New Castle News

November 23, 2013

Nearly 90? Photo says News building opened on Saturday, but ...

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — After 90 years, what’s five days among friends?

The New Castle News occupies two buildings on North Mercer Street, the older of which was built and opened in 1923. Indeed, the photo that accompanies this article is taken from a framed print that is labeled “Picture of New Castle News Business Office Taken on the Opening Night, Nov. 23, 1923.”

That hand-lettered notation appears to have been placed under the photo at the time that it was framed, and according to a stamp on the back, that was done by the Charles T. Metzler Co. Fine Art Department. The Metzler Co. existed in 1923, doing business at 208 E. Washington St.

If the note is accurate, then today is the 90th anniversary of the opening of the building.

On the other hand, the whole thing may be a nine-decade-old error.

According to the Nov. 30, 1923, edition of The New Castle News, the paper’s business office didn’t open its doors to customers until Nov. 28 of that year. Moreover, a story in the Nov. 28 edition noted that while the business office had just opened to the public that morning, other departments already had been “operating normally for several weeks” in the structure.

The business office opening was delayed, The News reported, because of unresolved interior decorating issues.

However, a note in the Society section of the Nov. 21, 1923, edition reported that that problem was being addressed.

Calling the building “one of the most modern newspaper plants in the country,” the article noted that to date, men had done all of the construction work. On that day, though, a woman’s touch was being introduced as interior decorator Miss A.L. Pierce was “putting the finishing touches to the draperies that will hang in the windows and on the mezzanine floor.”

As The News’ final move from 119. E. Sycamore to North Mercer Street drew nearer, the paper notified readers in a Nov. 27 Page 1 story that it would have a new phone number: 4000. Readers were instructed to dial that number and ask for the department they wished to reach.

When the business office finally opened Nov. 28, The News reported in another Page 1 story that North Hill resident J.Q.L. Roberts was the first to conduct a transaction there. “He received a reply to a classified ad.”

Charles T. Metzler — he of picture frame fame — was next in line, placing an ad for a bazaar at First Baptist Church. The article noted that he asked for, and received, a receipt.

Rounding out the the day’s first 10 customers were Attorney W.K. Hugus, social item; A.L. Book of RD 7, who bought the first subscription sold from North Mercer Street; Paul Gray of Winter Avenue, John Wilke of 599 Superior St. and S.E. Thompson of 1408 Delaware Ave., all of whom bought a classified ad; M.K. Gilliland of 1208 Wilmington Ave., who “brought in a news item;” Charles Wirsing of real estate firm Wirsing & Patterson, classified ad; and H. Dangremond from the Holland Furnace Co., who “inserted an auction sale ad.”

Once the day’s business transactions were complete, “hundreds of New Castle citizens” turned out for the building’s formal dedication that evening. The Nov. 30 article noted that more than one visitor called the plant “a real credit to the city,” and that “while the business office, finished in the Italian Renaissance style, excited the admiration of the crowd, the mechanical department and the press room, both of which are as modern as it is possible to make, attracted a great deal of attention.”

At 8 p.m., the Rev. Samuel Maitland “called the crowd to order and asked Divine blessing upon the occasion.”

In a dedicatory speech that followed, Judge S. Plummer called the night “an auspicious occasion for both the City of New Castle and the New Castle News.” He congratulated the paper’s management, adding “New Castle can be proud of such a plant.”

Today, the newspaper’s editorial department occupies an adjoining building erected in the 1960s, while the printing press now has its own facility on Sampson Street.

The News’ business office, though, with its walls, counter and stairs of imported Italian marble, looks much the same as it did when it opened 90 years ago — on whatever day that actually happened.

(In the Weekend edition: Audrey Przybylski writes about a special feature of the New Castle News’ business office.)