Address: 400 South Main Street
Architectural Style: Industrial
Year Built: 1910-1911
Architect/Builder: Unknown
Original Owner: Unknown

Located in the triangle of land between the Kokosing River and Howard Street, paved over the C. A. & C. tracks, was the Cooper Manufacturing Company Works.  This company specialized in steam engines, and later became the Cooper-Bessemer Company, now the internationally renowned Cooper Industries.  The Cooper Company, with the help of Colonel George Rogers, developed and patented the Cooper Traction engine in 1875.  This steam-powered engine, although not the first designed in the country, was the first commercially successful self-propelled tractor, revolutionizing the farming industry in the United States.  However, it still required a team of horses to make it turn.  This massive manufacturing complex was later razed, and in 1910, the land was bought by the Kelser-Dowds Company, which constructed the large "fireproof" building that exists on the site today.

This building, standing near the southern boundary of the Downtown Mount Vernon Historic District, has come to be a familiar community landmark, in part because of its prominent location, immense size, unique architecture, and its well-preserved painted Mail Pouch Tobacco advertisements.  Constructed between 1910 and 1911 as one of the few "fireproof" buildings (meaning constructed of reinforced brick, cement, and steel), this building is a fine example of early-20th century industrial-type construction.  Not only was the building fireproof, but it possessed a large hydraulic elevator, along with other of the most modern technological achievements of the day.  Sheridan G. Dowds, one of the business owners, began his career in general merchandising in 1888, in the small village of Democracy, now known as Amity, in northeastern Knox County along the 3-C Highway.  By 1900, he had joined the J. Hildreth & Company, which specialized in wholesale groceries.  When Hildreth died in 1905, Dowds formed the Kelser-Dowds Company, which served as one of the top wholesalers in central Ohio, shipping its products on large consignment to many of the surrounding towns even outside of Knox County.  The Kelser-Dowds Company specialized in both "fancy" and staple goods.  The local firm of Kelser-Dowds served the communty's wholesale needs for nearly 60 years.  The building was bought by the Buckeye Candy & Tobacco Company in the late-1960s, which primarily sold candy and tobacco products, but also provided the community with other wholesale goods.  The Buckeye Candy Company operated from this building for 35 years.  Between the Kelser-Dowds and Buckeye Candy companies, this building provided continuous wholesale service for nearly 100 years of family-operated business.

The main facade, facing South Main Street, is divided into four bays by means of piers and spandrels with simple, geometric brick outlines.  The entrance is located in the northwest corner of the building, deeply recessed beneath a brick arch and accessed by a short set of stone steps.  Framed in wood, the door has a large, single glass pane, and is surrounded by sidelights and transom.  An arcade with wide brick arches is located along the southern elevation, and is still clearly visible despite having been filled in with brick.  A large "Mail Pouch Tobacco" painted advertisement dominates the southwest corner of the building.  An incredible monolith, this building survived both the 1913 and the 1959 floods, due in part to its location on the Kokosing River's natural levee, and anchors the southern end of South Main Street at the foot of the Viaduct.



Downtown District

District Properties