My great-great grandmother’s glass negatives have pushed me to do more in depth searching on her life. I have tried over the past several years to determine where the West Photography studio at 66 Main Street and the last studio, Mrs. West’s, on Congress Street in Bradford were located. Over the years the streets in Bradford were renumbered making it more difficult to pinpoint.
In my hunt for information I found a couple of articles using Newspaperarchives.com on fires that were on Main Street in the late 1800s. The Baker-Whitehead building would catch fire for the first time in February of 1896 where the West studio was located. The fire damaged the West studio and when the studio was reopened, Mary West would be in charge. Mr. Whitehead was in favor of erecting a brick building but was waiting on consent from the Baker heirs to start construction. From what was to happen just a few months later, I don’t think the building was repaired with brick.
The second article, from the fire that would happen in June, detailed which shops burned and in what order they caught fire. According to the article in June 1896, the Bay State Hotel, 72 and 74 Main, next to the Zook building started burning. From all accounts the fire had started in the Zook building, 70 Main Street. The West studio was located at 66 Main Street, in the Baker-Whitehead Building, on the west side of the Zook building. The fire was so hot that buildings across the street started to smoke and residents helped wet the fronts of the buildings down to keep them from catching fire. From the Bay State hotel east, Nick Asselto’s Little Casino cigar store, then McCourt’s restaurant were also consumed and the Tammaro building gutted. The fire spread in both directions, consuming 68 Main Street and then burning through the West Studio, on the third floor, at 66 Main. The Sondheim building, 62 and 64 Main, on the west side of the Baker-Whitehead building, crashed to the ground destroyed.
I had purchased a book about Main Street’s buildings from the Bradford Landmark Society and searched through it for clues from the story that could tie to the articles on the buildings. There was an article about the Baker building, which use to be the location of J. R. Evans men’s clothing store, and it mentioned that it was next to what was the Bay State Hotel. Current residents can still see the Bay State name on the top of the old hotel building which has housed many different stores in the first floor, including Fannin’s bridal shop where I had worked years ago.
Penn State University Library has a collection of searchable maps that include fire risk assessment maps that show the location of buildings and the street addresses. Some of the maps note the type of businesses that were located in each of the buildings. I can tell from those maps the exact location of 66 Main street and can even see the note for the building having 3 stories and a photo studio in the building. In 1896 there were 7 store fronts in what now has three buildings that would only encompass the width of 6 store fronts. The Zook building is long gone, squeezed out between the Baker building and the Bay State Hotel.
Grandmother West moved the business to Congress Street following the second fire. From newspaper accounts there were legal issues with starting the rebuild of the Baker-Whitehead building that caused a delay of several months. From other maps on the PSU site I can determine where she would conduct business until retiring.