Sep 16

An Ornament to the Town - the 1887 City Hall & Engine House

Posted on September 16, 2022 at 9:59 AM by Ken Kocher

Firemen at courthouse 1880sFollowing the condemnation and sale of the Town Hall Building (now Laughing Moon) due to damage arising from the Charleston Earthquake of 1886 (we’ll tell that story another time), the City Council proposed “adding to this [sale] amount and erecting a council chamber and truck house.” The first two proposed sites were “no go’s.” The space originally eyed was “the grass flat between the corner of the court house square and Mr. Burney’s residence.” This appears to have been actually in the street at the corner of E. Jefferson and Hancock streets. Unsurprisingly, this caused “considerable objection” with the opinion that it would “be an obstruction that will mar the beauty of our broad streets, as well as an injury to the property of Mr. Burney and the hotel." On November 29, 1886, the council accepted a design by Daniel Towns and resolved to build it on the site of the market house. This would have placed it on the square with the courthouse. Both the Courthouse and Market House can be seen behind this 1880s photo of Alpha Co. The construction of building was to be let out to the lowest bidder.

City Hall 1912The lowest bidder turned out to be Daniel Towns who built it for about $4000.00. By March 1887 the walls were fast rising. The location, however, was not on the square but facing it from Jefferson Street. This side of the square had been vacant, except for the corner Foster & Ackerman Building, since a fire consumed the block in 1873. While the roof was being placed on the building in April, the city council purchased a fire bell to be placed in the cupola. In May, the Madisonian reported that the building, nearing completion, was substantially built and beautiful in appearance. They also threw in some second-guessing stating, “Yet we think our city fathers would have put the public money to far better use had they erected a building that could be used for a school house.” Nonetheless, the building quickly became more than a place for meetings, the mayor’s court, the police and fire station, and the “calaboose.” It was a community gathering spot.

August saw a dance held in the building, September saw Prof. Berger open a dance school there, and in December the ladies of Madison presented a dinner, supper, and “Kirmess” (small festival) to raise funds for the Madison Home Guards. When the county vacated the old courthouse, these types of festivities shifted to that building for a time, but the City Hall remained a center of community expression.

During WWI the bell in the cupola would toll one time each noon “as a signal for silent prayer and many hearts are lifted to God for the success of our Allies and our boys across the seas.” In the 1930s, City Hall was an informal gathering spot both for locals (“it is a right good place to learn local news and items of interest, as all classes congregate there at different hours of the day”) and visitors, many on the road looking for work (“city hall is a popular place at night with them and some find comfortable bunks or benches around the big stove almost every night”). Each spring the interior would get a good scrubbing in advance of elections including the big old stove which they graced with a polish that “chewers of tobacco will very soon abolish.”

City Hall c.1920Over the years City Hall saw various changes some which harkened changing times. Following the purchase of a motorized American-La France fire engine in 1916, the building received a new front and a cement floor. Another advance in transportation technology brought about an interesting cosmetic yet practical change. At the behest of the Kiwanis Club in 1925, Mayor Furlow had “Madison, Ga.” painted on the roof of City Hall. This was known as an airmark, an aerial navigational aid in the era before radar and GPS. Across the country, cities that could not yet afford to build an airport asked how they could participate in the dream of facilitating air travel. The short answer was to create airmarks that would help prevent accidents, drastically increase the efficiency of flying, and brighten the prospects of every city becoming host to an airfield. By early 1929, more than 2,000 communities scattered across the country had airmarks in place making Madison an early adopter.

Despite all this, sentiment began to gather that replacement of City Hall was in order. Mayor C. M. Furlow, as he approached retirement from office in 1929, suggested projects for his successors. Number three on his list was a new city hall. Mayor Furlow stated, “The treasurer of our city should have an office not adjoining the stables, public toilets, cages for prisoners, fire department, police headquarters, etc. In other words – an up-to-date office is needed so ladies may call and transact their business with the city with impunity.” However, this statement was made on the verge of the Great Depression and the likelihood of the community raising funds was unlikely, that is until 1938 when Public Works Administration funds came available for just such a project.

With the completion of the new City Hall in 1939, the building that is now the Welcome Center became vacant. The building would soon take on new uses which will be the focus of a future blog.

Jun 20

Anything From a Knitting Needle to a 2-Horse Wagon

Posted on June 20, 2022 at 4:32 PM by Ken Kocher

Carbine Building c1885Legend has it that Farmer’s Hardware was established in 1836 and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, hardware stores in the United States. There may be some poetic license here. Yes, W.M. Burnett, touted as the originator of the hardware store, was in business in the early 1800s, possibly in 1836. However, newspaper ads from the 1840s and 1850s describe his trade as a saddlery selling harnesses, saddles, bridles, etc. as well as trunks and carpet bags. However, by the time of the 1869 fire, Burnett was listed as a hardware dealer. At his death in 1871, the establishment was known as Burnett & Co. and would continue as such until 1877 when the company was dissolved and continued by P.V. Carbine though it appears that Carbine was running the business as of 1872.

Philip Valentine Carbine, an immigrant from Wales, was Burnett’s son-in-law having married Hattie Burnett in 1867. Carbine initially ran the store from a portion of Atkinson’s block at the corner of Main and Jefferson (then Railroad Street). In mid-1880, Carbine began the construction of a new building to house his enterprise. It was a two-story brick building; the only brick building on the block. Brick construction was cold comfort in March of 1881, less than a year after completion of the building, when fire consumed this entire block of Railroad (Jefferson) Street. Carbine’s building was partially credited with keeping the fire from jumping to the block facing Main Street, but the building was left as a shell.

