Wells Yeager Best Building
The Wells Yeager Best Building is an Italianate style structure constructed in 1872. the three-story brick building features a parapet entablature. The first-floor storefront has been modified. It is associated with Indiana's first registered pharmacist, Charles Avery. He operated a pharmacy next door to this spot from the 1840s up to the completion of this new building. It housed the state's oldest continuously operating drugstore for decades.The building has been modified and contains a real estate office on the first floor and apartments above. The building contributes to the Lafayette Downtown Historic District, in the historic core of the town. The district was listed in the National Register in 1980 and contains dozens of historical structures between 2nd and 6th Streets, and Ferry and South Streets.
Backstory and Context
The Wells Yeager Best Building was constructed in 1872, at the end of the era of railroad prosperity (1853-1872), just before the city's era of urban expansion (1873 to 1920). The increased transportation facilities led to growth in manufacturing and a population that grew from around 2,000 in 1840 to almost 14,000 by 1870.
The street addresses were different from modern numbering on the 19th-century Sanborn fire insurance maps of the town. The 1885 Sanborn map of S. Third Street opposite the county courthouse places a drugstore at #9 and a dry goods shop in #11 and #13; the southern portion, #13, would be the Wells Yeager Best building. There was no direct connection between the interior of the Wells Yeager Best building and the rest of the dry goods store to the north. The 1892 Sanborn map of the same block shows the dry goods store at #9 and #11 with offices on the upper stories. Paints, oils, and drugs were sold in #13. By 1899, the Wells Yeager Best Building (120 S. Third) still was not connected internally to the dry goods store to the north (#122-124-126 S. Third) and still sold paints, oils, and drugs (see images below). An elevator was added near the rear of the building between 1892 and 1899.
There were four locations in Lafayette where medicine was being manufactured in 1909; one was the Wells Medicine Company. In 1918, the Wells Yeager Best Drugstore added automotive tires to its items for sale. Clerks received a commission from tire sales, which quickly became a popular item, with $4,000 sold in the first week. Tire stock was stored on the second level of the structure, with samples in the store windows and cross sections of tires to use in the sales pitch on the superiority of the wrapped tread type.
Wells Yeager Best is still a local pharmacy but is no longer within the 1872 building. Candor Realty now occupies the ground floor space and specializes in rental housing near the Perdue campus in West Lafayette and downtown Lafayette. The upper levels of the Wells Yeager Best building contains historic apartments that have undergone renovation. One that was advertised to rent recently boasts three bedrooms, exposed brick walls, 12-foot ceilings, and a spacious kitchen with a breakfast bar.
Apartments.com. 120 N 3rd St Unit 202, Lafayette, Apartments.com. April 10th 2020. Accessed April 24th 2020. https://www.apartments.com/120-n-3rd-st-lafayette-in-unit-202/603dhrv/.
Boiler Apartments. Candor Realty , Boiler Apartments. April 1st 2020. Accessed April 24th 2020. https://www.boilerapartments.com/candorrealty.
DeHart, Richard Patten, editor. Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Volume I. Indianapolis, IN. B.F. Bowen & Company Publishers, 1909.
National Drug Clerk. $200,000 Annual Side Line. The National Drug Clerk, Volume VI (8), no. August 553 - 554. Published August 1st 1918.
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Sanborn Map Publishing Company, New York, New York. 1885, 1892, and 1899. Library of Congress American Memory Map Collection.