The Lowell Area Historical Museum is taking us on a stroll along Main Street and sharing the history of buildings in Lowell’s historic downtown. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
Address: 312 E. Main (The Superior Lofts portion of the building)
Date Built: 1926
Owner: 1st Superior Furniture Co
1st business: 1st Superior Furniture Co
While the current building at 312 E. Main Street was built in 1926, this city block has a rich history that predates that.
The 300 block of East Main Street was the first business block in Lowell (originally called Dansville) and it became known as the “Old Wooden Row.” There were 12 buildings.
The first building in the block to be built was #5. It was built in 1846 by the Odawa in Cobmoosa’s village near today’s Oakwood Cemetery and hauled to this location with 8 pair of oxen. It was first used by Daniel Marsac as a store and then by John Hooker. Later uses were a saloon, bakery, shooting gallery, and the 1st office of The Lowell Ledger (1893-1898). The publisher Frank M. Johnson and family lived upstairs.
Here are the businesses that occupied the other buildings in the photo above:
Building #1 was known as the Hiler building. Mrs. Julia Hiler had her Millinery shop on the 1st floor, 1864-1901. Mr. Milo Hiler had his photography studio on the 2nd floor, 1863-1901. He had a reception room; an operating room with a north skylight, that held the camera, posing chairs and accessories; a dark room; and a printing room. You can see him standing on his roof taking photos of a parade in 1896.
#2: In 1892, it was the shoe store and dwelling of Mr. and Mrs. John Robertson. In 1907, it was the second-hand store of H. H. Read.
#3: J. C. Hare marble shop, 1884-1890. Kisor & Ayers, 1890, Kisor died so Ayers continued. J. H. Hamilton’s Lowell Granite and Marble Works, 1895 until the fire of 1907.
#4: A.P. Hunter owned the building. It housed the Banner Laundry of the Severys’, 1890s. O. J. McClellan was the laundryman in 1907. They lived upstairs. Mr. McClellan was electrocuted trying to save his family during the fire. Gib Worden, the old dance fiddler, also had a room upstairs—he was the self-appointed night watchman because he knew this wooden row would be a fire trap. The fire did start from a spark in the laundry room.
#6: Millinery, 1881 & 1892. Mrs. M. N. Purple made hats and did hair. It was the variety store of Mrs. Purple and Mrs. Bisby. In 1900, it is listed as Hairdresser.
#7: Bakery. Emmet Chase Bakery, 1880s; City Bakery of Charles Lawrence, 1891-1895; Mrs. Nicklin’s City Bakery and Restaurant, 1896+. The building was moved up Monroe St. to become the home of Bert Carr.
#8: Warehouse in 1885; dwelling in 1892. It was gone by 1910.
And the other buildings in Old Wooden Row:
#9: Checkered Front. Samuel Sweetland and Joe Smith grocery, 1866. Dr. Draper had a veterinary office here and used the blacksmith shop behind it prior to building at 317 E. Main in 1910.
#10: Carriage Shop and Painting with Blacksmith building behind it. The Auto Body Co. bought the Scott blacksmith property in 1909 and tore it down after using it while building their new factory.
#11: Dwelling, 1885-1910.
#12: Meat market. D. C. Foster & Fred Sayles Meats before 1885, only D. C. Foster after 1885. Later, it became a dwelling and was known as the George Speaker house. The house was moved to Washington St. before 1929. In 1936, the Lowell Ledger declares that this corner is Lowell’s newest park with green grass and a park bench.
Here’s a lithograph of Old Wooden Row that dates to 1870. The Masonic Lodge met on the 3rd floor of the 3-story building in the 1870s.
A view of the Hiler Building (#1) in the Old Wooden Row and the Lowell State Bank (right).
This image is small, but you can see how the fire of 1907 destroyed the five westernmost buildings of the Old Wooden Row. Eventually, all the wooden buildings would give way to the Superior Furniture Company factory.
The 1st Superior Furniture Company began in Grand Rapids in 1920. In 1925, they purchased the Ypsilanti Reed Lowell factory which had formerly been the Peckham Auto Body Factory. In 1926, they erected this addition, 77 x 32 feet, two stories high to the east of the original building and moved to Lowell. They also installed a new dry kiln. Rails from the Pere Marquette siding were laid to the factory.
The company’s finest hour was when Miss Anne Madison Washington, a direct descendant of the Washington and Madison families, came to Grand Rapids and selected Superior Furniture to furnish a replica of the Mt. Vernon home for the International Colonial and Overseas Exposition in Paris in 1931. Superior furnished a dressing table, candle stand, chest of drawers, two pie crust tables and two drop-leaf tables, all duplicates of originals in the Mt. Vernon mansion.
The first Superior Furniture went into voluntary bankruptcy on October 14, 1935, and the assets were sold at auction to the owners of the Central Michigan Office Chair Company of Charlotte and W. S. Lee who was to manage the Lowell plant. The new company continued using the trade name “Superior” and this became the 2nd Superior Furniture Company, 1936-2009.
Superior Furniture Co in 1981 consisted of the building on the west (right) which was built in 1909 and the one on the east (left) built by the first Superior Furniture Company in 1926. The east part is now being utilized by “Superior Lofts”.
The Superior Lofts apartments have been available for rent in this building since 2020.
Here’s another look at what 312 E. Main Street looked like as part of Old Wooden Row:
And here’s what 312 E. Main Street looks like now:
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