|Address:||100-102 South Main Street|
|Architectural Style:||Second Empire|
|Year Built:||c. 1860s, altered c. 1880s|
|Original Owner:||Levi B. Ward|
Levi B. Ward was born on April 10, 1808 in Brandon, Vermont. When he was six years old, his parents moved the family to Zanesville, Ohio, prior to moving to Knox County in January, 1816. Ward grew up farming with his father, but in 1842, he decided to try his hand in the mercantile business. This venture lasted approximately four years, when he returned to farming. Ward reverted back to mercantilism in 1874, when he opened a jewelry store with his son. The building on the corner was likely built around this time specifically for Ward, whose store was located in the corner storefront.
The Levi B. Ward Building is prominently located on the southeast corner of South Main and Vine Streets. Originally constructed as a three-story Italianate structure, it is unknown when the mansard roof was added to create the four-story Second Empire structure that exists today, but it was prior to 1874, as seen in an historical photograph predating that time. As the only building sporting Second Empire architecture in the Downtown Mount Vernon Historic District, this building greatly supports the historic and architectural fabric of the commercial downtown area. The roof is executed in patterned slate, with four gabled dormers and two brick chimneys projecting from the roofline. The cornice has large stylized brackets, with frieze panels and three smaller brackets between each. A distinctive feature, other than the large mansard roof, is the oversized central 3rd-story window facing Vine Street. The entrance to the upper levels is located in the center of the 2nd story on the East Vine Street side. Historic photographs reveal that the stairs originally rose from the opposite direction, and a small wood-frame structure was housed beneath the stairs.
The brick structure located at 4-6 East Vine Street serves as an extension to the Levi B. Ward Building. The exact year of construction is unknown, but it was likely sometime in the 1860s or 1870s, together with the Levi B. Ward Building proper. The most prominent feature of this extension is the large studio skylight dominating the 3rd story, with an equally large decorative slip that matches the frieze panels of the main building. This slip sill is actually a remnant of the previous window that occupied this space. A vertical skylight appears in this building as early as 1874, as seen in an historic photograph, but it is unknown when the skylight was altered to the much larger slanted window present today. The other windows in this extension are very plain in contrast.
Fred S. Crowell, one of the most prominent early photographers in Mount Vernon's history, occupied the 3rd floor of this extension sometime in the 1880s, using the large single room for his photography studio. Early cameras needed a great deal of light to produce quality photographs, so it may have been under Crowell's direction that the skylight was added. Crowell was born in Huron County, Ohio on April 26, 1844, and arrived in Mount Vernon with his family when he was twelve years old. He began working as a bookseller and stationer under Moses White, with whom he remained for two years. He then began working with Hyde & Young Jewelers, where he remained for another two years, at which time he began working at Payne's gallery. It was here that he became familiar with photography. Crowell remained with Payne for a single year, after which he traveled throughout the State of Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania working with various galleries, learning more about the photography trade. In 1866, he returned to Knox County and bought a small photography gallery in Fredericktown. After three years, needing more space for his growing business, he sold the Fredericktown establishment and relocated to Mount Vernon in 1869. Crowell's reputation grew so that he eventually had the largest establishment within the county, selling everything from photographs to general photo-related merchandise, such as picture frames, cards, art goods, and general material for amateur photographers.