Adams & Davis History

Local History BY RON PATCH

Adams and Davis store in April. Circa 1910. Photo provided by the Chester Historical Society
Adams and Davis store in April. Circa 1910. Photo provided by the Chester Historical Society

 

In the last quarter of the 19th century on into the early 20th century, Adams & Davis was the largest store in Chester. Today this location is Newsbank Conference Center.

Their store was originally 40 feet x 40 feet. In 1888 Frank Adams added on to the original store making it 140 feet by 40 feet. The store boasted over 16,000 square feet of goods from the basement to the second floor.

This amount of floor space allowed them to offer Chester residents a vast assortment of goods. They sold: dry goods, ladies & men’s apparel, carpets, and a full line of groceries. The rear of the store offered a large line of paints and farm implements.

The second floor was stocked with flour and all types of animal feed. Counting Mr. Adams and Mr. Davis there were five full time employees.

Frank Adams was born in Chester in 1863 and owned the Buttonwood Farm where he bought and sold prize cattle. Many will remember Frank’s son, Paul Adams.

Frank’s partner, Dan Davis was a Civil War veteran and had fought at Gettysburg. Davis was a Londonderry native and moved to Chester about 1870 working as a clerk in Adams & Johnson store. In 1890 he became a partner in Adams & Davis.

He represented the town of Chester in Montpelier and was commander of the Henry GAR post in town. Davis was a Master Masons and treasurer of Olive Branch Lodge #64.

Adams & Davis continued in business into the 1900’s. Several different businesses have occupied the store since.

In the 1940s-1950s this building became the freeze locker. In those days almost everyone had a wooden icebox to keep food cold so a freeze locker was needed. The iceman delivered ice to most houses in town. Larry Wright told me he was the last man to deliver ice in Chester. The year was 1951 and people were changing to electric refrigerators.

A freeze locker was similar to how a storage locker works today. You could rent space to keep your food frozen long before electric freezers were in homes. Larry told me Harold Weeks ran the freeze locker in those days.

After the freeze locker closed in the early 1950s, other businesses occupied the building. The building was a long building that was divided down the middle with a separate business on each side. Larry could remember several of those businesses.

There was an IGA grocery store, Lawton’s clothing store, an army surplus store and two different restaurants. Larry said one restaurant was run by Bob Leary.

In my earliest memories Ardis Clark ran a novelty shop on School Street. She then moved her business to the freeze locker building. Her shop was a popular store in town selling all kinds of novelties, gifts and sewing needs. I was a regular at her coin shop.

One of the two photos with this article is a photo of Adams & Davis store. Tom Bock’s house is seen next door. The other photo is a load of grain headed to Adams & Davis. Bill Cilley is seen delivering the grain in front of the Donnis house next to what is now Chester Elementary School. That load would probably weigh a couple tons. This grain most likely was ground at the gristmill down in the Depot. Both of these photos are in the 2017 Chester Historical Society calendar and would date to about 1910.

These calendars are for sale at: Lisai’s Market, Salon 2000, Erskine’s Feed Store, Chester Town Hall, Chester Hardware, Vintage Vermont Antiques, The Framery of Vermont, Misty Valley Books and Stone House Antiques.

December 10 from 6 – 9 p.m. is the Chester Historical Society Christmas party. This year it’s being held at the American Legion in Chester. Everyone brings a dish of some sort and we have live entertainment. Drinks can be purchased and friends can be made.

We are also having a membership drive that evening. Bring a dish, not your ‘neighbor’s wife’, and we’ll sign you up. You’ll be kept up to date will all our events and programs and become part of one of the most active historical societies in Vermont and you don’t have to live in Chester. If you like history you qualify.

This week’s old saying. “A woman’s mind is cleaner than a man’s. She changes it more often.”

Load of grain headed to Adams & Davis. Bill Cilley is seen delivering the grain in front of the Donnis house next to what is now Chester Elementary School. That load would probably weigh a couple tons. This grain most likely was ground at the gristmill down in the Depot. Photo provided from Chester Historical Society
Load of grain headed to Adams & Davis. Bill Cilley is seen delivering the grain in front of the Donnis house next to what is now Chester Elementary School. That load would probably weigh a couple tons. This grain most likely was ground at the gristmill down in the Depot. Photo provided from Chester Historical Society

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