Standing at this spot since 1837, the Brown-Feuer Building at 426-430 Main Street is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Lafayette. Also known as the O.L. Clark Building, the structure contains two commercial spaces that housed a fruit seller in the west half and a saloon in the east half in the 1880s to 1890s. The fruit shop became a restaurant by 1899, connected through two new doorways to the saloon. The brick and wood building is a basic functional structure of no particular style. The Brown-Feuer Building currently contains a bookshop on the ground floor, Main Street Books, offering new and used books.
Backstory and Context
The Brown-Feuer Building is within the Downtown Lafayette National Register Historic District which covers nine blocks and was listed in 1980. The three-story brick building has not been listed individually. The historic district includes some of the land originally platted to from the town in 1825, and is bordered approximately by 2nd, Ferry, 6th, and South Streets. The 400 block of Main, containing the Brown-Feuer Building, was situated one block east of the county courthouse and four blocks east of the Wabash and Erie Canal, a short-lived transportation route quickly eclipsed by railroad lines.
The next door building to the east, the Clark-Clawson Building (434-436 Main St.), is nearly identical to the Brown-Feuer Building (426-430 Main), and was constructed in 1858. A streetcar line passed along a nearby side street by 1885, on 5th Street (see the Sanborn fire insurance map clip below). The 1885 Sanborn map places a seller of confectionary fruit in the western of the two commercial spaces (98 Main); the eastern space was a saloon (100 Main). The same types of businesses were housed in the Brown-Feuer Building on the 1892 Sanborn map. The walls were solid between the two commercial spaces with no internal doorways between them. The fruit shop became a restaurant by 1899, connected to the saloon by two interior doors; a wood frame kitchen addition was located to the rear of the fruit shop (428 Main on the 1899 Sanborn map).
The structure also is known as the O.L. Clark Building. Othniel Looker Clark was born in West Virginia in 1805. He studied medicine under his brother-in-law in Brookville, Indiana, and moved to Lafayette in1826. He married Charille Durkee, the daughter of a doctor, in Lafayette in 1831. Dr. Clark was very much involved in local affairs and served as the county agent for many years. He was the county's representative to the state legislature for ten years and a state Senator for eight years. Dr. Clark died in 1866.
The current tenant on the ground floor, Main Street Books, buys and sells used books and new books. Their specialty is fiction, but they offer a non-fiction section concentrating on history and biography. The original exposed brick walls can be seen in the shop, plus restored tin ceiling tiles. Before the bookshop opened, the space held City News, a shop selling magazines and newspapers.
Home of Perdue. Lafayette Architectural Self-guided Walking Tour, Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette. January 1st 2017. Accessed April 26th 2020. https://issuu.com/lwlcvb/docs/archguide/25.
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Sanborn Map Company, New York, New York. 1885, 1892, and 1899.
Wabash Valley Trust for Historic Preservation. 426-430 Main Street, Brown - Feuer (O.L. Clark) Building, Tour de Lafayette. Accessed April 26th 2020. https://www.tourdelafayette.com/neighborhoods/downtown/426430mainstreet.html.
Western Biographical Publishing. A Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men of the State of Indiana. Volume II. Cincinnati, OH. Western Biographical Publishing Company, 1880.