Monadnock Moments No. 54: Keene's Jones Building
The Jones Building at 35 to 41 Church Street in Keene is probably more closely related to the transportation industry than almost any other building in the city. The building, which stands directly behind the former Woolworth Store, was constructed by Charles Jones in 1897. Jones was the owner of the J. & F. French Company, manufacturers of sleighs and carriages.
The French Company was founded by Jones’ father-in-law, Francis French, and his brother Jason. The French’s originated the popular “Keene Sleigh” and were producing 400 annually in the 1860s. The firm continued until 1910 when a dramatic development in the transportation industry, the automobile, brought an end to the French carriage company.
Several years earlier, at the turn of the century, Jones had shared his building with the Trinity Cycle Manufacturing Company. Bicycles had become a popular means of transportation, but the Trinity Cycle Company was concerned with automobiles at that time. The company was producing an auto developed by the firm’s superintendent, Reynold Janney. Trinity Cycle was sold in 1901 to the Steamobile Company of America, which continued to build autos there for another year or two before it closed due to financial difficulties.
Despite the closing of the Steamobile Company and the end of the French carriage company in 1910, the Jones building remained closely linked with the transportation industry. In 1920 an auto dealer moved into the structure and thereafter the building was continuously occupied by a series of car dealers selling Studebaker, Lasalle, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet automobiles. Consequently, the Jones Building has given more than 90 years of service to the transportation industry.