The history of 312 Market Street

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The historic First Church of Christ Scientist.

The downtown Warren structure damaged by fire Monday night was a “grand old building.”

The historic Church of Christ Scientist building at 312 Market Street was built in 1865.

Owner Ken Williams said he and his wife, Sue, bought the building in February with the hopes of renovating it for a business.

Progress was going well.

“We were within two weeks of being completed so the business could come in,” Williams said.

The fire is a serious setback, and the owners have not had time to make a decision regarding the future of the building. “It’s just overwhelming to come up with any plan at this time,” he said. But, “it’s too grand an old building to let go.”

According to information provided by the Warren County Historical Society, Medora and Boon Mead — a successful lumberman and president of First National Bank — purchased the lot in 1865. The frame of the house was under construction in 1868 and the structure was apparently complete by 1870.

Boon died in 1880 and Medora lived in the house until her death in 1893. Their children sold the house to local clothing merchant David Shear in 1897, according to the historical society.

Shear moved to New York City in 1908.

“The last man to live here as a resident was head of oil procurement for the United States in World War I,” Williams said.

“Captain Ulysses Grant Lyons, (owner of) the oil refinery at the Cornplanter Refining Company and head of oil procurement for the U.S. Government during WWI, owned the house until he drowned in a boating accident in the Allegheny River in 1925,” according to the historical society.

The house looked different then than it does now, according to Williams. “It had at least eight dormers and wrap-around porches on the first and second floors.”

The home had become a valued part of the community at that point and when the next owner, Clyde Smith, started tearing it down to build a gas station, “public opinion objected and the house was sold to the First Church of Christ, Scientist,” according to the historical society.

Smith’s effort to demolish the building was never reversed. “The third and fourth floors were nothing but studs,” Williams said. “We were renovating the bottom and resurfacing the upstairs.”

“I found some pictures in the library of what it was like,” he said. He did not envision bringing the outside back to its former grandeur, but “we could do the inside justice.”

Williams said he had received an occupancy permit for the building Monday — the same day as the fire.

He thanked the City of Warren Fire Department and many other responding firefighters for their efforts. “The firemen did an excellent job,” he said. “They contained it to the back third of the building. They certainly should be commended.”

The building was insured, but the amount was based on it being a vacant structure, Williams said.

“It’s just a grand old building,” he said. “You wonder how, but we certainly believe in some way there’s an option of starting over.”