One of the most curious buildings in Lincoln’s Haymarket, featuring small and mostly unchanged facades on the south side of O Street between Seventh and Eighth, is probably best remembered as the Fringe & Tassel costume shop.
Most observers assume its highly decorative front is, like its neighbors, made of Seaton & Lea cast iron, but if you look a bit closer, it is actually wood.
It is difficult to pinpoint precisely where Lincoln’s first post office was located, but it is agreed it was on Block 52 on the south side of O Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, just west but possibly overlapping 731 O Street.
That address and surrounding property was first owned by Jacob and Edith Dawson, who built what is sometimes referred to as the first house in Lincoln, though Luke Lavender’s cabin just south of the southeast corner of 14th and O is another contender.
Dawson’s double-walled log cabin was the site of the first district court, first grocery store and was later owned by Judge Stephen Pound before he began practicing law in Lincoln.
The second building on the cabin’s footprint was probably built in the late 1860s as a boarding house, but, with the arrival of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, became W. W. Hoyt’s two-story, Brooks House hotel, which, in 1873, advertised itself as “new and fitted throughout with New Furniture, Bedding etc. / Good Stable on the premises / This is the most convenient house in the city to the railroad depots.”
In 1880, with Lincoln’s population reaching 14,000, it had become the St. Charles Hotel, Mrs. Kate Cokeley (Coakley) proprietor. The following year the St. Charles, on lots 4 and 5, showed hotel rooms on the second floor with dining room, kitchen and lobby on the first floor and a stable on the alley to the south.
Also, on lot 3 to the east at 739 O Street, was a saloon, though the city directory did not so list it. To the south the Sanborn’s Fire Map showed the three-story Hargreaves Wholesale Grocery was “to be built” on the southwest corner of Eighth and O streets.
On Feb. 28, 1884, a fire, which started in a nearby building, completely destroyed the hotel, forcing its guests into the Metropolitan Hotel across the street. With funds partially from insurance proceeds, Kate Martin built the new, three-story, masonry 57 or 60-room St. Charles Hotel, which had a saloon in the basement.
The new 55-by-75-foot hotel had its own steam heating plant and rooms offered on the American Plan at $1 to $1.25 per day or $4.50 to $6.00 per week. It advertised being only a one minute walk to the Burlington depot or two minutes to the Union Pacific or Missouri Pacific depots.
The saloon in the hotel’s basement provided frequent problems and was often in trouble for operating at illegal hours, losing and regaining its license until 1890 when Kate built the small 20-by-60-foot building directly east of the hotel as the Occidental Saloon with D. McCarty hired as manager.
Only two years later, in 1892, D. J. Duggan was listed as the Occidental’s owner. An ad that year touted the saloon’s dark wood fixtures, glass mirrors, extensive cigar selection, domestic and imported wines with “his rye and Bourbon whiskies having made a name for themselves all over the city,” while the saloon featured Pabst Milwaukee beer.
Meanwhile the St. Charles, inexplicably then advertised only 37 rooms for rent with head clerk E. D. Shogreen, but, to show their high class, the St. Charles pointed out their front brick balconies on the upper two floors and said they hired 12 to 14 “competent servants," and all rooms were lighted with gas fixtures.
In 1894 the hotel was renamed the Boyd, and the following year Dennis Duggan left the Occidental Saloon, moving his business to 319 N. Ninth St., leaving the saloon unlisted in the city directory of the year, and the Boyd now shown as again owned by Kate Martin but adding her son as co-owner.
In 1903 the Sanborn Fire Map showed that, at some point in the past year, two doors had been cut through the wall between the hotel and adjoining saloon, making the Occidental virtually a part of the hotel.
On March 2, 1905, a fire broke out on the third floor of Hargreaves Wholesale Grocery where an entire railroad carload of matches had been stored. Fire Chief Horace Clement, just out of the hospital from an injury sustained while fighting the huge fire at 13th and P streets, headed the new firefighting effort from the hotel’s roof, literally over the top of the Occidental Saloon.
By 1910 the Occidental Saloon had been taken over by Robert Charters and the hotel renamed the Western Hotel with Chris Rocke returning as its proprietor. Within a decade the hotel had closed, becoming Fisher Manufacturing. The Occidental became a print shop, and Hargreaves became Schwarz Paper Company.
Today the Old Hargreaves/Schwarz Paper Co. has been completely remodeled primarily as condominiums, the St. Charles Hotel has lost its upper two floors, while, amazingly, the Occidental Saloon is now … the Occidental Saloon!
Lincoln buildings that have made history
Woods Brothers Building
College View Public Library
Federal Trust Building
First National Bank Building
First State Bank of Bethany
Gold and Co. store building
Hotel Capital-YMCA building
Lincoln Army Air Field Regimental Chapel
Lincoln Liberty building
Municipal Lighting and Waterworks Plant
Nebraska State Historical Society building
Nebraska Telephone Co. building
Nebraska Wesleyan Old Main
Palisade and Regent apartments
Rose Kirkwood Brothel
President and Ambassador apartments
Old University Library
Rock Island Depot
St. Charles Apartments
Scottish Rite Temple
Sheldon Museum of Art
Temple of Congregation B'Nai Jeshuran
Tifereth Israel Synagogue
U.S. Post Office
Historian Jim McKee, who still writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him in care of the Journal Star or at firstname.lastname@example.org.