401-403 First Street: A History

Courtesy of
Dorianne Gutierrez, Liverpool Village Historian

The double building at 401-403 First Street is one of only a few structures that remain from Liverpool’s busy 19th century commercial district. The First Street commercial district grew to serve the Oswego Canal, which ran parallel to First Street along the lake shore, and the salt boiling operations that lined the canal.

The building was constructed in the fashionable Italianate commercial style, possibly with materials from local brickyards that were located at both ends of First Street. The left part of the building is said to be the older of the two parts, and was constructed as a dry goods and grocery store, with other commercial operations and meeting rooms on the upper floors.

According to The Greene Family Genealogy (Charles H. Greene, 2002), Job Greene ran a meat market in the basement of the Cobblestone Hotel on First Street, and lived across the street in a house on the site of 401-403 First Street. In the spring of April 1863, Greene traded the house and property for property at the head of Onondaga Lake. It is possible that the house was then moved elsewhere.

The brick structure was apparently constructed shortly thereafter, probably for William Manly. The early to mid-1860s were very prosperous years for Liverpool, since the salt industry was at its peak, and the building was probably regarded as a very good investment. Many substantial brick homes were also constructed in the village at about this time.

William Manly contributed $250, a considerable sum, toward the building of the brick Presbyterian Church in 1862, and was also the contractor and general supervisor for the building project. Later in the 19th century, the building was purchased by Thomas Hand (1825-1895), who also ran a grocery and dry good store at the site.

The second portion of the building was constructed by 1871-1872. The publishing offices of The Lakeside Press were located in the Manly building (“Manly Block”), and the newspaper published advertisements for Manly’s store. A January 18th, 1872 copy of the newspaper (at the Village Museum), features an advertisement that states, “Having enlarged his Building.” The newspaper also advertises H.E. Van Horne, dentist, with “Rooms over Manly’s store.” Van Horne was also the newspaper’s publisher.

Over the years the building has had many tenants and users, among them an automobile dealership, a furniture store and several gift and antique shops. Early in the 20th century, the YMCA had meeting rooms on the upper floors. A 1924 village directory lists “Pocket Billiard” (pool) rooms and a grocery store. The 1927 directory lists the Nash automobile dealership and one of the first incarnations of Nichols grocery story. 

To view photographs taken during the 1920s that contain glimpses of the “The Hand Building (First Street),” visit the Liverpool Public Library’s Local History Photographic Collection, available online at www.lpl.org/local-history