Old Soldiers Just Fade Away
Centennial year is a fitting time to honor the old structures of Corning which have been landmarks on our streets, and a good place to begin is at the corner of West First and Elm with the only old-timer on Block 21, The Rexall-Crystal (nee Staley) Drug Store which has defied wind, fire and time since it was built on the site in 1892 by Dr. Joab C. Staley. The building replaced a smaller store built in 1881 when the Staleys arrived in Corning and Dr. J. C. Staley hung out his M. D. shingle and combined his medical office with an establishment where he could fill his own prescriptions. The photograph of the store, courtesy of Amos Baker, was made in the early 1900's. The Centennial-whiskered gentleman is Dr. George D. Grey, the other gentleman, Loren Russ. The place has been remodeled a bit, inside and out, and Victorian opulence has been succeeded by a red carpet which in Dr. Staley's era would have become so muddied after one wet day that cleaning it would have been a job for Hercules to tackle after he had finished cleaning the Aegean Stables - ancient Greeks rival to the Robinson Livery Stable on Second Street. Just as amazing as it's longevity of 83 years - the 83rd year began December 1- is the cost for building it. The itemized account of James M. Phillips, carpenter and builder, turned up among Staley papers after the death of Miss Corinne Secor and is printed here since seeing is necessary for believing. The total cost for lumber, labor and hardware was $279.93 … better run that through a second time … so it was $279.93. Lumber prices ranged from $6.00 to $17.50 per thousand. The best four-inch shingles cost $3.15 per thousand. Nails cost four to five cents per pound. 13 loads of drayage mounted up to $2.60, 20 cents per load through not less than four mud holes. Labor ran from $1.50 to $2.00 per day, depending on whether you were a plain or a fancy carpenter. As a contractor and carpenter, Mr. Phillips charged $2.50 per diem, or 25 cents per hour. Dr. Staley advanced $25.00 every Saturday from October 15 through November 2 to pay the labor bill of $93.25 for eight hands.
The building was turned over to Dr. Staley on November 9th, the returned material was credited on November 11, and on November 12, Mr. Phillips got a check for $150.00 leaving a balance due of $11.68 which he probably traded out in the store. Anyway, the bill is marked "Received payment in full, J. M. Phillips". With 82 years of use, the investment figures out about $3.50 per year, which is about as gilt-edged as an investment could hope to be.
The interior photograph shows the two ornate center columns which were surrounded by velvet cushioned seats for the customers. The apothecary table in the rear was a Victorian masterpiece with insets of red and blue colored glass in the front. Standing in the center of the store are Loren Russ and Thomas Burke Staley, the old bachelor who ran the firm until death for Tom and retirement for Loren. The Staley ad, "In business for your health" was a front page fixture in The Courier for years on end.