History: From a window on Rood in 1912 | PostIndependent.com

History: From a window on Rood in 1912

The Grand Valley Bank Building looking north at 5th and Main streets during the winter of 1912. Photo by Adolph Binder, Museum of Western Colorado.
Photo submitted by Garry Brewer |

Let me share with you a story of a photographer named Adolph Binder, who for 42 years took photos of the people, businesses and places in Grand Junction and Mesa County. While he didn’t gain the fame of local photographer Frank Dean, he was always there with his camera and his photos left an indelible footprint on what life was like in Grand Junction from 1910 to 1952.

Adolph had the ability to take a simple, familiar object and through the magic of the lens enhance it for all to appreciate. Adolph painted with his camera, pictures of long-forgotten moments and places which take us back to our past. Moments that live in our hearts when life and the world is ahead of us and we are full of dreams.

During my research, at different times over the past 10 years, I found two 5th Street photos taken by Adolph Binder. The first photograph is looking north from the northwest corner of 5th and Main streets at about noon, and the second photograph is looking south from the top of the YMCA building in the afternoon. I believe both photos were taken the same day at different times and here are the reasons for my conclusion.

The leaves are off the trees and the people in both photos are wearing winter-type clothing, so the photos must have been taken in the late fall or winter. The year would have been 1912, because the second half of the Grand Valley Bank building at the northwest corner of 5th and Main streets is not yet built and the names of the all the photographers, dentists, and bankers in the building can be viewed in the windows of the bank and matches only with those listed in the business directories for that year. The ice cream stand on the corner of 5th and Rood, where Snap Photo is now located, is only listed in the 1912 directory. Also only Main Street is paved between 2nd and 7th — that happened in the summer of 1912, and the shadows of the people in the picture indicates the time is about noon.

The roof-top terrace of the YMCA building is still there, and a year later in September 1913 a wind storm will blow the brick pillars and wooden beams off the terrace of the building into the street below and hit a young schoolchild named Alfred Gallupe in the head. He will die several days later from his injuries.

Adolph took his camera to the roof-top terrace of the YMCA building and took his second photograph. This view will never be seen again, as the YMCA building was torn down in 1969 for the construction of the Valley Federal, now Alpine Bank building. But if you look you will see down the street off to the left the Odd Fellows/Bailey Grocery building, built in 1906. The building next to it will be torn down and today is a parking lot. The Fair Building on Main had a door facing 5th Street, which was later bricked over and a few years ago re-opened. And if you look closely you can tell that Mr. Moyer is using “back-in” parking with his horse and buggies. The power plant way down the street is near the 5th Street bridge, there is not a automobile on the street, and the buggy tied to the telephone pole in both photos on the southwest corner of 5th and Rood has not moved.

Adolph gave us the “Window on 5th Street” when he and Grand Junction were both just 31 years old.

Adolph Binder was born in Poland on Dec. 24, 1881, the same year Grand Junction was created. His father was from Zryorzow, Poland, and his mother was German. He said his country at the time of his birth was part of Russia; it then became the Austrian Empire and then Poland. In 1904 at the age of 24, he came to the United States with his sister Marie. She married a man with the last name of Wegner and lived in California. In 1912, his brother Gottlieb came to the United States and ultimately settled in Chicago, Ill.

Adolph moved to Denver in 1908 and then on to Grand Junction in 1909. By 1910-11, he started to place ads in the local newspapers, and thereafter in the GJ High School Tiger year books. He established an office at 528 Main St., and his business remained there until his death in 1952.

He is listed in the local city directories and U.S. Census Records from 1910 to 1952 as a lodger in different places about town. Adolph never married and always lived in rooming houses. On Aug. 31, 1952, his landlord discovered his body in his apartment at 529 Colorado Ave., having died in his sleep. His funeral was held on Sept. 3, 1952, in the Municipal Cemetery on Orchard Mesa. Daisy and Joe Pace of Las Vegas, Nev., purchased his burial plot and as of 2014 his grave is without a headstone.

While during his 71 years he didn’t leave a legacy of children and grandchildren, he did however with the magic of a camera lens captured forever from the north and south side of 5th Street and Main leave a legacy of photographs for our community. A time when our community was young and the citizens of “our town” dreamed of their manifest destiny.

For a man who used his talents to take photographs and didn’t leave us one of himself, this moment captured from a long-gone roof of the YMCA is a frozen bit of time.

Grand Junction and Adolph Binder’s works still stands as a living, breathing monument to where we were in 1912 and where we might be going.

Thank you Adolph Binder for your talented artist eye and the heart to see the unseen good in all our daily life.

Garry Brewer is storyteller of the tribe; finder of odd knowledge and uninteresting items; a bore to his grandchildren; a pain to his wife on spelling; but a locator of golden nuggets, truths and pearls of wisdom. Email Garry at brewer62@bresnan.net.

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