In response to a request for photos or photo postcards showing the Grape Belt National Bank of Westfield, 1924-1930, located in the Kent Building/Block at 17 East Main Street, a reader contacted the Westfield Historian regarding a recently acquired photo postcard showing what was identified in handwriting on the back as being Westfield. At the left-hand side of the photo is a portion of a sign that has the word "bank" above the first story of a two-story brick building. In the middle of the photo is the front of a church with a steeple that looks very much like the Westfield Methodist Episcopal Church prior to the removal of the steeple in 1908, which was replaced by the current bell tower.
Refer to the photo postcard with this article, and note the following items which have been used to attempt to verify the photo as being from Westfield and to date the photo based on the assumption it is Westfield. Westfield got electricity in 1892-93 and telephone in 1897. Since there are electric utility poles, as well as a Bell Telephone sign in the photo, and since the steeple is still on the church, this gives a range of years between 1897 and 1908. The number of cross bars on the electric utility poles increased for the first two decades of electric power distribution to accommodate more and more electric lines until the electric company switched to bundles of individually insulated electric wires in a large cable, thus eliminating the need for more than one or two cross bars. In 1908, Westfield had as many as a dozen cross bars, while in 1900, there were typically two to four cross bars.
Assuming the church with the steeple is the Westfield ME Church, and the time frame is between 1900 and 1908, the business buildings along Main Street in that area should include, very prominently, the large three-story Minton House, which burned in November 1909, between the last two-story building and the church. Note this building is not visible, although in all known Main Street photos of this area and from this angle, which show the ME Church with steeple, clearly show the Minton House. Also, those same photos show much different business buildings to the west of the church and Minton House.
This recently acquired photo postcard identifies the location as Westfield in handwriting on the back, however some research by the Westfield Historian questions this identification. Any reader with suggestions as to the possible location are asked to contact the Westfield Historian.
The next step in attempting to verify that this is a Westfield photo postcard was to compare the church and steeple in the mystery post card with a photo of the Westfield ME Church and steeple. There does appear to be scaffolding at the front of the church steeple which could signify a date of 1908 when the steeple was removed. But there are several notable differences between the shapes of the steeples and the details of the "windows" on the lower part of the steeple that suggest strongly this is not the Westfield ME Church. The only other church in Westfield which had and still has a steeple similar to this is the Presbyterian Church, but there were never any business buildings near it such as seen in the mystery postcard.
In studying the photo, Jason Beers, as he is interested in the older banks in Westfield, suggested perhaps this might be Main Street in Ripley. A trip to Ripley and the Ripley Free Library provided some possible evidence about this. The Ripley Methodist Church, built in 1839, had a steeple very similar to the Westfield ME Church. It too was removed in the early 1900s. When Ripley had their Sesquicentennial celebrations in 1966, they published a booklet which contained old and current in 1966 photos, as well as historical sketches about the various buildings and activities over the years. This included a photo of the Ripley Methodist Church with its steeple, and there were a few photos of early Main Street showing some similar buildings to those shown on the mystery post card. Presently, a few old buildings are extant, but none of those are exactly like any in the mystery postcard. Besides, the Ripley Methodist Church, now without a steeple, is located the furthest from businesses and buildings of the three churches along the south side of Main Street.
So, as of the writing of this article, Friday, Aug. 31, the mystery postcard appears to be neither from Westfield nor Ripley. The only thing common to Westfield and Ripley relating to the photo postcard, besides each village having had a church with a steeple circa 1900 no longer on either church, is the long straight section of Main Street looking eastward in Westfield or westward in Ripley. Mayville has a fairly long stretch of the main street looking south from the courthouse, but at present all churches along that section are on the west side of the street, while the mystery postcard shows the church on what would be the east side of the street.
The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union Street, in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., or by appointment. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457, and the email mail address is email@example.com.
Any reader who has suggestions regarding the possible location of this mystery postcard is asked to contact the Westfield Historian. Thanks.