a maker of women’s hats). This particular space was home to Ciomei & Dianda Confectioners.
In addition to the storefronts the Nelson-Schroeder Block featured a pair of upper floor entrances set between the storefronts. One of those entrances can be seen here, situated between the two sides of the Schroeder’s saloon. It features a large sandstone arch surrounding a half circle transom window.
The building’s other upper floor entrance is far more elaborate and impressive then the first, and probably could be considered the building’s main entrance. While the transom window and sandstone surround ares similar to that first entrance, both are larger and much more impressive in scope. That’s because while that other entrance opened onto just a stairwell, this one opens onto a large first floor hallway the makes it’s way down the width of the building. The hallway is lit by a large two story light shaft that brings natural light down from a skylight on the building’s roof. This was one of two such light shafts built within the building to bring natural light down into the building.
The Nelson-Schroeder’s proclivity towards natural light is also evident along its front facade. An impressive amount of windows of various sized are littered all across the upper floors. These windows feature a hodgepodge of architectural surrounds ranging from simple sandstone headers to more elaborate and ornate arches.
Originally the building featured a series of iron balconies placed along its front facade. Those balconies were removed years ago, probably for safety, but you can still see their rusty outlines stained onto the bricks.
Actually one balcony still remains, but his one sits around the corner along the building’s 7th street facing side. I’m not sure why this particular balcony was left, but it’s really just the floor anyway. The railings must have fallen off years ago.
After the demise of Schroeder’s it’s old business block would go on to house various small business including a sash and door manufacturer and vulcanizing plant. Today one of the storefronts has been converted into an apartment, while the remaining three appear to be currently used for storage.
Behind the old Nelson-Schroeder Block we take a peak down the next few blocks of Oak, dominated by the twin spires of the old St. Joseph church. We head down that way next…