Diverting from Native American history, this is an article that has been on my mind for quite some time.
This past spring, while working to save the Mitchell-Nease-Hartley Building, I was a bit depressed by how little we know about our history. Now, this isn’t anyone in particular’s fault. Our local history has always been in bits and pieces, whether at the local library or tucked away in closets, attics, and the minds of our older generations. Basically, everyone knows a piece or two, but very few people know the full story. I’ve been working on this for nearly five years now and even I’m nowhere close to the full story, yet.
That being said, I thought I’d give some space to a building on Main Street that is often overlooked. I’m sure you recognize the picture of the 500-block of Main Street, right beside the County Courthouse. What if I told you that the second building was home to two of the most important businesses in Point Pleasant’s history?
Originally, 512 Main Street was home to a wood frame building. It was a printing office, and had been since it was built in 1869. This was the first permanent home of Editor George Tippett’s Weekly Register, having changed locations almost yearly for its first seven years, and still going strong 157 years later as our beloved Point Pleasant Register.
Unfortunately for Tippett, Point Pleasant was long overdue for a flood. The last “big one” had been in 1832 and was just a few feet deep on Main Street. Come 1884, everyone expected something similar and moved their equipment and merchandise to their second story, hopefully above the flood waters. Were they wrong! The 1884 Mother of All Floods got into the second floors of most buildings, and it destroyed all of Tippett’s newspaper printing equipment.
Luckily for him, and for us, community support was just as strong in 1884 as it was after the recent 2016 floods, and the Register survived. The building, however, did not. It had been cleaned out, like all the other buildings on Main Street, but rot had set in. By 1890, faced with damage to the building, new brick buildings going up on every side, and the expanding needs of the newspaper, Tippett made the decision to replace the building.
The current building, finished in 1891 with terracotta detailing and what was once an arched window in the center, is a wonderful example of what we call the 2nd Renaissance Revival style. This is the same style as nearly every building on this block, as well as the former Iron Gate, the former TNT Café, the current Coffee Grinder, and the current M&Z Boutique. With so many buildings in this style, it really is the definitive style of our historic district, and Point Pleasant has perhaps the best collection of 2nd Renaissance Revival of any small town I’ve come across.
The building we know today was the Register’s home for another few decades, until roughly 1920 though I don’t have an exact date. As the main newspaper in town, think of who and what came through this building in that 30 years. Anyone of importance visiting town stopped as a matter of courtesy, so Congressman Hogg, C.C. Lewis (Sr. and Jr.), Virgil Lewis, General McCausland, and Livia Poffenbarger all likely made calls here. Well, not just likely. Their visits were all mentioned in the Register! The 1895 downtown fire, 1913 flood, news of President McKinley’s assassination, and the U.S. entry into World War I (and soon after, our victory) were all reported on from this office.
Of course, you can imagine my laughter when I found out that the Register recently relocated to the building next door, only one off from its original home! Anyhow, I did say that this building was home to two of our most important businesses?
I bet my older readers remember Dr. Roy Eshenaur, and most of us have probably heard his name. Well in 1929, Dr. Roy opened the Point Clinic in the upstairs of this building. He was one of Mason County’s most notable physicians, and his clinic was the first in Mason County to use penicillin, have a surgery unit, and have an x-ray machine. I’m sure, in fact I know from conversations, that there are still a few people in Point that were delivered or patched up by Dr. Roy, either at home or at the Point Clinic.
The Point Clinic continued to expand at 512 Main Street until 1959, when Dr. Roy’s efforts to establish a larger hospital in Mason County finally succeeded and Pleasant Valley Hospital was dedicated. He was so involved in the creation of PVH that I know people that still call it the Point Clinic after his earlier practice. He was an active surgeon at PVH until he and his wife Marian’s tragic death in 1979.
So, this relatively unassuming, pretty ordinary building on Main Street? It might just be one of the most important. Think about the story the others have to tell.
Information from the Weekly Register (and Point Pleasant Register) and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.