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Somerset County Then and Now

Then and Now

216 West Main Street

216 West Main Street

Address: 216 West Main Street
Built: circa 1922*
Builder: Unknown
Previously: Countryman & Wood Furniture
Owners: George Stoker, Collins and Troll, American Sentinel Realty Company
Extant: Yes

On the night of August 28, 1921, fire destroyed the building owned and occupied by the furniture company of Countryman & Wood. The fire started in the vulcanizing business of John W. Shaffer and soon spread to the Willard Service Station and the warehouse of J. W. Phillips. The Somerset Volunteer Fire Department prevented the fire from consuming the Hemminger House to the north and George Stoker’s new fireproof building to the west. Little more than a year before, Mr. Stoker was burned out of the building he leased on the same site. He operated the Auto Laundry, Somerset County’s first mechanical car wash. Mr. Stoker also had Hupmobile and Auburn dealerships at this location.

After the destruction of the furniture business, Harry A. Countryman rebuilt, this time with no partner, at 243 West Main Street. This location was razed in 2023. Countryman sold the lot at 216 West Main Street to George Stoker shortly after the fire. Stoker then constructed another modern “fire proof” building. The brick structure consisted of retail space on the ground floor with 5 apartments on the upper levels. Double steel I beams used in the construction suggest Stoker envisioned another auto dealership for the property, but the first tenant of the space was the Somerset Furniture Company. They occupied this space until 1929 when they moved to the Kantner Building and the following year they went bankrupt. The Stoker Building sat empty for a year until The Somerset Daily Herald (now the Daily American) leased the first floor and basement. It was the basement where the QQ model Duplex flatbed
press was installed and the first issue was printed on August 11, 1930.

In 1946 Mr. Stoker sold the building to Edward W. Troll, Jr. and J. Joseph Collins who then sold it to Somerset Newspapers Inc. on 13 July 1948. The building was then referred to as the American Building. Sentinel Printing, the job printing arm of Somerset Newspapers also occupied the space.

As Somerset Newspapers, Inc. grew, the building began to be too confining. The process of moving began in September of 1964 with the purchase of property at the corner of West Main and Orchard Avenue. The Welsh house became the offices for the newspaper and a new printing plant was built behind the house on a lot purchased from Richard Gambino. A new 32-page press was purchased and the printing operation moved to the new location on February 5, 1966. In 2003 a new $2.4M building was constructed which is now owned by Gatehouse Media Pennsylvania.

While Somerset Newspapers, Inc. moved out of the Stoker Building, Sentinel Printing remained. It was operated by Johann Walter “Hans” Stumpf, son-in-law of Somerset Newspapers founder, Henry Baker Reiley. Hans continued to operate Sentinel Printing until the death of his wife, Margaret Louise “Peggy” in 1998. He continued to live in the building until he died in 2011. The ground floor of the building is now occupied by the Laurel Highlands Model Railroad Club.

*No construction date has been found, but Somerset Furniture Company first appears in the Somerset County mercantile appraisal list in 1922.