Old Address: 34 Main Street
Other Names: Walton, Starks & Co.; Starks, Goss, Caffery Co.; Adirondack Hardware Co.
Year built: c. 1900; at least by 1906
Of all of Captain Pliny Miller's descendants, the one who had the greatest impact upon the village center was Milo Bushnell Miller (1846-1917). A grandson of the Captain's through Pliny H. Miller, Milo became, according to one historian, "the most prosperous and largest holder of real estate in the community".
In 1865 or 1866, Milo spent $250 to buy five acres of land that had originally belonged to his grandfather. The five acres was bounded on the south by the present site of the Harrietstown Town Hall, on the north by the present site of the Fowler Block, and it ran from the east bank of the Saranac River to the west side of Main Street. It is now the site of ten commercial buildings.
The first of these buildings, by order of address, is the G. Carver Rice Furniture store at 34 Main St. Other than Rice, this building has had only one other documented occupant: Walton and Tousley, hardware suppliers.
On March 31, 1906, he and Henry H. Tousley formed Walton and Tousley, Inc.
This seems like a very low price for a lot with a three-story brick building; but the style of stonework in the foundation seems to indicate that it was built around or before 1900. The decade 1900 to 1910 in Saranac Lake saw the evolution of more "finished" foundation work with more uniformity of stone size and type and also the introduction of poured concrete.
Documents have not been found to suggest whether there was a building on the property prior to 1912, but it seems reasonable that the structure was there in 1906, and that Miller leased it to Walton and Tousley, with rent going toward purchase, thus substantially reducing the price six years later.
Walton and Tousley soon established themselves as the smaller, but equally expert, alternative to Starks Hardware. They were in the general hardware business, but they made a specialty of electrical and plumbing supplies. They also provided electricians and plumbers to do the installations. There are still claw-footed bathtubs in use throughout the village that have the words "Walton and Tousley, Saranac Lake, N.Y." embossed on the overflow-drain faceplate.
Milo Miller left such a large estate upon his death in 1917 that it was incorporated for administrative purposes. The first president of the Milo B. Miller Estate, Inc. was H. H. Tousley.
Tousley was a financial partner rather than being actively involved in the hardware operation. After William Walton's death, Walton and Tousley began a long, slow slide under several business managers. Especially damaging to the company was a decline in their plumbing expertise over the years. Finally, in July, 1948, the corporation liquidated and its real estate assets were purchased by G. Carver Rice, Inc.
Carver Rice was a mattress salesman during WWII, and Saranac Lake was part of his territory. He always liked the area and looked for an opportunity to stay. He found it when the local branch of Lake Placid’s F. S. Leonard furniture store was offered to him. Soon thereafter, 1 he acquired the property at 34 Main Street, and it has been called "Rice's" ever since.
The Rice Building is actually two structures, the rear segment having been added probably during the early years of the Walton and Tousley ownership. Both buildings are three stories, but the addition was built on lower ground, and the roof levels of the two did not match.
In 1960, a fire ravaged Rice's. As part of the repair process following the blaze, the top story of the front building was removed and its facade redone in a "contemporary", 1960s style, which bears no relation whatever to the original structure.
Original text by Philip L. Gallos.
Due to extensive alterations to the building, the property is a non-contributing building to the Berkeley Square Historic District.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 26, 1958
S. L. FIRE DESTROYS RICE STORE
Third Total Fire In Six Weeks Causes Estimated $175,000 Loss
Alarm Sounds at 5:17 AM. In 22 Below Weather Frozen Lines Hamper Fire Departments
The G. Carver Rice furniture store at 34 Main Street, Saranac Lake, was gutted by fire this morning. Loss has been estimated at $175,000 or more.
This was the third, and largest, fire to hit the village in the last month and a half. Meyer's Drug Store on November 18 and Boyce and Roberson's on December 11 were burned out. Total loss in these two fires was estimated at $275,000. All three buildings were among the best in appearance in the business section.
