First National opened in Dock Square in 1927

I love this view of Dock Square shared with us by Cecil Benson, Jr. It must have been taken between 1933 and 1942. Benson’s can be seen here at the far right where Alisson’s stands now. Cecil wrote, “This is the restaurant that Dad [Cecil Benson, Sr.] and the family ran during the summer from 6 AM till 1-2 the following morning. We ate all our meals here and spent a lot of time walking back and forth from our home on North Street. Dad served full meals, had a soda fountain, potato chips fried by hand in the back shop, popcorn, and peanuts for the theater crowd and even had a bakery for a while. Anything to make a buck!!!”

The First National grocery had opened in The Brown Block in 1927. After 51 years of leasing the upper story in the Brown Block, the Arundel Lodge had built its own building on North Street at the site of the old Benson Blacksmith shop.

The Brown Block was named after the retired sea captain who built it. The first building in its location was put up as a shoe factory by the York Boot & Shoe Company in 1865. A year later the firm of Brown & Day took the business over and in 1868 Captain Sylvester Brown became sole proprietor of the boot and shoe store. His first store burned in the 1877 Dock Square fire, which you may remember from a previous THROWBACK. Captain Sylvester Brown built this Brown Block after the fire, fitting out the upstairs as a Masonic Hall to the exact specifications of his beloved Arundel Lodge No. 76. He expanded the inventory in his store to appeal to the ever-growing tourist population and continued as proprietor of the Brown Block until his death in 1889.

Do you remember First National? How great it must have been to have a year-round grocery store right in the middle of the square! What other businesses do you remember that were located in the Brown Block?

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