Following the real trail of Dr. Corydon Palmer
In 2013, Corydon Palmer Dental society celebrated its 100th anniversary. As part of our year-long celebration, we set out to follow the footprints of the renowned dentist for whom we are named.
We wanted to find his birthplace, which we knew to be in Vernon Township, and his Warren office, where he practiced before and after a sojourn in New York City. After some painstaking research, we thought we had done just that: a pioneer-era home on Ohio Route 7 in Vernon, across from the Badger School, is on the exact spot that the old Trumbull County maps identify as the property of Warren Palmer, the doctor's father, at the time of Corydon Palmer’s 1820 birth.
Corydon Palmer's birthplace, in Vernon Township, Ohio
And in Warren, we researched some very old city directories, following the trail of shifting street-number practices, from what started out as Number 10 Washington Street right to the door of today’s 166 Washington Street NE – which turned out to be the present-day office of Dr. Gust Charnas!
Dr. Gust Charnas at his office, 166 Washington Street NE, generally considered to be the original office of Dr. Corydon Palmer.
Dr. Charnas confirmed our research. Dr. David Liddle had told him, when he first bought the house some 50 years ago, that it was Corydon Palmer’s old office. “But I was young, and those things weren’t important then,” Dr. Charnas said.
The Queen Anne Victorian home is located in what would have been Warren’s most fashionable neighborhood when Dr. Palmer practiced there, in the 1880s. The old carriage house, where Dr. Liddle once wrote about visiting, and where Dr. Palmer was said to have created his own implements and honed his jeweler’s craft on a hand-fired forge, is still there, complete with the haymow doors and feeding chute for the horse!
Dr. Charnas offers the home to the Society: The owners of both buildings gave their permission for us to place memorial plaques, which the Executive Office accomplished early in 2014. Shortly afterward, Dr. Charnas decided to retire, and generously offered his office as a gift to our Society.
But questions arose when we studied the county’s records for the property. Strangely, it showed that the house had been built in 1921. But Dr. Palmer had passed away in 1917! Obviously, Dr. Charnas’s charitable gesture had made it clear that more research was needed.
Finally, in the Warren Public Library’s genealogy room, we came upon an old newspaper clipping. Dated 1941, it described the sale of the “little brown cottage” that had been Dr. Corydon Palmer’s office, and the new owner’s plans to move the building to the East Side of town.
Dr. Palmer's actual home and office, at 164 Washington Street NE in Warren, no longer exists
Fred Brainard, who owned Brainard Freight Lines, said he planned to move the little house to a property he owned on Fairmount Avenue and rent or sell it. There is no trace of it on that street today.
The cottage, at 164 Washington, had apparently occupied a small lot next to the property at 166 Washington; it may have been a side lot. The newspaper article even described that famous laboratory, not in a back building at all:
In the kitchen is a ceiling high kiln, said to have been built by the doctor himself. Constructed of cement and slate and heated with charcoal, dentures were probably baked in it. As Dr. Palmer made many of his own instruments they may well have been annealed in this kiln.
The article went on to note that the house may not have been built on that location, but moved from somewhere else, perhaps from Park Avenue a block or so away.
So we must content ourselves with knowing we have marked Dr. Palmer’s birthplace, and also the property, if not the actual building, where he practiced his profession. Dr. Charnas has retired, and the Society, while acknowledging the house’s historical value, has regretfully passed on accepting ownership.
Yet, as the trail to the actual property is grown over with time, the reputation of its stellar occupant never dims. As the Tribune story notes, “The Corydon Palmer Dental Society … perpetuates the doctor’s name in the profession.”