by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
The Historical Society Museum looks forward to welcoming our new neighbor, Iron Kettle Brewing. And while the business is new to Grain Valley, the building is 100 years old.
A few years ago, Patricia Davis Parr made a presentation to the Historical Society. She took us on tour through the streets of our town and told us what she knew about the homes, churches, and businesses that made up Grain Valley from about 1900 to 1940.
Beginning at Walnut Street and preceding south along the west side of Main we would have passed the Christian Church, two small houses, and the Sni-A-Bar Bank. South of the bank was a building which housed different businesses including a café, a millinery shop, and a locker plant. If I had remembered this reference in April, I would have known that the millinery shop was on the west side of Main Street.
The next building is the subject of this article. Mrs. Parr’s grandfather, John T. O’Connell, was the local barber when he married Creola Warren in 1906. He also helped his brothers with a café (circa 1912) across the alley where the Historical Society is currently located.
His tonsorial (April 23, 2020 Valley News) burned in 1920 and he replaced it with the current two-story brick building which may well be built on the original foundation. The building was rented to Charles and Ida Ryan who ran a general store. Inside along the north wall were dry goods and the groceries shelves were on the south side.
Mrs. Parr recalled the rolling ladder that allowed customers to reach the top shelves. At some point, the Ryan’s opened the locker plant in the building on the north side and a wide door was put into the wall, connecting the two buildings.
Later, Ed and Louise Crull ran the grocery store until 1953. After that I have no memory of the building being occupied downstairs until the antique shops came to Grain Valley sometime in the 1990s. I’ve talked with a few “old-timers” and no one remembers much about the building during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Maybe it was vacant?
The second floor housed a theatre which was popular after the Royal Playhouse closed. It was also used for meetings by The Royal Neighbors and The Modern Woodman of the World.
I can recall going up the steep, creepy stairs to attend Halloween parties sponsored by The Royal Neighbors when I was in elementary school. That is also where I took tap and ballet lessons from Glo-Del Dance Studio between 1950 and 1953. Gloria was my teacher and she and Deloris came to Grain Valley on Saturdays in the winter to teach tap, jazz, and ballet.
“If these walls could talk…” We’ve all heard that old saying. But it’s true and if walls could talk I’m sure there are many stories to tell. We’ll just have to patronize Iron Kettle Brewing and make up some new stories for the second hundred years in the life of this great old building.