This article first published March 22, 1984:
We are happy to see that the store at 31 E. Main St. is being renovated after the January fire (in 1984) and will soon be ready for some new occupant.
For longer than I can remember and until just a few years ago, that building was a hardware store. When I was a child it was known as Bell Brothers' Hardware and was owned by William and Clarence Bell. For a period it was Ryan's Hardware, owned by Francis P. Ryan who left Westfield about 1930. Then it became Waite's Hardware and until a short time ago was operated as a hardware store by Elmer Guest, the present owner.
Courtesy Patterson Library
For more than 125 years there was a hardware store at 31 E. Main St. Shown here is the H.W. Gibbs Hardware Store, established in 1849.
I recall that August Gollnitz worked at the Hardware Store at 31 Main St. for many years. I also remember Seymour Van Tassel's sheet metal shop on the second floor of the store. Mr. Van Tassel came to Westfield just before the turn of the century and had carried on his business in several locations in town before moving his shop into the Waite Hardware.
The Grape Belt newspaper of May 18, 1909 tells the story of the establishment of the first hardware at that location. "H.W. Gibbs of the firm of H.W. Gibbs and Co. has been a fixture for nearly thirty years at the hardware store, bearing his name that was established by his father, O.H. Gibbs nearly sixty years ago and has occupied the same location since. The Gibbs store is the only one in Westfield that can boast of such a record. The Gibbs three story brick block at number 31 Main St. is devoted exclusively to the housing of the large stock of hardware, stoves and other stock to be found under the roof, and that overflows into the two story brick warehouse in the rear, filling every available foot of space. H.W. Gibbs was brought up in the hardware business and is thoroughly informed regarding all its details. He was engaged in other mercantile pursuits for a time, but returned to the work he was especially qualified for, long enough ago to make him now the ranking merchant on Main Street in length of service.
"The Gibbs store is one of the best equipped for the purpose it is used, of any to be found in this section, and the stock of goods is large and varied enough to satisfy the needs of those wishing to purchase hardware of any kind or well made harnesses and horse furnishings."
The 1909 article states that "The Gibbs Hardware Store was established nearly sixty years ago." That would have been 1849 - the year of the California Gold Rush.
H.W. Gibbs having gone into the business with his father as a young boy, stayed with it until he retired in 1912, having served the public for over 50 years.
After leaving the hardware store, H.W. Gibbs was given a position at the Welch Grape Juice Company office which he held until he again retired, this time because of failing health at the age of 87.
Today's picture shows Mr. Gibbs standing in the door-way of the hardware store. Does anyone know the younger man at the left side of the doorway? In the shadow over the door are the words H.W. Gibbs & Co. Notice the gas lighting fixtures, the ladies' bicycle before the days of the coaster brake, and the one-horse vehicle displayed on the sidewalk.
In the design at each side of the entrance is the number 16, probably the number of the building before the system was changed to odd numbers on the north side of the street and even on the south.
I find it rather exciting to think that the same type of business was carried on at the same location for about 125 years and the building will soon be ready for some new venture.