Aug 28

Fresh Baked Bread!

Posted on August 28, 2023 at 2:20 PM by Ken Kocher

John Claus Bohlen, originally from Stadt Bremerhaven, Germany, arrived in Madison via Augusta to ply his skills as a baker less than a decade after his service during the Civil War. Possibly arriving as early as 1872, Bohlen built the building at 173 S. Main in 1876. Described in the Augusta Constitutionalist as “a fine brick store, handsomely furnished with every convenience for carrying on the baking and confectionery business.” Behind the main body of the store was a bake house and behind that an oven. While the oven has been removed, the bake house remains in place.1885 map of bakery with 2022 photo of buildingBohlen was popular, known for his kind heart and gentle spirit. This may have led to a miscalculation on the part of a young man choosing Bohlen’s store to play a prank – riding a horse into the store. The story goes that when one of the boys started riding into Bohlen’s store, he reached for a big cheese knife and meeting the rider at the door lost no time in showing him exactly what would happen to him if he rode “that damn mule” in his store. The ride ended at the door.1893 ad for I.D. Comstock BakeryIn 1893, a new bakery opened in the building, that of I.D. Comstock. Like Bohlen, Comstock also dealt in confectionaries, fruits, and fine groceries. He also made “the nicest Saratoga Chips you have ever eaten.” What’s that you say? We call them potato chips now. Five years later Comstock closed up shop and moved to Michigan, his home state. W.L. “Will” Walker opened a Hat and Shoe Store here around 1905. He went out of business September 1, 1913, and it was reported that “a man from South Carolina” would conduct a bakery in the place. The rumor was unfounded as the Madison Shoe Store, run by Mell Richardson and Ed Prince, opened instead. The business lasted a year.1916 ads for Model BakeryMrs. Bohlen, her husband having passed in 1911, advertised the building for rent noting in the ad that Madison needed a bakery. A few months later, the Madisonian echoed this sentiment stating, “Madison needs a bakery, and Mrs. Bohlen has the place for it.” The call was answered by G.L. Moore who opened the Model Bakery in this space in December of 1915. Moore employed Paul Lex as his baker who, like the original baker in this building, brought his skill “from far away Germany.” Despite an August 9, 1918, report that Moore was doing a splendid business, the building came available for rent December 1. This would not be the end of baked goods produced at this location, but it is the end of this post. We will pick up the thread later.

Aug 05

Old Town Hall

Posted on August 5, 2023 at 4:55 PM by Ken Kocher

In 1856, Joshua Hill, William Saffold, and Carter Shepherd chartered the Madison Town Hall Company for the purpose of “building and improving property for the purpose of renting the same.” The property was at the corner of Burnett and Main. As with nearly all downtown, this building was lost in the catastrophic 1869 fire. A new, two-story, brick building quickly replaced the burned one. It contained two ground floor storefronts and a hall upstairs for public meetings. The stores were occupied by Harris Bros., dealers in Dry Goods & Groceries, and Barber & Crawford, dealers in Dry Goods. Over the next decade, the spaces may have been occupied by Bill Matthews, also Dry Goods & Groceries, and J.G. Blair, Groceries. When the Alpha Company, Madison’s first volunteer fire department, was organized in 1882, the upstairs became known as “Fireman’s Hall.” With the acquisition of a Hook and Ladder Truck and a chemical engine, Alpha Company occupied one of the ground floor spaces. Next door was W.W. Leake’s confectionary shop – with his mother’s millinery and dress shop at the rear. Upstairs, E.A. Rice was printing his newspaper, the Advertiser1885 firemen in front of building

Alpha Company in front of Town Hall c. 1885

These were the occupants when disaster hit again – the Charleston Earthquake of August 31, 1886. Yes, Charleston. This intraplate earthquake was massive and radiated seismic energy across the eastern United States. The shock was felt as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, to the north, Chicago, Illinois, to the northwest, New Orleans, Louisiana, to the west, and across water to Cuba to the south, and Bermuda to the east. Suffering the greatest damage in Madison was the Town Hall Building. The Madisonian reported, “The walls of this building are said to bulge, and great cracks in the same caused the city council [current owner of the building] to formally state to the tenants that the city would not be held for any damage done them by falling walls, which may occur at any time.”Charleston earthquake map

