Downtown buildings host rich history, architecture

Have you ever been to J.W. Riley’s Emporium? The antique mall, 107 W. Main, is a wonderful place to visit the past.

Do you know at one time it was the old Grand Hotel? The building was built some time in the 1890’s, and I believe it is in the Italianate architecture style, distinguished by gently sloping roofs and deep overhanging eaves, which are seemingly supported by a row of decorative brackets, or corbels, according to the HGTV website.

It was probably built during the gas boom period of free gas in Greenfield, during which customers were given free gasoline to attract business to the area, which was from 1880 to about 1920.

The only news article I could find about the site was in 1917, a Miss May Roberts was robbed of $40 while she slept.

The back of the building, on the so-nicknamed Whiskey Alley (where drunkards purportedly loitered) was probably Walter McCole’s Tailor Shop, a turn of the century business. I also know that there was also a restaurant at the hotel. There is a painted landscape at that location right on the wall in the eatery section.

What do you know about the Grand Hotel? Do you have any old photos?

There is an empty lot on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania Street and U.S. 40. This was the site of the Knights of Pythias Building, which burned down in the 1980’s. It was built in 1875 in the Jacobean Revival style, which was a 20th Century return to the architecture that was in style between the Tudor and pure Renaissance styles, according to the Buffalo Architecture and History website. According to the site, the style was characterized by a fanciful use of columns, pilasters and arcades, as well as flat roofs with openwork parapets.

Beside the empty lot is the small tuxedo and special occasion shop, The Acorn Tree, which was built some time in the 20th Century. What do you know about the Acorn Tree building and what preceded it? I know it is located in the historic district.

The Riley Boyhood Home and Museum is raising money to place a statue of James Whitcomb Riley on a bench in front of the home.

The “Reading with Riley” statue will be a permanent double commemoration of Indiana’s bicentennial and the 100th anniversary of Riley’s death.

Noted artist, Bill Wolfe of Terre Haute, has been commissioned to create the welcoming statue. Wolfe is famous for his other works like: Larry Bird, installed in Terre Haute; Abraham Lincoln, in Marshall, Illinois; and Col. Weir Cook in the Indianapolis International Airport. “Reading with Riley” will be unveiled in October and the boyhood home still need some funds to complete the project. If you are interested in donating, call 317-462-8539.

In May, I had the opportunity to attend a National Peace Officer Memorial Day service at the Hancock County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 140, 400 E. Davis Rd. There is a monument at the Lodge memorializing former Hancock County law enforcement officers Malcolm Grass, Karl Kelley, Dannie Garrison and Will Phillips. Go and see it.

Enough. I have told you everything that I know and some things I don’t. Talk to me.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or