1899 - Mid-1980's
The wood frame structure located at 18 North 7th Street in Estherville dates back to July 1900 when Charles Nourse constructed the building as a woodworking shop. He was a cabinet maker as well as made molding and trim for the construction of homes and business. He swapped the building for an apple orchard near Spokane, Washington in 1910.
This newspaper picture and a part of a picture postcard are the only known images we have showing what we think was its original design. The article, published in an Estherville newspaper, credited Charles Cole with the purchase of the building and he promised to “make it modern.” Based on data on the old hot water boiler and other evidence in the apartments on the second floor he installed the coal fired boiler as part of his renovation of the structure. The postcard was intended to show the development of a gazebo in the library square.
There was evidence in the apartments on the second floor that walls had been moved and there is a line of thought that the second floor may have been a rooming house in its original form. Since the Cole family intended to live on the second floor it is assumed that renovation of the second floor included changing it from smaller rooms to two apartments.
His wife, known in most newspaper accounts, as A. M. Cole, appeared to be the business manager for the plumbing business as well as an electric fixture showroom. They lived with their daughter Elizabeth in the back apartment on the second floor. Charles continued in business until his death in 1933. At some point the Western Union began using the ground floor and erected a wall dividing the front third of the building for public access, the remainder was used for their equipment.
Elizabeth Cole Rich sold the building to Dad with the arrangement that her mother continue renting the back apartment for as long as she needed it. As it turned out Mrs. Cole remained in her apartment until she passed away in November 1960.
Dad took over the main floor of the building and immediately remodeled the front section. It had been the Western Union for many years and there was little in the way of finish to the interior. The front of the building had large plate glass windows and the only picture we have of this period was in 1974 when an unknown person took pictures of all the downtown buildings and identified the business at that time.
During the early 1980’s the stucco finish on the front of the building weakened and began crumbling and falling onto the sidewalk below. We had always thought that this was the original finish on the building but discovered that it had been sided with metal imitation brick and later had the stucco applied over the metal. Dad added wood siding and put in smaller windows to conserve energy. The interior of the main floor was unchanged from the early 1960’s. Somewhere along the way the old coal fired hot water boiler was converted to gas and it was in the 1980’s when it was determined it was unsafe to use so it was disconnected from the gas and water lines that supplied it.
This final picture shows how the front of the building looked until 2006 when a whole new chapter in the life of this structure began.
If you would like to learn more about our historic building we have provided links below.