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Somerset County Then and Now

Then and Now

109-115 West Main Street

109-115 West Main Street

Newberry aka Alexas Building (109-115 West Main Street)

Built in 1950-51

Previous Buildings
The land was originally owned by Charles Ogle, then Joseph Cummins, then John O. Kimmel, then sold to John Casebeer in 1852.

The Casebeer-Frease Building was a gray brick building built after the 1872 fire by Absalom Casebeer and William Frease. Casebeer and Frease conducted mercantile establishments on the ground level, and both Casebeer and Frease family members resided in the apartments above. The partnership between Casebeer and Frease lasted until several years after the death of Absalom Casebeer (d: 1854), at which time Parke Kooser purchased the Casebeer interest in the store, which continued to operate in the eastern corner of the building for many years as Frease and Kooser. In the building in 1877, Dentist William Collins was making artificial teeth for the competitively low cost of $8 a set. In 1888, the building’s neighbor (the Glade House) burned to the ground, and the Casebeer-Frease building suffered extensive damage. In the western half was Paul L. Casebeer’s jewelry store (established 1889, later sold to Harvey E. Stahl) and optometrist offices. When Paul Casebeer retired, his son Dr. A.J. Casebeer moved the optometrist office to the second floor. After A.J.’s death, Dr. Edwin F. Bauer and later Dr. Seymour Ackerman took over. Mr. Stahl divided the room, and the Bauman Paint shop occupied the eastern side for a few years, then Dusenberry’s Drug store. Later, Milady’s Shoppe took over the entire space.  

In January 1941, the Casebeer-Frease building sold at public auction for $33,500 to James A. and Ernest A. Alexas of Johnstown. Auctioneer David A Marteeny considered it the biggest sale of his career, which occurred two days before Marteeny’s 77th birthday. The transfer of deed ended 90 years of joint ownership by the Casebeers and Freases.
When it was set to be razed in 1950, Milady’s Shoppe, the Scamper House, and Ried’s Sandwich Shop were still on the ground floor but would be moving soon.


W.G. Baltzer and son of Shanksville were the contractors.

Queer Electric did the wiring. Frank Menser did the plumbing. Somerset Floor Covering company did the asphalt tiles. Brown and Kennel did the plaster work. (All of Somerset.)

Baltzer and Emerick (of Shanksville) did the painting. William S. Heslop, Sr. (of Johnstown) installed the windows. The Overly Company (of Greensburg) installed the cornices of the building and the fireproof doors.

Building Style
The building used 200 tons of steel, 550 cubic yards of concrete, 175,000 bricks, 70 tons of gypsum planks for the roof, 4,500 square yards of plaster, and 12,000 square feet of floor tile. It was said to be fireproof. It featured concrete floors, plaster walls, and steel lathing. The building boasts 66 feet of frontage on W Main St and extends 191 feet back.

The new, modern store was attractively furnished with light wood counters to display merchandise, and covered a 200x70 foot floor space. The lighting was said to be bright, but easy on the eyes. The new store contained 1,700 feet of lineal counter space, as compared with the 600 feet of counter space in the store’s former quarters next door in the Vannear building. This meant that the volume of all lines of stock in the new store would be at least doubled, and sometimes tripled, over the volume stocked in the former location next door. One hundred persons would now be employed, compared with the previous thirty employees. A new feature of the store was a blouse cabinet in which 500 blouses were displayed in full view but still protected from dust. A “large well-equipped lunch counter” was planned.

List of Businesses

  • Newberry’s Department Store (November 29, 1951 – Early 1995)
  • The offices of the Pennsylvania State Employment Services (on the 2nd floor) (1954 – 1958)
  • Glades Court Mall (retail stores, restaurants, and office space) (1996 – present)

On May 1, 1950, the five week demolition began on the old Casebeer-Frease building to clear the lot for the new Alexas Building. The new building would cover the entire lot between the Vannear building and Trinity Lutheran church, back to the Sipe building. There would be a basement for storage, the ground floor would be retail space, and the upper floor would be rented for apartments or offices. The cost of the new building was $200,000 and was built with Newberry’s in mind. At the time, Newberry’s was located next door in the Vannear Building, which was also owned by the Alexas family since 1926.

The chain of J.J. Newberry Co. was founded in 1911 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They were a department store chain of 5-10-25-cent stores. The J.J. Newberry Co. was incorporated in 1923 and continued steady growth until the outbreak of the war in 1941. The Somerset store opened in June of 1932. In 1946, Newberry’s was the fourth largest 5 & 10 chain (with 488 stores in 45 states), behind Woolworth (1,963 stores), Kresge (705 stores), and Grant (490 stores). By 1961, the company operated 565 stores. 

The grand opening of Newberry’s new location (the new Alexas Building) was held on Thursday, November 29, 1951. The local newspaper reported that an estimated 10,000 customers visited the store between 9am and 9pm that day. More than 1,000 balloons, 700 carnations, 500 potted plants, and peanuts were given away for free.

In 1957, the building underwent extensive renovations during which an elevator and escalator were installed. At that time, it was said to be the most modern and beautiful variety department store in Western Pennsylvania. Then the store expanded again in 1961 when an annex between the Alexas Building and the Vannear Building was implemented to add considerably more display space.
The Newberry stores thrived throughout the 1980s, but fell on hard times in the early 1990s and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. In early 1995, the Somerset location of Newberry’s closed, along with twelve other Pennsylvania locations, in an effort to restructure and come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Note that the property transfer of the Casebeer Frease building in 1941 was to James and Ernest Alexas. Most sources credit Achilles Alexas as being the owner of the Newberry and Vannear Buildings. Achilles and James were brothers, and Ernest was Achilles’s son. It would seem that ownership was shared, but that Achilles usually managed the business interests. Achilles and James were Greek immigrants who came to America at the ages of 14 and 12. Achilles was born in 1890 and died in 1971. James was born in 1892 and died in 1957. Ernest was born in 1923 and died in 2004, after selling the Vannear and Newberry properties to the Vanyos and Glades Pike Property in 1996 and 1997.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the span of buildings between 101-109 West Main Street, which are connected by an annex, were merged with a renovation project to create the Glades Court Mall. Various businesses have come and gone, but the longest running storefront has been Craig Suvak’s health food store for over twenty years.


  • Somerset Herald: 27 Sep 1877, 09 May 1888, 
  • The Republic (Meyersdale): 29 Nov 1951
  • Daily American: 27 Dec 1940, 30 Jan 1941, 26 Jan 1942, 15 July 1942, 01 Apr 1944, 02 Sep 1944, 21 May 1946, 28 Mar 1950, 30 May 1950, 20 Jun 1950, 03 Mar 1951, 30 Nov 1951, 22 Nov 1951, 16 Jul 1954, 18 Sep 1957, 17 Apr 1958, 15 Mar 1961, 10 Aug 1968, 02 Aug 1982, 17 Dec 1994, 30 May 1996, 10 Oct 1997, 08 Mar 2002
  • Walter Bowen Photo Collection
  • Los Angeles Times: 28 Jan 1997
  • The Albany Herald: 30 Nov 2001