History of the Eshelman Building
Located at 6000 Goodrich Road in Clarence Center, The Perfect Gift occupies the John Eshelman Building constructed shortly after the Civil War. The Eshelman Building is listed on the National Historic Registry of buildings and at the time it was built, in 1872, it was considered the tallest building of its kind outside of the city of Buffalo. The Eshelman Building was built with bricks that were made by the Eshelman family – burnt in their own brick oven kiln that was believed to be located near the local fire hall. The building is three stories high and has always been a general store in some capacity. Boots were sold here as well as sweaters, feed for farm animals, and dried goods and notions back in the early days… and today it is home to our unique gift shop and fashion boutique.
As you browse through our store, you will notice several historical factors. On the main floor, the flooring and much of the woodwork in the building is original from 1872. The push ladder system is a replica of what once existed here. These push ladders were originally used for storage and access to the above components. As you wander the aisles, you may notice that the woodworking in the building shows signs of an arson fire that took place in the 1970’s. The building has since been restored back to its original look and was completely refurbished in the 1980’s. The Eshelman building has truly withstood the test of time.
On the main level of the building on The Perfect Gift (south) side is a one of a kind 4-in-1 safe located in the back of the store. This safe was made to keep the farmer’s pay since there was no local bank at that time. While in the store, you will notice the article from 1900’s posted to the left of the safe documenting the many attempts to break into the safe at that time, hence the security bars bolted across the window. The head of the household of the building would sit in the ceiling box (directly above and to the right of the safe) with a rifle to guard the farmers pay throughout the night. Postage stamps were also sold here as a makeshift post office located in the front of the store where you see a caged in office desk area, which now serves as the register and gift wrap area.
Clarence town meetings took place in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s on the first floor (north side) of this building, which currently houses The Perfect Gift Boutique.
The second floor of the Eshelman Building is a 3,000 square foot apartment that was once used for a Bed & Breakfast for family of the house, and also for housing guests such as mayors and senators being inaugurated into the town area.
The third floor was used as a stage for theater and entertainment, and was also for political inaugurations. During these inaugurations, quartets would come and sing and the elected officials would sign their names to the inside of the building walls. To this day, some of these original signatures remain and have not been painted over dated back to the 1800’s.Back in the day, there was stagecoaches would park out front on the dirt roads, and pictures will show as this evolved over the years as you notice them along the inside walls of The Perfect Gift. The Eshelman Building was also an area where tires were available for purchase back in the time when cars were first made. There was a makeshift “elevator” pulley system created on all three levels of the building to pull the tires up to the store level which still exists today. Consumers would take the “peanut line” train – located a few blocks away – and would walk here to purchase their tires from many miles away.
The Eshelman family was very forward-thinking, business-like, and entrepreneurial. They located one of the first Alexander Graham Bell telephone systems here at the Eshelman Building for people to use, opened a nearby creamery, owned several of the surrounding properties, and influenced and constructed the first road system to the four corners of Clarence Center.
John and Jacob Eshelman were the first to build the building and Andrew Eshelman, the nephew of Mr. Eshelman, took it over after that point. It stayed within the Eshelman family until the 1970’s until it was renamed the “Bratt & Krabiel Building” through marriage. The name of the building eventually returned to the Eshelmans.
The Eshelman Building store’s name was nicknamed the “Square Deal Store” back in the 1900’s. It was often called the Square Deal Store because the Eshelmans were a fair family, good to their customers, and also created one of the first credit card systems. To this day, the owner of The Perfect Gift also strives to serve the community in running the business and in treating others honorably, with kindness and generosity – just as the Eshelman family did. In addition to all the goods that the current owner buys for the store across the nation, The Perfect Gift also offers unique products from over 40 local artisans in our “Handmade” center section of the store.
We have photos located at the front of the store at The Perfect Gift in the black photo album for your viewing to show some of the history of the building through the years. Feel free to visit and browse the pictures, the woodwork, and all that the building has to offer as you go through it. See you soon!