Moore's Block and Emporia Downtown Historic District
Dr. John Allen Moore moved to Emporia in 1860 and opened a physician's office. He added a drugstore in 1866 and owned the building housing the office and drugstore. Later, Dr. Moore owned the building at 324 N. Commercial Street, also known as Moore's Block. Not-so-healthy businesses leased space in Moore's Block in the 1880s: a cigar factory and a saloon. Over the years, the building has housed a billiards hall, rooms for boarders, a wholesale fruit and produce warehouse and a furniture store. The two-story, Italianate style brick building contributes to the downtown Historic District, listed on the Kansas and National registers. Moore's Block was covered in stucco in the twentieth century and is currently vacant.
Backstory and Context
Dr. Moore and his wife, Clara Weaver, lived at 710 Union Street, a home which later became a sorority house. Moore was active in civic affairs and served on the city council and school board. In his "spare time," he was the president of the Emporia Canning Company. Besides building and owning the structure, he does not seem to have contributed much to the history of the building, besides being its namesake. The two-story, Italianate style brick building has a projecting pressed metal cornice spelling out the building's name in relief lettering.
A seamstress named Mrs. Lower announced in the local newspaper in 1878 that she would be moving into rooms in Moore's Block, above the grange store, and would be offering her services in "fashionable dress and cloakmaking." Mrs. Lower was formerly employed in Chicago, and touted that she would be bringing imported fashion plates and the latest novelties in dress goods and trimmings. She welcomed orders from adjacent towns and was hoping to find two apprentices.
Robert Jeff moved his business into Moore's Block in early 1881, with retail operations in the front and ample room in the back for manufacturing, according to a newspaper article. Moore's Block contained a saloon in the south half (108 Commercial St.) of the building in 1884 (opened in 1880, according to a newspaper article), and a cigar factory in the north half (likely the Jeff enterprise). A wooden false front covered the brick walls of the main facade in 1884, with a wooden porch or balcony accessed by steps abutting the rear of the building. D. Thomas & Co. had re-located to 110 Commercial street in Moore's Block in March of 1885. After recently suffering a fire elsewhere, a newspaper notice urged their customers to visit them and pay their bills or shop from the salvaged merchandise until it was all sold. Carpets, dress fabric, and notions were among the goods at the fire sale.
In 1893, the north half of the building (326) housed a restaurant and the south half (324) was vacant; the second story was residential rooms. The cigar factory had moved next door, to 322 Commercial Street, into a brick building that housed a grocery store in 1884. Both halves of the building contained a new and secondhand furniture store in 1911, with the cigar factory still in the adjacent building.
Moore's Block is a contributing resource to the Emporia Downtown Historic District, consisting of about 113 contributing and 54 non-contributing buildings scattered along the 300s to 900s blocks of N. Commercial Street, 300s to 800s of N. Merchant Street, 400s to 700s of N. Mechanic Street, and adjacent blocks of 4th through 9th Avenues. The district was listed in the Kansas Historical Places Register and National Register in 2012 and updated in 2017. The district is significant for its contribution to the history of the development of Emporia, the history of commerce, and its architecture, covering over a dozen styles. Sixteen of the district's buildings, including Moore's Block, were built before 1890 and eight more were constructed in the 1890s.
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