Historic Historic Lathrop Hardware, Downtown Montrose

From Lathrop Hardware to Tiffany’s Etc.

[Montrose Colo. | January 2020 | By Marilyn Cox and Kathryn R. Burke]

Lathrop Hardware in 1910.  Courtesy, Montrose County Historical Society.

[Montrose Colo. | January 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Marilyn Cox and Kathryn R. Burke] In 1890, J.V. Lathrop, a Montrose newcomer from Cawker City, Kansas, purchased the hardware section of the town’s first general store, a log cabin at 437 Main Street, then bought the lots next door to build his own store. By 1891, he opened the doors of his 3-story, 7,700-square-foot business, building warehouses and a tin shop across the alley behind it.

Lathrop was a shrewd and successful businessman who was determined to supply anything and everything that was needed in the new townsite (founded May 1882) and surrounding mining and agricultural areas. He handled the new Moline Wagons—which were more heavily built for farm use—as well as the fancy buggies desired by the more affluent bankers, doctors, and attorneys. One of the most popular was the phaeton with a removable leather top, fine leather seats, curving fenders, and elegant brass oil burning lamps. He also sold bicycles, popular among the “city chaps.”

Lathrop Hardware. Circa 1940. ©Montrose County Historical Society.

The floor space was cluttered with (coal or wood-burning) “monkey stoves,” Home Comfort and Majestic cook stoves, White Frost iceboxes, DeVoe paints, stacks of copper boilers, ice cream freezers, milk cans, and the latest glass-jar type churns. Lathrop Hardware also introduced DeLaval cream separators to the Uncompahgre Valley, revolutionizing the dairy business and giving birth to a whole new industry: commercial creameries. Farmers who used to skim cream from the shallow milk pans in order to churn and market butter could now sell cream.

Bins of seeds and bolts lined the walls along with kegs of nails and dynamite, miners’ tools, sheep hooks, pitchforks, rakes, camp coffeepots, bird cages, traps, lanterns, and bells. Rolled-up tents were suspended from the ceiling, as were duck tarpaulins and horse blankets.

Lehigh Appliances, in Lathrop building. Circa 1950. ©Montrose County Historical Society

O.I. McIntyre was hired in 1909 to manage the store, and he purchased it from Lathrop in 1916. In the mid-1930s, the business (but not the building) changed hands again when Roy Peterson bought it. After he died, his son “Pete” Peterson and Homer Rupert, who managed the business, moved the hardware department to North Uncompahgre and sold the appliance department to Keith Lehigh, who remained in operation at that location until 1975. The building was still owned by the McIntyre family and was eventually inherited by Anne McIntyre Lee (granddaughter to O.I. McIntyre), who leased it to Adam’s Vacuum. Unfortunately, in 1955, a new mint green front was added (a popular style then), covering the upper windows and decorative brick.

Tiffany Etc., in the Lathro Hardware Building at 438 Main St. Courtesy Kathryn R. Burke

The next and present owner, Glee Westcott, owns Tiffany, Etc., and she immediately began an extensive restoration to turn the building back to its original vintage charm. A glass artist and antique collector, Westcott’s knowledge and love of history were a definite asset. “My goal was to restore it,” she said. “I hoped that by preserving this historical building, I’m also helping to revitalize downtown Montrose and inspire others to follow suit.” In May 2004, the Montrose Historical Society honored Westcott for her efforts.

Inside Tiffany’s Etc. Restored tin ceiling, light fixtures, mezzanine balcony. Courtesy Kathryn R. Burke.

Despite its long use, much of the 3-story building’s original features have survived. “Most of the changes in those years were cosmetic,” Westcott explained, “not structural.” Especially notable today are the hardwood floors, tin ceilings, skylights, overhead lighting fixtures, and paneled walls. A mechanical lift (freight elevator), once used to transport heavy inventory such as stoves and refrigerators between floors, has been motorized and still functions. In the basement, you can also see where there was another lift at the front of the building, now covered over with stone. The original Lathrop office space on the mezzanine is still there, although it has since been extended to accommodate merchandise. The original building was heated with a coal furnace that has since been replaced with gas, and there is evidence of a long-ago fire in charred rafters at the back of the basement. The damage was minimal, however, and just adds a little more character.

“I did the best I could,” Westcott said, “focusing on hardware styles, brickwork, and color.” It took a long time, but the result was certainly worth it. At first, her glass studio was in the back and antiques (mostly her own) were in the front. Westcott gradually began adding more furniture, including more modern pieces, and home décor merchandise out front. She began adding other inventory, like women’s clothing, handbags, and accessories, jewelry, silk flowers, gifts, greeting cards, and socks. “It just sort of evolved,” she said,” becoming more eclectic as I kept changing my merchandise.” Hence the “Etc.” in the store’s name.

Today, the store carries an eclectic mix of fashion and home decor. Courtesy photo, Kathryn R. Burke.

Ten years ago, Westcott closed the glass studio, added more retail—shoes and more jewelry—and cut back on furniture. “I know my customers,” she said, “and what they like. And it’s fun: You never know what you’ll find when you come in here to shop.” A visit to Tiffany, Etc., is great shopping therapy!

Westcott’s sense of color and texture makes the shopping experience both visual and sensual. “This isn’t like shopping online,” she noted. “This is shopping the old-fashioned way, where you can touch, see, and feel the merchandise. Vintage shopping in a vintage building.”