Started in 1870 as a partnership called Astle & Scramlin, Astle's Hardware was one of the longest running businesses in Momence and was consistently operated and owned by a member of the Astle family for four generations. It was once referred to by the Momence Progress Reporter as "even more traditional with Momence then the renowned Gladiolus Festival".
The founding Astle, William, was a coppersmith who came to this country from Derby, England in 1857 before eventually settling in Momence in 1859. William worked for other hardware merchants until 1870 when he and his partner Farmon Scramlin opened Astle & Scramlin. In October of 1871 Astle & Scramlin moved into their store at 104 East Washington and newspaper articles cited them as having moved "by the light of the Great Chicago Fire".
Astle and Sramlin rented the store at 104 East Washington from William G. Nichols which was part of a five unit business block. On February 2, 1875 Astle and Scramlin dissolved their partnership " Messrs. Astle and Scramlin, the well-known hardware merchants of Momence and Grant, have dissolved partnership. Mr. Astle will hereafter go it alone, at Momence, and Mr. Scramlin will continue the business at Grant. These gentlemen have heretofore, by fair and square dealing, enjoyed a liberal patronage, and, under the new order of things, we are assured that everything that can be done, will be done, to please customers. All accounts due the old firm at Grant will be collected by Mr. Scramlin, and Mr. Astle will collect all bills due at Momence, and will be found ready, with a full and complete stock of everything in his line, to meet all demands that may be made upon him." At some point after the dissolution of the partnership, Mr. Astle purchased the building and it remained the location of the hardware store and in the Astle family until 2016.
William's grandson, Charles B. Astle joined him in business and then Charles B.'s son, Milan Clark Astle began to work in his father’s store in about 1903. Milan held the rank of 1st. Lieutenant when he graduated from Northwestern Military & Naval Academy in 1909, during the 1st World War taught Military in Momence High School and was Captain of the local company Reserve Militia.
In 1921, the Astle's expanded their store as described by the August 13, 1921 article in the Momence Progress Reporter: "The name of Chas. B. Astle has been connected with the hardware business of this city for many years, having been reared in the business with his grandfather (sic.). After the death of his grandfather (sic), he continued the business successfully for many years and after a thorough training of his son, Milan C. Astle, took him into full partnership a few years ago and since the business has been even greater, as Milan is young, and alert with the times and has been of great assistance to his father in managing the business. The Astle store has occupied one large room all these years, but as the business increased it was necessary to increase stock, and about a year ago they purchased the building adjoining, occupied by Thomas Newsam Dry Goods store, which was closed out a few weeks ago to vacate the room for the owners. This week Mr. Astle & Son have been fitting up the room and moving in their stock which when completed will be the largest hardware stock in the county. The two rooms have been connected by a large arch door which gives easy access to both rooms."
Milan's son, Charles M. "Chuck" Astle, was the final owner of the store. He said he never gave any thought to doing anything other than running Astle's Hardware. The Momence Progress Reporter said of Charles M. Astle "Not only is Mr. Astle one of the most congenial and accommodating businessmen in Momence his store contains the vestiges of the real workable, quality hardware, involved with everyday needs. If you can’t find 'it' anywhere else, go to Astle’s Hardware."
Chuck passed in away 2009 and in 2016 the present owners, Tim and Michelle Schmidt, purchased the building. The Schmidt's did a complete remodel of the entire building - turning the upstairs apartments into beautiful Airbnb rentals. The original hardware store has been restored with impeccable attention to detail.
Credits: Momence Progress Reporter, Kay Hess “Momence, the Making of a River Town,” Nancy Porter / Graham Historic House, Loopnet.com, Airbnb.com., Kankakee Republican.
Charles B. and grandson Charles M. (Chuck) Astle.
Watson & Cleary - 102 E. Washington; Wm. Astle & Son - 104 E. Washington; Reins & Clapsaddle - 106 E. Washington; Momence Banking Co. - 108 E. Washing
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