For most Warner’s collectors, the history of H. H. Warner begins about 1879 when Warner introduced his intial line of Safe Cures to the public. I covered some of Warner’s history in my series “The Rise and Fall of the Warner Empire.” We know that prior to his life and death struggle with Brights Disease and his miraculous discovery of Dr. Craig’s Kidney Cure, Warner made a fortune selling fireproof safes in the post-Civil War era. Indeed, some of those safes have survived down the years as testimony to Warner’s first career. However, it seems that very little paper has survived from that enterprise. One exception is the above letter from Warner to a customer in 1874. The stationery is engraved “Office of H. H. Warner & Co., Fire & Burglar Proof Safes, Combination Locks, Vault Work [Etc], No 18 Arcade, Rochester, N.Y.”
This terrific piece of paper is merely the confirmation of the order of a safe and nothing more, but it gives us a glimpse into the world of H. H. Warner before patent medicine. The other interesting tidbit we get from this otherwise seemingly innocuous piece of stationery is the address “No. 18 Arcade.” Thanks to the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, I was able to learn a bit more about Reynolds Arcade. Architectually speaking, I love arcades because they combine the feeling of an open space with the beauty of natural light. The structure was the brainchild of Abelard Reynolds (1785-1878) and was completed in 1829 with additions in 1838, 1842 and 1862. Fortunately, both illustrations and photographs of the Arcade have survived.
Based on the above floor plan, the Arcade apparently stretched between East Main Street and Exchange Place. The location of No. 18 would have placed Warner’s safe business on the outer edge fronting on Exchange Place opposite the Post Office. This is interesting because, although we usually associate Warner’s Safe Cure business with his Safe Remedies Building on St. Paul Street, his initial location was on Exchange Place as depicted in one of his early almanacs.
My initial thought was that perhaps this early Safe Remedies office was simply converted from selling burglar and fireproof safes; however, the building depicted in the almanac seems too tall to have been part of the Arcade. At any rate, we now have a better sense of where Warner was doing his safe business in the early 1870’s. Sadly, the Arcade in its original form has not survived.
The original Arcade and any vestiges of Offices of H. H. Warner & Co. Fire & Burglar Proof Safes at No. 18 were razed in May, 1932 and replaced by an Art Deco style building bearing the same name. Time marches on. Special thanks to Jack Stecher, who owns this nice piece of early-Warner stationery and to the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County for the wonderful information on Reynolds Arcade.