Carbine’s misfortune is a bit of luck for us as his contract with Daniel Towns for restoration work after the fire survives. One clause states that the work “will be as near like the first job that was contracted as far as can be made” indicating that Towns was the original builder. The original storefront is also described: “There will be 2 long show windows on ground floor in front of room C heads… One door frame with C head transom…” Like many of Madison’s storefronts, the Carbine building had a store front of arched openings later replaced by large openings of plate glass. (View the contract here, courtesy of the Morgan County Archives)

Another interesting feature was that there were no windows on the First Street side of the building (three were added in 2002). The only openings on this side were wide doorways on each floor. The lack of windows on the first floor is explained by the 60 feet of six foot tall shelving on the side walls as outlined in the Towns contract. The upper floor arrangement is explained by a line in an 1884 ad: “In addition to my hardware store, I carry on the second floor of my capacious building, a fine assortment of wagons and buggies, which I have at prices that baffle the competition!” A swing arm for a block and tackle to raise and lower wagons and buggies to and from the second floor remains in place today. Later that same year, Carbine built “a wagon shed next to the Hough brick store.” This would be a portion of the parking lot adjacent to In High Cotton. No doubt this allowed him to expand his inventory and, of course, was a bit more convenient for rotating stock.  

Old Farmers Hardware Building

Left: east side prior to added windows - Center: swing arm for lifting buggies to the second floor - Right 1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance map

Through the 1880s, 1890s, and into the new century, P.V. Carbine, “The Old Reliable,” provided Madison “A full line of heavy and shelf hardware, wagon material, and in fact everything kept by a first-class hardware store.” He boasted having “Anything from a knitting needle to a 2-horse wagon.” He added the Etheridge “B” sewing machine to his offerings in 1901. Yet, Carbine was evidently falling into financial straits at the turn of the century. In April of 1903, during bankruptcy proceedings, a federal judge ordered P.V. Carbine’s stock of hardware to be sold for $5,700 covering about one third of the claims against him. The silver lining was that the stock was sold to the Carbine Hardware Co. which had been chartered the month before. The incorporators of the company were P.V and W.L. Carbine, S.A. Turnell, F.W. Brobston, and G.W. Holmes.

The new company soon made improvements remodeling the store and bringing it “up to date in its arrangement and appointments.” A couple of years later, the company “completed some very attractive and very useful improvements to the interior of their store.” They added shelving, lockers, and rolling ladders. Then, in 1907, John L. Moore called a meeting of the stockholders and bought the Carbine Hardware Company renaming it Farmer’s Hardware Company. Thus, beginning a new era which we will visit in a future blog.

Jun 07

From Underseller to Emporium

Posted on June 7, 2022 at 9:22 AM by Ken Kocher

1878 photo of the Wynn BuildingWW.D. Wynn ad 1878hen fire destroyed the entire business district of Madison in April 1869, the store of Wynn & Peacock was at ground zero being one of the first two buildings consumed by the flames. W.D. Wynn quickly rebuilt, this time using brick. The façade was parged with stucco which was scored to give the appearance of a stone block building. Peacock’s continued involvement in the firm is somewhat unclear. While the establishment is mentioned as Wynn & Peacock in 1875 and a partial early photo of the building shows Peacock’s name on the building, all other mentions and advertisements indicate Wynn operating the business alone. In his ads he claimed to be “the original underseller of Madison.” Despite his aggressive sales pitch, he was out of business by 1883 when his building was sold to satisfy a defaulted mortgage.

That same year the Griggs Brothers moved their farm implement business from Washington Street to the Wynn Building. In addition to plows, mowers, hay rakes, sawmills, cotton planters, stoves, separators, and engines, the brothers also sold New American sewing machines. At the beginning of 1885, the Griggs brothers dissolved their partnership with J.M. retiring and P.M. continuing the business. J.F. Boughton joined P.M. Griggs in the building during the fall of 1886. Jim Boughton, who had been working in M.A. Peteet’s drug store, had struck out on his own to sell family groceries. The two shared the building for a year when Boughton bought Griggs’s business.


Vintage sewing machine postcard advertisementBoughton announced, “I shall continue at the same stand and will be glad to supply the customers of the old house with anything they may need in machinery, agricultural implements, stoves, or family groceries.” Boughton held an art exhibition given by the New Home Sewing Machine Company which was “largely attended by our ladies.” New Home presented such exhibitions around the country. They featured artistic work created on their sewing machines. The creating artists were present to explain the processes necessary to create the exhibited designs as well as giving demonstrations. The exhibit must have been an odd juxtaposition with the farm implements and groceries. When a storefront in the Atkinson Building came available in 1894, Boughton moved his business there.

W.W. Leake opened his grocery in the space but had financial difficulties and was closed by the sheriff. T.D. Creighton then leased the building for his store, The Globe, “an emporium of fashion and style.” Creighton, who had suffered a devastating fire and bankruptcy, was ready to make another go of it. While he was in New York buying stock, the building was being painted and fitted up. Before Creighton moved in and the building was still vacant, the Ladies’ Garden Club had a barbecue dinner fundraiser – 25 cents a plate. The Globe opened in March of 1900 in its new quarters advertised as the Blue Front Store. Creighton’s brother-in-law who clerked at the Globe, Roscoe Anderson, would go on to use this color advertising scheme when he opened Anderson Dry Goods in the Broughton Building.1900 ad for The Globe

Before year end, T.D. Creighton decided to leave Madison for South Carolina. He sold his goods at “New York costs” and closed out his store. From this point the building took on more of a transportation bent. We’ll cover that in an in a later edition.