Reported intensities for the 1886 Charleston earthquake. (From Bollinger, 1977.)
Note: Morgan County = 7

The city council sold its condemned interest in the building to M.L. Richter and set about planning and constructing a new City Hall & Engine House. Meanwhile, Martin Richter was repairing the old Town Hall Building. By October 1887 he moved his jewelry store from across the street to the left half of the building “under the old town hall.” It appears that he may have widened the window openings of the storefront as the Madisonian noted that the building was much improved. They expounded, “He has the prettiest plate glass windows we ever saw in a town of our size, the glass cost $50.00 alone, and adds much to the appearance of that end of the street.” He initially named the business the Palace Art Store. N.C. Edwards of Sharon, Georgia, briefly had a general merchandise store in the right half, but otherwise the space remained vacant until around 1892 when a new occupant would bring steady traffic to the building. We will pick up that thread in a future blog post.

M.L. Richter 1891 invoice

Jul 13

The Bearden Building

Posted on July 13, 2023 at 12:36 PM by Ken Kocher

While we know quite a bit about the date of construction of the Bearden Building, early occupancy is a bit murky. Construction began in early July of 1905 with T.N. Lanier doing the brickwork. By August it was nearing completion with a front “of beautiful, pressed brick.” The initial reporting was that J.W. Bearden was erecting a number of brick offices of the Buffalo cotton yards. While the lot was physically connected to the cotton yards which Bearden owned, which could be all the statement meant, it does not appear that the building ever held offices for the yards. Early reporting also indicated that Bearden’s brother Gabe would open an up-to-date restaurant on the second floor and that Alston Trotter would have an insurance office there. Neither of these appear to have come to fruition. 131 E Jefferson 1920-07

We do know that Dr. R.W. Trotter moved into the ground floor in October of 1905. In the early 1910s Dr. Trotter relocated to a space above C.F. George’s Drug Store but returned to his old space in 1915. With the United States entry into the Great War, C.H. Baldwin, W.C. Thompson, and Dr. Trotter were appointed as the local exemption board for the army draft. Examinations to place in the space above Trotter’s office. Drafted into their positions, Trotter received $4 per day while the other members of the board received no compensation. The Madisonian labeled it, “One of the most disagreeable and thankless jobs ever imposed upon an unwilling citizen.”

 Dr. Trotter was one of the most highly esteemed citizens of the city, known for his gentleness and tender care. He could often be seen sitting in a chair in front of his office under the attractive awning. By 1919, Trotter began to have health issues eventually leading to limited office hours. He moved his office to his home in 1923. Dr. Trotter died in 1925. His office in the Bearden Building was occupied by S.A. Rigsby who opened printing office, the Madison Printery. The business was short lived, lasting less than a year.

131 E Jefferson 1909 Sanborn map

 Meanwhile, in the left side of the building, the Postal Telegraph Company had moved here from the Hotel Morgan by 1909 if not earlier. Most folks are familiar with Western Union Telegraph (if they know any telegraph company), but not Postal Telegraph. Even the 1909 and 1921 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps mislabel this building “W.U.T.” (Western Union Telegraph) – Western Union was not here but in the Richter Building. Nonetheless, by the 1890s, Postal Telegraph was the only major competitor to Western Union and Madison had an office managed by H.H. Waters with Miss Bertha Freeman as his assistant. When Waters left in 1918, Miss Freeman assumed management for two years.

postal telegraph

 H.H. Waters was back at the helm in 1927 when the Postal Telegraph Company moved from the left side to the right side of the building. They did so to have more light and better ventilation, this side not having a party wall and therefore windows. The Postal Telegraph Company operated from this office for the next sixteen years when changes in the telegraphy industry prompted a change in occupancy. We will cover this in a future blog post.

Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Learn more about the commission.