Our Historic Headquarters
In the mid 1800s, downtown Utica was anchored by a large, upscale department store. The latest fashions from France and Europe could be found there. The name of the store was JB Wells Merchantile. Later known as simply JB Wells. The namesake and owner was John B. Wells of Utica. As the business thrived after the Civil War, JB Wells sought to build a home commensurate with his wealth. In 1867 he built a 5400 square foot Victorian mansion. This was in the style of High Italianate, characterized by 12’ ceilings and grand, outside cornices. A large carriage house was built out the back of the building and is visible in the 1937 photo.
In 1942, the decedents of JB Wells sold the aging mansion to the Loyal Order of the Moose. They fixed it up and a large addition was added. This featured a bar room downstairs and a dance hall upstairs. In the mid 50’s, the city of Utica bought the building and used it for the Senior Citizen’s Day Center. In order to make the building handicap and senior accessible an elevator was needed. The Carriage House was sold to the new Utica College, located on Oneida Square, and the funds were used to install the elevator. UC used the carriage house as a movie house and called it ‘the Little Theater’.
By 2005, the building fell into disrepair and the Senior Center moved to the Ski Chalet at the Val Bialas Ski Center. In 2006, the city of Utica sold the mansion to ShipRite and J. Mark Ford to be used for their new world headquarters. Room by room, Mr. Ford and ShipRite have renovated the building by keeping the character and spirit of the original mansion. We have turned the upstairs dance hall into a conference room with meeting space for 50. A game room has been added with 80’s arcade games, ping pong and a golf driving station. A major office expansion will move into the old dining room and kitchen area, then a theater room will be added.
We are intending to have fun with this building!