When the alarm sounded at 5:17 this morning, the thermometer was 22 degrees below zero.
Firefighters were hampered for some time when the pump on the big new truck was frozen. Lines, however, were functioning from the hydrants. Lake Placid, for the third time this winter, sent equipment over, arriving at 6 o'clock. Bloomingdale again had firefighters standing by at the fire house.
Saranac Lake Fire Chief Bill Davis said the fire apparently started when the flue burst at the back of the furnace.
Firemen struggled into dense smoke to try to reach the Rice business records, but were unable to save them.
Chief Davis said that, although the sprinklers functioned properly, the fire quickly got into the partitions and spread through them.
Mr. Baxter said when he reached the building at 5:30 there was only smoke visible and he thought the fire could be controlled. Karl Griebsch, manager of the Lincoln Mountain Vaults next door to the Rice store, said that at 5:35 there was a burst of flame "like a blow torch" through the front door.
From then on the fire worked rapidly up through the store, which was built about 1900 and which for many years housed the Walton Tousley Hardware Company.
The community was probably saved from a major conflagration because there was little wind. Furthermore, on the south side, an alley separated it from the Town Hall and on the north side there is a good fire wall on the Tousley building, where the Lincoln vaults are located with their microfilm records from business establishments from all over the country.
Lake Placid Chief George Sullivan put his pumper on the bridge by the Paul Smith's Electric Light building. He brought 1500 feet of hose on the pumper and another 1000 feet on an emergency truck. Loren Torrance, first assistant, Caroll Wells, second assistant, and other men joined the fight under Chief Davis' direction.
Carl Smith, Saranac Lake's first assistant, came out of the burning building at one point so thickly encrusted with ice that he could neither, bend his arms nor bend over at the waist. He drank coffee from a cup placed on the emergency truck, using straws.
Village highway crews brought bags of slat to keep hoses from being frozen immobile They carried bags to the roof of the Tousley building to keep drains open as hoses sent cascades of water falling there.
Firemen put an extension ladder up the front of the Town Hall and played streams on the fire from the roof. A stream was thrown on also from a ledge over the police headquarters. Others were worked from Main Street and from the rear.
Judge Gordon Vosburgh, himself a fireman for thirty years, took his reporter on top of the Town Hall. There firemen could be seen twenty or thirty feet away shrouded in smoke as they fought the flames on the roof of the Rice store. Sections of the roof collapsed few minutes later. Malcolm Fobare was one of the men that could be distinguished there. The Judge was doused by a sudden spurt of water.
It was still 20 below zero at 8 a.m.
At 8:45 black smoke billowed from the south side of the building. It seemed impossible that fire could continue despite the tons of water poured on it, but repeatedly it broke out in different sections. The cornice tumbled down about 10:30.
The building was a frame structure with brick and stucco veneer.
Mr. Rice said he had considerable insurance, but did not know how great his loss would be, His store was one of the finest furniture stores anywhere in the North Country. He had furniture of all kinds on display on all three floors.
"The flue got too hot," Mr. Rice said, "with the furnace running all the time." This has been one of the longest stretches of severe cold in a great many years.
Not Since 1927
Judge Vosburgh recalled that not since 1927 has the village had three fires in one winter. Then the Berkeley Hotel fire occurred, the Central House burned down (where the Altman store now is), and the Town Hall burned to the ground.
By noon little fire was left. The charred figure of a Santa Claus stood on the sidewalk, like the volunteer firemen, draped in a coating of ice. Through the broken windows could be seen the blackened remains of fine furniture. By noon the firemen were uncoupling the hose, laying it out on the street, and then loading it to take back to the drying racks. Despite their hours of work, they had to be ready as soon as possible for any other emergency.
As in the earlier fires, there were contributions that helped the firefighters. Everett's again provided gloves. Sandy's and Newberry's came up with coffee and doughnuts. The Hotel Saranac provided flapjacks, and there were others who helped.
1. March, 1948. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 1, 1948