The first structure on the southwest corner of Main Street and present-day Groton Avenue (at one time named Cortland Street) was called the Lyman Block, a two-story brick structure which is said to have been built around 1816-1817 by Asahel Lym
an (1787-1840). Ly
man conducted a mercantile business on the spot for about 25 years. By 1855, the same William O. Barnard who owned the Barnard block across the street (see the previous Main Street Monday post here: https://tinyurl.com/zd4y4h) took possession of the location that would come to be referred to as the “dry goods corner.”
The Samson name comes into the picture some time prior to 1876 when John S. Samson (1806-1890) assumes ownership of the property, followed by his son John Melvin Samson (1835-1929). Unfortunately, tragedy struck the “old Samson block” in January of 1892 when fire broke out in the rear of John H. Day’s grocery. Other businesses present at the time were H.H. Pomeroy’s dry goods store, Sarah Darby’s hair emporium, and George I. Pruden’s photography studio.
In 1896, the new Samson block was erected featuring a stamped iron façade that was replicated in other buildings built during the same period. Nos.2-6 were fitted out for Dwight E. Shepard’s dry goods store with “circular counters, handsome brackets and modern and spacious shelving,” (“Grip’s Historical Souvenir of Cortland,” 1899). Shepard’s took up three floors with the millinery department on the second floor and carpets, upholstery, linoleums, etc. in the basement. At no.8, Mrs. J.T. Davern conducted a highly successful ladies’ furnishing and millinery business. I find it surprising that the two businesses could thrive right next door to each other!
It would be impossible to list each and every business that set up shop in the Samson block, so there are bound to be some that you remember that I don’t mention. But here are some of the names that appeared over the decades (some carried over for decades, but I mention them only once):
1910s- G.H. Wiltsie
1930s- Clifford J. Tanner dry goods, Strong Beauty Shoppe, Mrs. Hester M. Everts millinery
1940s (By this point called the Winters block)- Lee M. Winters women’s wear, Hill Realty Co., Ritz Beauty Salon, Endicott-Johnson Shoe Store
1950s- Fanny Farmers Candy Shop, Kelly & Maher lawyers
1970s- The Cheshire Cat
1980s- Fashions by Giulia, Alfred’s Jewelers
~Sophie, Collections and Research Assistant