Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saddle Shops and Houses

You may recall the above photograph of the Kuck Harness Shop that I posted in this blog post a couple weeks ago. Although I didn't say specifically, I believed at the time and led readers on that this Harness Shop was originally that of my 3rd great grandfather John Kuck in Charles City. After reviewing some recently obtained pictures, I now think that this harness shop was actually one that was started up by John's younger brother Frederick (although some articles in old newspaper suggest John owned it too) after John trained him in the art of harness making. That is Frederick in the photo above standing in front of his store and an unknown couple standing on the balcony above.

My 3rd great grandfather John Kuck's Harness Shop can be seen in the above picture. It is the fourth building back on the right with no awning and no sign up on the top of the shop. From my research, this is the third shop he worked in. The first one in Galena, Illinois he most likely apprenticed and learned the trade. Coincidentally, a rival saddle shop in Galena was owned by Ulysses S. Grant's father and the clerk was none other than our future 18th president . John set up his own shop shortly afterwards in Lansing, Iowa which only lasted for two years before he moved to Charles City, Iowa and started his last shop.

This is a frontal view of the shop which provides lots of fascinating details. The sign above the door says J. Kuck Harness Shop while the window on the left says Leather Store and the one on the right repeats Harness Shop. I believe the smaller sign to the left of the door and below the window says Cash Paid For Hides and I'm speculating that the hide tacked to the door is probably a buffalo hide since on the back side of the photo it is written that buffalo skins hung along the wall to be chosen by customers and made into lap robes. Who ever wrote that was also confused as to the location and wrote that it is either in Charles City or just down the road in Rockford and still stands as of 1953. It most definitely is in Charles City and it still stands as of last month because below is a picture of it in its current incarnation. One more word on the picture above though before I move on is that is if you zoom in and look closely in the center window, you can see someone looking out. Perhaps it was my 2nd great grandfather George?

This is John Kuck's Harness shop as it stands today. I'm guessing buffalo robes are out of the question but a stiff martini would be a safe bet.

When my 3rd great grandfather John Kuck decided to retire from the business, Frederick bought his store in Charles City and ran it a few years before he died and his sons sold it to the highest bidder at a public auction. Frederick's sons also sold all his possessions and house since they lived elsewhere. Above is a picture of Frederick Kuck's house just a block from his brother John's house in Charles City. On the back is a paragraph written about Frederick's son Herbert who at age 12, climbed out of the window, slid down the pillars and joined 'the gang' for a 4th of July celebration until 2:00 a.m. and received a good hiding when his mother found out three weeks later.

Finally, above is a blurry picture of John's house at 802 Ferguson Street in Charles City that is still clear enough to tell that it was a nice house. Both the houses of John and his brother Frederick were nice so I must assume that the harness shops were money making ventures. Unfortunately John's house on Ferguson Street is gone and over top has been built the Port Charles Assisted Living center and Frederick's house is underneath a parking lot for a YMCA.


sage said...

Neat photos--from a saddle shop to a bar! I don't know, but this post reminded me of a book about Buffalo NY (I think it was called "A Last Fine Time") that told the story of the city through a bar that had been in the author's family... It was very creative.

Iguana Group said...
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Ed said...

Sage - Another irony to this story was that John's oldest son Henry moved out to Oregon where he became a famous saddle maker. His old shop is currently a bar too. Perhaps there is something about leather and alcohol...

kymber said...

hmmm...leather and alcohol..i never saw the connection before.

i still don't think i see it. oh well - awesome family stories that you have to tell and thank you for sharing them!

your friend,

R. Sherman said...

Good stuff, as always.