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Renovations on the former Hick’s building uncovering the rare and unusual

- Manually-operated elevator, coffin-lined cavity in the floor discovered -



by Sylene Argent

When local contractor Rob Soulliere bought the former “Hick’s Building,” located at the corner of Laird Avenue and Talbot Street,” he had a vision to restore the building while recognizing its historical significance in town as a building that has been in use since the 1890s.

  With keeping the building’s age in mind, there were sure to be a few surprises when renovating the interior.

  Recently, Soulliere and his team have been working to gut the third floor of the building.

  Laurie Kowtiuk, President of the Essex & Community Historical Research Society (ECHRS), noted there was a special grand opening of the Oddfellows on June 9, 1899 on the top floor.

  While removing the walls and floors, the contractors uncovered an old, manually-operated elevator at the rear of the building. The engraving at the top of the elevator indicates it was manufactured by the Otis-Fensom Elevator Company Limited.

  Soulliere believes the elevator was likely from the 1880s. He is not sure what will become of the elevator, but would like to find a way to keep in the community.

  Members of the renovation crew, Frank Riberty and Andy Balazsy, said the elevator was buried in the wall with its doors.

  The elevator, however, was not the only surprise uncovered during the third-floor renovations. While gutting the floor, the contracting crew came to notice something peculiar with the hardwood. There was a secret door of sorts.

  When opened, an around 5’ by 1.5’ cavity was uncovered, and it was lined with what they believe to be coffin lining.

  While working on the flooring, Riberty and Balazsy said they noticed a hinge and handle, so they investigated. They found a small label inside that said, “Glass Casket Company,” they noted.

  During the continued renovations the duo also uncovered a yardstick emblazoned with the name of a former business, “Hick’s Hardware.”

Renovations to the Hick’s building includes adding boarding around some of the windows on the first floor that used to be flooring from a former local train station and using original-sized doors and windows, which are larger than today’s standard.

  The bottom of the former Hick’s Building, Kowtiuk noted, was used for a furniture and undertaking business in the 1890s, which JA Hicks operated.

  Today, the building is still often referred to as the “Hick’s” building. Its location was known as the Dunstan Block, she added. 

The exterior renovations to the façade facing Talbot Street was completed with help from the Town of Essex’s Community Improvement Plan.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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