Address: 101 East Wiggin Street
Architectural Style: Vernacular - Front Gable
Year Built: c. 1845
Architect/Builder: Unknown
Original Owner: Baldwin Norton

This building likely dates back to the 1840s, making it the oldest remaining commercial buildings in the village.  It originally housed the Baldwin Norton general store and the Village of Gambier post office.  Sabin R. Doolittle eventually took ownership of the store, and added a small ice cream parlor sometime in the 1860s.  Doolittle was born in Fredericktown, Ohio in 1838, and did not arrive in Gambier until 1865 to operate his mercantile store.  He offered a wide variety of goods, including groceries, dry goods, notions, hardware, agricultural implements, and other items of the like.

The store was later operated by Benjamin Harnwell in 1869.  Harnwell was born in England in 1836, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1842 when he was six years old.  They lived in Geneva, New York for a year before moving west to Wisconsin, where they remained until 1844.  From Wisconsin they moved back east to Gambier, where Harnwell began his education at the village school.  He was only 12 years old when he began his mercantile career as a store clerk for A. G. Scott.  Harnwell worked for Scott for six years when he moved to Cincinnati to work for George N. Wood & Co.  He did not remain in Cincinnati very long before he returned to Gambier, but in 1859 he left again, this time to Nashville, Tennessee.  He married his wife, Emma Probasco of Lebanon, Ohio, in 1863, with whom he had two sons and one daughter.  Harnewell only stayed there for a few months before moving on to Memphis, where he remained until 1870.  Harnwell explore the world of publishing while in Memphis, and published the Daily Argus throughout the Civil War.  Other noteworthy items that he was involved in publishing during this time include the Southern Monthly, Laws of Memphis, Hardie's Tactics, and blanks for the cotton loan for the State of Mississippi, which amounted to $20 million.  Harnwell came back to Gambier in 1870, where he returned to the mercantile life, as well as serving as an agent for the Union Express Company that ran over the Cleveland, Mt. Vernon & Columbus Railroad (which is now used as the Kokosing Gap Trail).

The building eventually came under the ownership of Henry Wright, som of the well-known Gambier carpenter Robert Wright.  By 1926, the building is identifed primarily as the Gambier Post Office, and it remained in use as the post office through the 1930s.  In 1940, the federal government decided that Gambier needed a new, modern post office, and designs for the new facility began.  Sometime during this period, a single-family residential addition was made on the nortehast corner this building, giving it an L-shaped footprint.  The entire complex is currently owned by Kenyon College and is used as a cafe.

Historic photographs indicate that the building had a very plain unassuming appearance in the early-20th century.  The building's south elevation, the main entrance facing Wiggin Street, has a central door flanked by two large display windows.  The storefront windows are surrounded by wood columns, beams, and paneling that appears to date from at least the late-19th century.  A single window in the peak of the gable likely dates to the 1960s or 1970s, and features a small suspended wood balcony extends from the window.  The wide, square pilasters lining the Chase Avenue facade also appear to be of recent origin, installed to further enhance the subdued Classical Revival feel of the building.  The gable end located on Chase Avenue, at the rear of the building, is where the early-20th century residential addition joins the original structure.  The distinguishing feature of this portion of the building is the small oriel window that projects from the peak of the gable, finished with multipaned sash windows.

 


 

Gambier District

District Properties