It occupied the original site of a pioneer-era mill. After the mill was damaged by high water, the site was purchased by Ulysses Jeaneret, who built the series of three connected commercial buildings on the ground spanning the entire area from Water street to the edge of the north branch of the Salt Creek.
The property was bought by Margaret Riddle in 1890 and held by her until 1921. During this period the large structure was usually referred to as the Riddle Building.From 1890 to about 1916, all three buildings were operated as a general store by John B. McCormick and known as McCormick’s Cash Store. However, the southernmost section of the building, that housed the hardware store, was destroyed by fire and no longer exists.
Newspaper accounts reveal that John McCormick, who was in financial distress at the time, set fire to his own business to try and collect the insurance money. At 3 a.m., McCormick went into the store, saturated his goods and wares with oil and set it all on fire. He then scurried home and waited for the village fire alarm to ring. When it did, McCormick rushed to the store with other concerned citizens. He was reported to have run into the building and carry out a keg of gunpowder, earning applause from the crowd that had gathered to watch.
The store, which McCormick had insured for $4,500, was a total loss from the fire. However, in the end, he was only able to collect $3,800 from the insurance companies.
Though noted in his time as one of the county’s foremost businessmen, McCormick was a criminal. Besides the cash store, John McCormick owned two movie theaters, one in Fredericksburg and the Alhambra in Wooster where he also had his living quarters.The Alhambra was not doing well businesswise and McCormick figured if the nearby Wallace Theater, owned by Harley H. Ziegler, was not in business, the Alhambra would generate more money. On a dark December 19, 1915 night McCormick snuck into the Wallace Theater and set dynamite in place and blew the theater up. Unfortunately for McCormick, Ziegler speedily repaired the Wallace Theater and reopened. McCormick then targeted Wooster’s other theater: The Lyric. This time he broke into the building on January 10, 1916 and stole all of the mechanisms inside its two projectors. Then on Feb 12, 1916 McCormick returned to the Alhambra with another batch of dynamite.
Even though McCormick was careful in how he went about his criminal activities: practicing with fuses, which he purchased out of the area, to make sure he had enough time to get home and in bed before the explosions occurred, the police started to see him as a likely suspect as he had the most to gain by his competitor’s losses.
In the end, it was single bit of evidence that proved to be John B. McCormick’s undoing. In a closet in his room, police found a tiny piece of paper which had been torn from a larger piece that, in turn, had been used to wrap up nine sticks of dynamite which had failed to explode inside the Wallace Theater.
The paper had originally been used to wrap around a sample of wallpaper from a Chicago company, which had been sent to McCormick’s store, the one which he had previously torched in Fredericksburg.
The piece of paper had been cut into three sections, the 30 sticks of dynamite, which McCormick had stolen from the Wooster Hardware Company’s storehouse, had been wrapped in three separate bundles and placed in different parts of the Wallace Theater. The scrap of paper that survived still contained the shipping tag, which had been glued on, as well as a transit number. Armed with this information, the police were quickly able to link McCormick to the crimes, and he readily confessed when confronted with the evidence.
McCormick, who turned 58 years old on the day Judge Critchfield sentenced him to between 5 and 10 years in the state penitentiary, told the judge, “I borrowed money and got in deeper and deeper, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I thought if I gave Zeigler a little scare, maybe he would quit. I wanted to help my son-in-law, who has a family of six children, make a living, but it is all off now.”
Furthermore, while he was being sentenced he admitted to dynamiting a tea room/restaurant in Fredericksburg some years previously, as well as the arson of his store.By 1918, the portion that had been the center structure (now the location of the society’s Dress Shop) of the General Store was put to use as the Fredericksburg Post Office. The northern section of the building was run by E. E. Crosby as a grocery store for a number of years. Later the buildings were used as a residence and the northern building as a pool hall. Twenty years prior to the Society acquiring the structure it had simply been boarded-up and used for storage. Then in 1995 the remaining two sections of McCormick’s General Store were moved from Fredericksburg and preserved on the campus of the Wayne County Historical Society of Ohio.