Stop 35: The 1905 Griffin Block
(Sugar Creek Antiques and Treehouse Mercantile).
Commonly known as Griffin Block at Meridian Avenue and Eighth Street, notice the now green building that houses Sugar Creek Antiques and Treehouse Mercantile. The complex was designed by architect, Artemus Roberts when he was in his sixties. It was then built by James Clarence Griffin in 1905, for his Griffin Drug Store. Also noteworthy, it housed the very first telephone company which was organized by W.J. Ellsworth for 135 members from ten surrounding little bergs and towns. It may sound antiquated by modern standards but the sixteen-line telephone company organized in spring 1903 revolutionized life.
Historian Bill Dayton explained that the telephone exchange was the brainchild of pharmacist James Clarence Griffin and Dr. Robert Don Sistrunk who came up with the innovation of calling in patient’s prescriptions. This revolutionized the family doctor’s work somewhat and shows the ingenuity of the family doctor and the local pharmacist in meeting the needs of the community.
Griffin and a fellow druggist, Nathan Berry had previously opened a drug store at the corner before the turn of the century as a successor to Parlor Drugs. On May 21, 1903, Pharmacy Magazine reported the partnership of Berry and Griffin. After Griffin bought out his partner, he set out to build the larger building in 1905.
With available grant funding and resources available from Dade City Mainstreet which operated in Dade City from 1985 for twenty years, the complex was chosen for one of the early renovations. Owner Barbara Huckabay committed to the project. Just before the building was set for an opening of Huckabay’s specialty gift shop in 1987, it was largely compromised by an electrical fire. Lucky for posterity, Huckabay persevered to complete the restoration however and it was ready again for occupancy in 1989. “It will be the first time in 100 years that the business there has not been a drug store,” said Dade City historian Bill Dayton.
For years prior to the renovation, the building was hidden behind green and white aluminum siding that was placed in the 1950s. When the workers started removing the siding, Huckabay discovered the façade was still viable and could be preserved. The transom windows above the plate-glass front were refurbished and windows that had been bricked up were restored. Steel beams sporting rosettes were left exposed above the windows. The words Griffin Block and the 1905 date were found arched over the doorway.
The building was called the Griffin Block because the druggist rented out portions for a barber shop and grocery store.
Dayton said that Roberts incorporated an imaginative use of skylights which was uncommon in those days. One of the skylights was restored. Dayton also believed the building featured a wind chimney–a pyramid shape with a trap door and vents at the top. The wind chimney was used for air ventilation to keep a breeze moving through the building.
Griffin sold the building in the 1920s and since that time it has had many owners including Irving Seay, Frank Price, and the Huckabay family. Over time, it has also been occupied by Shofield’s Department Store, groceries, antique shops, Chandler’s Drug Store, Nolen’s Drug Store, gift shops and more.
A narrow set of stairs from Meridian Avenue led to offices on the second floor. Mary Myers Rosier, a native whose father owned Myers Metal Shop north of the Edwinola and who became a University of Florida professor remembered Dr. I.S. Futch as dentist and medical doctor Dr. Sistrunk in the offices upstairs.
Before moving on, look across the street and notice to the slight north west a two-story apartment complex which was known as the Frederick Cosner Apartments.