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Renaissance in Columbia 1898-2011, Part II

Read Part I, from Friday, 10-11-2018: JIM - Renaissance in Columbia 1898-1911

By Jim

Mr. J.O. Russell, of Russell & Co. (formerly Russell & Murrell) fame, purchased the Isenberg Corner at the entrance corner of Jamestown Street in 1906. Almost three years later, he purchased from Capt. W.W. Bradshaw the adjacent lot facing on the square, a part of which he then sold, but the remainder of that tract combined with the adjoining Isenberg property gave sufficient room for two adjoined business houses,

In March 1909, a crew began demolishing the rickety old building there, and construction on a new one started in May. By the end of January, 1910, the Read Hardware Co. had moved into the building on the away side of Jamestown Street and stocking merchandise and was open for business. In early April, the newspaper reported that a freight elevator, likely the first elevator in the county, had been installed "to be used in conveying vehicles to the second story".


Russell & Co. finished moving from the Jones building into its new quarters in the Jamestown Street side in early February and held a heavily attended two-day grand opening extravaganza in late March. At that time, the News commented of the just-completed structure,

"It is the largest and most conveniently constructed business house in South Eastern Kentucky and has been built at a great expense. It stands as a monument of honor to the owner and it is the pride of this town."

After Russell & Co. moved out in the late 1920s, Lerman Bros. occupied the building in the main for several years with a series of other businesses and professional men taking quarters in the basement and on the upper floor.

In 1909, another off-the-square event greatly impacted the town. The venerable Male & Female School gracefully slipped away from the educational scene and the Columbia Graded & High School, Adair County's first-ever public high school, an institution long pined for by Columbia and Adair County's more forward thinkers, arose phoenix-like in its place The first session of the Graded & High commenced late that summer in the buildings of the old M&F.

With the following year came announcement of yet another new building, this one in the west corner of the square, Burkesville Street octant, on a vacant lot owned by Frank Sinclair and G.W. Dillon. The lot was located between the Paull Drug Store building (one lot closer to Burkesville Street) and the business house where W.H. Wilson ran a grocery store on the other side. Work began on the Sinclair-Dillon structure, which was to be two stories high and run some sixty feet deep, in October, and continued until cold weather shut down the operation.

Come the spring of 1911, work recommenced, and at the same time, Paull Drug announced it would temporarily move its stock of goods into a part of the building occupied by the Wilson grocery, have their old storehouse razed and "and have a brick structure, running back to the alley" put up in its place. The two building would go up together with common wall and upon completion, Paull Drug would move into its new quarters and Mr. Wilson would have the right of first refusal in regard to occupancy of the Sinclair-Dillon building. The News observed that "The two will be handsome buildings and will add greatly to appearance of the square."

Work on the structures continued throughout the spring, summer, and late autumn, with each of them finally complete enough for occupancy in time for the occupants to display their Christmas wares. The December 13, 1911 edition of the paper carried a brief ad from Mr. W.H. Wilson, stating "I am now in my new place of business with a clean stock. Call and see me," and the following week's paper noted that "The Paull Drug Company is now in its new place of business, west corner of public square..."

Dr. W.J. Woodruff and undertaker J.B. Triplett occupied the second floor "apartments" of the Paull building by February 1912. At about that same time, one can only imagine the excitement and buzz around the square when the News announced Ray Conover and George Montgomery (soon joined by a third partner, George Lowe) planned to start a first-class picture show (or theater, as it would now be called) in Columbia in the immediate future. Those gentleman already had secured the hall above W.H. Wilson's store in the new Sinclair-Dillon building, and in a few short weeks, the Parlor Theater, as it was named, added a new dimension to entertainment in Columbia.

For the record, Frank Jackman purchased from Mrs. Bettie Butler in the early autumn of 1906 the lot upon which Sinclair & Dillon later built. He immediately announced his intention to put up a brick structure to house his grocery store and his brother John W.'s saddlery establishment and by November, excavation of the foundation was complete. Beyond that, the only mention came the next spring when the paper noted in passing that Mr. Jacked planned to "put up a brick," and the next mention of the property came in the form of a Master Commissioner's notice of sale at the court house door in July. at which Mr. Sinclair apparently bid the high dollar.

And a bit of a postscript:

The great fire of 1921 swept away the three business houses from the exit corner of Burkesville street toward the west corner. In the fall of 1922, Fred Hill put up a small building on the vacant lot, some eighteen feet wide, adjacent to Paull Drug (which he owned) and the new Bank of Columbia building, then under construction. The following year, workmen completed the bank edifice, located mid-block. In 1928, brothers Doc and John Lee Walker bought the lot fronting on Burkesville Street and the square, took down a temporary building erected after the fire, and constructed the Walker building (technically, two adjoining buildings), which for many years housed Russell & Co. and the Rialto Theater. The Bank of Columbia has long since incorporated both the Walker building and the space occupied by Mr. Hill's little building

The octant of the square from the exit corner of Campbellsville Street to the east corner underwent an amazing renaissance within a few years of the death of long time owner James T. Page in the mid-1920s, but that's a long story for a different day.


This story was posted on 2018-10-14 09:40:14
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