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January 7, 1982


PIX #1 - Northeast corner of Main and Center streets, showing the First National Bank and other buildings dating back to last century.

PIX #2 - Portion of the Emerine Building

PIX #3 - The Yonker Insurance location after they moved from No. 108 to 118. It is the only building (remodeled) which dates back to the earlier period of east Center Street.

PIX #4 - Pennell Hotel, dating back to the late 1800's, and the site of many other hotels in this century.

Today's article starts a series about one of Fostoria's important streets, East Center. It's the "center" of town, dividing the town north from south.

It still is an important street, but regrettably, it has lost much of its commercial importance.

Looking back a half-century on the northeast corner of Main and Center stood one of Fostoria's most imposing buildings, the three-story Emerine Building, which housed The First National Bank, and many other commercial establishments and professional offices, all mentioned in an earlier Potluck article.

On the southeast corner stood the three-story Alcott Block, another imposing structure, filled with more commercial and professional enterprises. They too were liested in an earlier article. That building burned down in 1962, and in its place is the Park and Shop Lot.


There was a variety of businesses on both sides of Center Street, other than in the corner blocks. Included were a newspaper and printing shop, restaurants, saloons, realtors, dry cleaning, machine shop, plumbing, tire store, dairy, carriage manufacturing, shoe store, shoe repair, hatchery, bike shop, bakery, barber ships, hotel, farm implements, sign painters, hamburger shop, second floor residential areas and much more.

It was indeed a busy street, and vacancies were few. The business area of the block occupied more than half of it, the remainder being filled with good homes, some of which have deteriorated to some extent but could still be salvaged and restored to their original state, to make them a credit to the owners and the street.

The accompanying photos will being memories for some readers, and be revealing to newcomers to town and younger readers. When the series is completed it will include the three-block area from Main to the railroads yards, where the Chessie System remains, but once there was also the New York Central.


Although photos of the Emerine Building have appeared in other articles, Photo No. 1 today provides a different view, particularly as it applies to East Center Street. Photo No. 2, a composite of photos taken by me in 1932, when Fostoria observed its 100th anniversary, shows other buildings on that side of the street which were demolished many years ago (approximately 1949 when the Kresge Store building was built). The composite photo shows spectators, watching tennis, part of the celebration.

History buffs will say, "I thought Fostoria came about as a result of the union of Risdon and Rome in 1854". That date was when the "union" became officials. However, in 1832, the two villages had agreed to join. Things didn't move so fast back then.


Photo No. 2, readers will see a portion of the Emerine Building. Next to that is a one-story building, but also can be seen a sign...RANCE YONKER. That is where A.H. Yonker's Insurance business was started in 1914. It was part of the Emerine Building and was demolished with it. At that time, to maintain their location-identity, Yonker moved east on Center Street to 118, where they have been since about 1950.

The building showing "Cooper Cards" in Photo No. 2 is where Yonker moved, and Photo No. 3 shows the same building after it was remodeled for their occupancy. Art and Carl Yonker, brothers, have continued to operate the business since their father died in 1954. Their building has just gone through its second remodeling in 30 years, with a new front.

Going back to Photo No. 2, readers will see the building with "Signs". That was where Clyde Schwab had his plumbing and heating shop on the first floor. But Boyher was the sign painter on the second floor.


The one-story building next to it was occupied by Lee, the barber when the picture was taken. Mrs. Henry Gary, 712 W. Tiffin St., remembers very well when her father, Frank Serfoss, had his machine shop there, as does her sister, Mildred Mergenthaler, 118 N. Poplar St. Mrs. Gary said she spent a lot of time there when she was a girl, learning all about the machinery. When she was about 11, she also kept his business books.

Mrs. Mergenthaler also kept her father's books. She lives in the house on Poplar Street where the Serfoss family spent many years, and where their father died.

Mrs. Gary said her father started his shop in 1909, after he had worked at the Faulhaper Machine Shop on east North Street and at Copley Machine Co. at Perry and High streets.

Serfoss disposed of his shop in 1925, selling his equipment to Mennel Milling Co., going to work for them, and keeping their machinery in working order, which he had done for many years. One piece of machinery he would not part with was a lathe he made himself. Mrs. Gary still has it, as well as other papers and mementos from his business days.


In 1947, at age 75, Mr. Serfoss decided to permanently retire. He was active physically and mentally right up to the time of his death at age 102 1/2, dying in his sleep after eating a hearty supper. Mrs. Gary said their son- in-law, Dan McGinnis, spent considerable time talking to Mr. Serfoss in his latter years because of the interesting things he could tell of earlier years.

W.D. Zuber had his harness shop in a two-story building next to Serfoss' shop. Before Zuber, the building was occupied by the North Western Harness Co., according to a 1899 directory.

The next building in the composite photo was taken in 1932. It is the location where Yonker Insurance moved to.

The last building in the composite photo shows Hotel Sherwood, the entrance being on the right side. The Test Restaurant, operated by D.D. Siniff is shown in the left of the photo. When the photo was taken, and many years prior, the hotel was owned and operated by the Fred Brombly family. During some of those years, I delivered papers on East Center Street. I can still recall the names of many of my customers, and where they lived.

As early as 1893, the Grand Hotel operated by T. Pennell, occupied the same building as Hotel Sherwood. I always presumed that Pennell was the grand- father of deceased Dr. F.H. Pennell, but I have not been able to verify it.

Photo No. 4 shows the Grand Hotel. In photo no. 1, with the aid of a magnifying glass, that same building can be identified as the Koss House.

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