This Historic Preservation Month we have talked about two buildings that have a different function than they did one hundred years ago. Today, let’s discuss a building that is still occupied by the same company that built it 105 years ago: Sheridan Commercial at 303 Broadway Street. The history of the company and the building are inextricable.
The company started under the name The Sheridan County Commercial Company in 1892 on Alger Street. At its inception the company had stock holders, including some influential people in Sheridan. The founder was J. Dana Adams and the first president of the company was Harry Fulmer. When the railroad came to town, the company moved to 303 Broadway Street to be as close as possible to the tracks. The building was two stories with a lodging house and restaurant on the second floor, and The Sheridan County Commercial Company’s butcher shop, hardware department, grocery store, farm machinery section, and more on the first floor. Sheridan Commercial was a one stop shop for most needs of ranchers, farmers, and townsfolk alike. At around the turn of the century the company was struggling to turn a profit. Ellsworth Gwinn became the manager for the company in the early 1900s. He turned The Sheridan County Commercial Company into a profitable venture.
Around noon on June 4, 1915 two employees discovered a fire in the back of the building that quickly spread to the entire structure. The newspaper reported that thousands of people watched the building burn. Over one hundred men, who weren’t fire fighters, helped save as much merchandise as they could from the burning building. This fire was said to be so hot that people standing a block away felt the heat on their face, and the railroad tracks behind the building warped. Even with all the saved merchandise the company lost about $53,000, which is over $1.3 Million today. The building was a total loss. The various departments of the store relocated around Sheridan, but remained in business while a new building was constructed.
Construction of the current building on the same site began in 1916, paid for by John Kendrick, who was a stock holder and officer of the company. Today you can seea two letter “K” above the front door and on the cornice of the building to represent his involvement. In 1917 they reopened as The Sheridan Commercial Company. Ellsworth Gwinn was still the manager and remained in that role until he retired in the 1940s. He continued to expand the business to include Purina and John Deere franchises. His son George Gwinn became the manager of the store two years after his father retired. Over the course of his career George went on to be the company vice president, secretary, and eventually president.
The building is now over one hundred years old, making it an historic structure in its own right. Currently it is the Sheridan Commercial True Value store. The store section of the building has been remodeled over the years to be a modern hardware store. The back warehouse and loading dock area have remained largely unchanged since the construction of the building in 1916.Sheridan Commercial is the oldest commercial establishment in Sheridan still in operation today. The company and the building are a testament to history being felt through time to the modern day. The story of Sheridan Commercial is still being written as the company perseveres into the future.
Interested in learning more about the Sheridan Commercial fire and other Sheridan disasters? Sign up for an upcoming walking tour!