Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tenants of the Owen Block - S.W. Douglas

Owen Block
4 April 2015

Work on the Owen Block has begun. Judging by the number of trucks on Chestnut Street and the noise from hammers and saws, no time is being wasted in stabilizing this beautiful old building.   Fire escapes go from upstairs windows down to the ground, but there are no rear doors to the outside. A workman told us the fire escapes are all being removed, but  he did not know if this was a temporary situation or not.

In the above photo, note the door. It's hard to say if this door was from the time the building was constructed, but it certainly appears to be old. I wonder if it was in use when Sidney W. Douglas moved  to the Owen Block in 1894.

Douglas, a professional photographer,  moved his family from New York to Evansville in 1878. For a time in the early 1890s, he lived at 1002 Upper Water Street, but moved to 125 Chestnut Street in 1894. The Douglas family consisted of S.W. and his wife, Lucy Ellen Tucker, and their three sons, James, Dallas and Kenneth.  The second son, Dallas, had worked on steamboats as a cub pilot and later as a freight clerk and shipping clerk before becoming a traveling salesman for the Crown Baking Powder Company of Chicago.  He contracted typhoid fever and passed away 26 May 1895. The funeral took place at nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church with burial at Oak Hill Cemetery.

The Douglas family continued to live at the Owen Block from 1894 until at least 1901. In 1904, they were living at 426 Upper 1st Street.[1]

S.W. Douglas was initiated into Masonry in May 1877 and at his death was the only past grand master living in Evansville.  Douglas suffered a blow in 1910 of his photographer's studio on the third floor of the old Bray building on First Street, between Main and Locust Streets, in the fire that originated in the Fendrick building.[2]  In this fire the negatives collected in a career of 40 years were destroyed. Rather than reopen a gallery, Mr. Douglas retired.

In addition to being one of the most prominent Masons in Indiana, Douglas was president of the Board of Children's Guardians. He helped bring about its organization in 1898 and became president of the board in 1900. It was through his efforts that the home on Lincoln Avenue was built in 1904.[3]

On the first day of January 1916, both S.W. Douglas and his wife contracted "the grip." Douglas became a victim while on an inspection trip to a Masonic commandery in Aurora, Illinois. Mrs. Douglas became ill at their home at 816 Upper 1st Street. Just seven hours after Mrs. Douglas died on 10 January 1916, her husband passed away. The funeral was held at the home with the Rev. A.L. Murray of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in charge. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas were buried beside their son, Dallas, at Oak Hill Cemetery.

[1] 1904 Evansville City Directory, p. 227.
[2] "Partners of Half Century Called a Few Hours Apart," Evansville Journal-News," Tuesday, 11 January 1916, p. 1.
[3] Ibid.

Published 5 April 2015, Rambling Thoughts ... Out of My Mind,

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