From appliance store to flowers to dentistry

Hannah Gross

Photo courtesy of Leonard Cash

A historical bird’s eye view photo of S. Seneca Ave. in Newcastle.


Hannah Gross

NLJ Correspondent 

With Leonard Cash, historian


Continuing down Seneca Street across the alley from the buildings behind the former First State Bank building on lot 12 of block 10 on Main Street, Leonard Cash tells the story of the Black Hills Dental building, located at 7 S. Seneca in the “History on Main” series. The first building to sit on that lot was a warehouse built in 1902 behind McCrea Mercantile, so some of the information was discussed in Cash’s previous series on the town’s mercantiles. Before becoming a dental clinic, this building was a used-car lot for the Ford garage, which was located in the present-day Weston County Extension Office. 

According to the April 11, 1935, edition of the News Letter Journal, Dow Motor Co. purchased the warehouse, which was owned by Carl Kugland and occupied by Hays and Thompson, which Cash said was a construction company. 

Fourteen years later, I.M. Huffman announced in the Feb. 24, 1949, paper that he was opening the Newcastle Heating and Sheet Metal workshop. He serviced any brand or type of heating installation. The article also noted that the warehouse was formerly occupied by the Haslow garage before Huffman moved in. 

Another business was moving in alongside the workshop when a May 26, 1949, article reported that Ray Ross opened his Modern Appliance Store and became the General Electric dealer in Newcastle. He offered free coffee and doughnuts to the guests at his open house, who had the chance to register for free prizes. 

A few years later, however, the Aug. 7, 1952, issue of News Letter Journal reported that Modern Appliance had a “closing out sale.” It was to begin on Friday morning at 8 a.m. with $25,000 worth of stock going at dealer’s cost.

Hallett Johnston started a TV appliance store in the building around Sept. 27, 1956. By April 4, 1957, Kenneth L. Grimm and William E. Wheeler opened Precision Radio and TV, a service and fix-it shop. 

Also in the 1950s, Cash said, a man named L. Benson ran a paint store, which he had moved from the basement of the Berry Hotel. He stayed on Seneca until moving his business to Osage, according to the March 17, 1955, newspaper. 

On Sept. 11, 1957, Margaret Montgomery and Teddy McLeland opened a sewing alteration and upholstery shop in the former Lorraine Flower Shop, which was located in the 17 S. Seneca building.

Bill Taylor, who was in association with Newcastle Propane, Wylon and Rancher’s Gas Service, opened his own heating and appliance store in the building around Sept. 12, 1963. However, due to a delayed shipment of 1964 Norge appliances, the grand opening was postponed, according to the Oct. 17, 1963, paper. Nonetheless, a few weeks later, the Norge was on display and the community was invited to attend the grand opening, where refreshments were to be served.  

Taylor sold his Norge dealership to Tom Goodart of Newcastle TV and Electronics, which moved its company to the Seneca building, announced the July 9, 1964, paper. The company also had an RCA Victor line. The following issue reported that although Taylor sold the dealership, he would still operate his heating and air-conditioning business in the same location. 

Newcastle TV and Electronics held its grand opening Aug. 21-22, 1964, and in the Aug. 25, 1966, paper, we learn that their hours were from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

The Sept. 2, 1971, issue announced that Dr. Ronald Custis was building a new office for Custis Dental Clinic on 17 S. Seneca, which at the time was located between Club Café and Egert Hotel. The clinic was temporarily located in the Masonic building on Main Street. 

According to an article from June 29, 1972, attorney Edward S. Halsey was to move his law firm on July 3 from the Grieves Insurance building into the dental office, which held its open house around July 20, 1972, where Custis provided refreshments while patrons toured the dental facility.

By Feb. 16, 1978, Custis, who had been in business in Newcastle since 1959, sold his practice to Richard E. Ratts, who had been working with Custis since the previous July. Ratts was 31 years old and had graduated from Indiana School of Dentistry in 1977. He had a master‘s degree in biology from Butler University in Indianapolis and a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Indiana State University, teaching school in the area from 1969 to 1972. He had also been “reared on a farm” in southern Indiana. Joining Ratts was Dan E. Jolly, a graduate of the University of Missouri and “presently taking his residence at a VA hospital in Kansas.” Sandy Reed remained as
the hygienist.

The Jan. 7, 1980, paper reported that Dr. Doug Hughes set up his practice in Black Hills Dental with Ratts. A year later, the dental clinic expanded its services. A report from Sept. 24, 1981, said that C.H.C Budd Magnuson, D.D.S., an orthodontist, opened an orthodontic practice in Newcastle. 

According to the Feb. 7, 1985, issue of the paper, Ed Halsey, John Sampson and James Peck moved their law office from the Black Hills Dental building to 7 W. Winthrop, across from the Episcopal church.

That wraps up the short series on Black Hills Dental, which continues to provide dental services in Newcastle. Cash will dive into the history of the Egert Hotel and the two murders that occurred there in next week’s installment of “History on Main.”


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