Walk north on Broad Street to the northwest corner of James. You’re standing in front of the Wasserman Block, former home of Wasserman’s Hardware until it closed about 2005. Upstairs were several office suites and the apartment home of Franz and Edith Wasserman and their children. The store sat vacant for three years and the upper floor degenerated into cheap office tenants, until my friend Howard and his business partner Rowan Oakes bought and renovated it.
First door on the left is The Periodic Table, chef Rosemary Plicka’s innovative restaurant opened about a year ago. Howard and Rowan share the old apartment above and adapted the three office suites as bed-and-breakfast accomodations. If you’re passing through, tell them I sent you and ask for the special rate. It’s a considerable step up from motel hell on the strip.
If you’re lucky, Suite 205-207 will be available. That was Anson Tennant’s original architectural office, opened in 1912 when he returned from school and apprenticeship in Chicago. He was twenty-three and inexperienced, but his dad knew Franz Wasserman had been disatisfied with his new building (finished in 1910 from plans by Joachim & Perlmuter of Sioux City) and wanted to enlarge the cramped corner apartment. So Anson received his first commission and bartered design services for a favorable five-year lease.
Howard described his great-uncle Anson’s office in an article during the sesqui-centennial series, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say it was as close to the Arts& Crafts spirit as Agincourt could muster, with stained plaster walls, stickleyesque furnishings and light fixtures crafted from Indian baskets brough back from the family’s Albuquerque vacation that summer. It’s the office door, though, that sets the tone for what you’ll find within.
The upper panel of the dutch door repeats the mantra of the A&C movement: “als ik kan,” the Flemish phrase branded on Gustav Stickley’s Mission Style furnishings. “As best I can” is a reasonable translation and, frankly, more truth in advertising than we encouter today.
Besides his name and the date (1912), the window is a time capsule of sorts, for there is a caliper (also rendered in stained glass, with a 1912 quarter at its hinge), as well as a 24-inch carpenter’s square once owned by Anson’s maternal grandfather Curtiss Corwin. Anson had learned woodworking skills during summers spent in Grandpa Curt’s carpentry shop near Mason City.
I hope we can show you the window soon and the original dutch door soon after that. The whole artifact will be loaned to the new Agincourt exhibit next Fall, another bit of material culture thay shows us who we were.