The photograph to the left was taken in 1935 from the southwest corner of Commercial and State Streets, the very hub of downtown Salem at the time. This photo has been gracing the walls of Ma Valise Boutique since Janet Ogdahl opened her shop in one half of the historic Pomeroy & Keene Building at 379 State Street in 1995.
With quite the background in retail endeavors, Janet was drawn to this building, which seemed so "French" in her mind, knowing it would be perfect for her vision of a women's boutique--Ma Valise translates into "my suitcase"--where she could display and sell all the lovely items she found so charming.
Janet's son Toby operates a restaurant/bar next door at 383 State named W Wallace, after his father; and Toby's wife continues to operate her hair salon, Havana, on the second floor. Janet's daughter Katy took over the shop space this past summer and opened her own boutique, Gatsby, which reflects the time period of the Pomeroy & Keene renovation of 1927. The family stewardship of this well-used building continues.
Although the history of the Pomeroy & Keene Building began as the First Gray Building in the 1860s, it has housed a number of businesses, even a rooming house (aka "bordello"), over the years as Salem grew. Janet has acquired a 1925 Title Abstract that traces the ownership of the site back to the land patent granted by President Abraham Lincoln to William Willson, recorded in 1862, and includes a copy of Willson's original 1850 plat for the City of Salem (see photos to left).
The 1925 abstract tracks the property through 1890, depicting changes of ownership nine times over that period. Names of the owners show the diverse ethnic population in those early days, as well as several transactions by folks with names familiar to us to this day: Willson, Powell, Uzafovage, Myers, Meredith, Farrar, Adolph, LaBranche, and Fontaine. The documents include testaments from J.K. Gill and Charles McNary, even some probate records.
The 1919 photo below shows Buster Brown Shoes at the Commercial Street address, so Pomeroy had moved his business again.
By the time of the 1941 photo on the right above, the prosperous business had fully taken over the building and changed the signage appropriately. The "second" Gray Building abuts them to the east. In 1942, their shop was the location for a downtown salvage drive, with a large number of clockworks adding to the piles of metal salvaged for the war effort.
In another of those curious circles-of-life instances that no longer surprise us in our long-lived community, we recall that Holly Jackson, patriarch of the Jackson Jewelers legacy, worked for 13 years as the watchmaker for Pomeroy & Keene before opening up his own shop across the street in the Capital Center in 1944, prior to moving into the location up Liberty Street we know now. Holly even installed a clock that is very similar to the one at Pomeroy & Keene's in front of his new business.
While interviewing Janet about the Pomeroy & Keene Building, we learned that her family, the Fields and the Ogdahls, have interesting histories in their own rights, and Janet will be joining us again to share that story with us. Look for her family's story in early 2020!