History Column: ‘We Can’t Build Up Our Beautiful City By Scrapping All The Time.’

Posted January 6, 2021 at 5:30 am by

From the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Museum

“We can’t build up our beau­ti­ful city by scrap­ping all the time.”

These words were writ­ten by Launor Ben­jamin Carter in 1909, as seen in the ad above and pub­lished in the Fri­day Har­bor Jour­nal the last week in Decem­ber that year.

The entire ad is worth reading.

It reminds us that 2020 was not the first time some cit­i­zens of Fri­day Har­bor have “scrapped” with each oth­er and had some “mis­un­der­stand­ings.”

This ad prompt­ed curios­i­ty about why L. B. Carter had it pub­lished when he did. What was going on in 1909? These are things vol­un­teers at the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um think about.

When the Town of Fri­day Har­bor incor­po­rat­ed in Feb­ru­ary of 1909, Carter was elect­ed to serve on the first town coun­cil. He had bro­ken ground for Carter’s Depart­ment Store the year before and con­struc­tion of the two-sto­ry con­crete block (also known as cast stone) store was still ongoing.

The undat­ed pho­to above shows the store in its ear­li­est years. You will rec­og­nize it today if you stand in front of Kings Mar­ket on Spring Street and look up at its mid­dle sec­tion. If you go upstairs to Kings Sports­wear, you will be stand­ing where Carter’s Depart­ment Store cus­tomers once shopped. This new 1909 store replaced Carter’s Blue Front Store, estab­lished in 1892 on rough­ly the same spot. The Blue Front had sold essen­tial sup­plies such as gro­ceries, hard­ware, and clothing.

Some­thing else was going on in 1909, relat­ed to com­mer­cial con­struc­tion on Spring Street. In an arti­cle pub­lished in the orig­i­nal San Juan Islander news­pa­per on March 26, we learned that L.B. Carter was arrest­ed on a com­plaint of P.A. Jensen who owned the neigh­bor­ing Jensen’s Store in the same block, on the cor­ner of Sec­ond and Spring. The charge was “hav­ing cast nox­ious refuse upon the street in vio­la­tion of sec­tion .46 of the penal code…” It was appar­ent­ly eas­i­er to get arrest­ed in Fri­day Har­bor in 1909 than it is today.

A hear­ing was held that after­noon, a judge found Carter tech­ni­cal­ly guilty but not by inten­tion, and imposed a fine of $10. Con­struc­tion of the depart­ment store con­tin­ued and it opened that sum­mer. Its con­struc­tion cost was about $12,000. The busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty praised it as “the most notable improve­ment to the busi­ness dis­trict of the town” that year. It was the type of depart­ment store that offered every­thing from gro­ceries and hard­ware to sewing goods, cloth­ing and appli­ances. Jack­ie Dou­glas Hub­bard has mem­o­ries of it being a beau­ti­ful store, with an open stair­case to the sec­ond floor where she and her friends as young girls in the 1930s would look down upon the activ­i­ty below.

L.B. Carter died sud­den­ly from a heart attack in 1937. At 79, he had pre­vi­ous­ly turned over much of the dai­ly oper­a­tions of the store to his son-in-law William Roark, who was mar­ried to L. B.’s daugh­ter Let­tie. In Jan­u­ary of 1939 two large ads were pub­lished in the Fri­day Har­bor Jour­nal, announc­ing the tran­si­tion of Carter’s Depart­ment Store into two dis­tinct busi­ness­es. Let­tie and William Roark pur­chased the dry goods and cloth­ing depart­ments of the store. The new name was Roark’s Dry Goods. The gro­cery and hard­ware depart­ments were sold to Kings Mar­ket. And a new era began.

As L.B. Carter wise­ly not­ed in his 1909 ad, “Remem­ber we can move the earth by all pulling togeth­er.” We wish you all the best in the com­ing year “on the sun­ny side of life.”

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.

Categories: History, People

No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0