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Early Occupants of the Firestone/Arnold Building, 1898-1918

The Midnight Fire at the Arnold/Firestone Building occupied much of the news space this week. In this epic piece, the cousinhood of Mike Watson & Jim recall its beginning through its W.I. Ingram Days.
See also Midnight fire at Arnold/Firestone Building does heavy damage with photo(s)

By Mike Watson & JIM
A Collaborative Effort of Mike Watson and wayward cousin Jim

Construction of the Firestone/Arnold Building, 200 Public Square, originally known as the Jones Building in homage to Judge W.W. Jones, who owned the lot and put up the capital for the construction, began in the forepart of 1898 and was completed shortly before Christmas. The first tenant on the main floor was none other than Russell & Murrell, later known as Russell & Co.

The September 28, 1898 News reported that "Judge W.W. Jones has decided to light his business houses with acetylene gas, and in the building to be used by Russell & Murrell, about twenty jets will be placed. The light from each one of these jets will equal that furnished by twenty candles." Four weeks later, came this:

Mr. Moore, the plumber, finished his work at Judge Jones' buildings last week. Lights from all the jets were turned on, affording a brilliancy never before witnessed in the business houses in Columbia.

In late November, 1898, the News commented that "Workmen are giving the [Jones] building the finishing touches...It is a looker--the handsomest store-room in all this section."

A huge front page ad from Russell & Murrell in the December 14th edition advised that "By the time this paper reaches its readers we expect to be in our new quarters. We will have the largest, handsomest, and best lighted house in this section of the state. Everybody is extended a cordial invitation to come and see our new House and Stock." A mention on another page confirmed the move: "Russell & Murrell are now in their new quarters on the south west corner of the public Square..." The article also mentioned that the clerks were "Messrs. Porter Strange and Chas H. West, two as polite clerks as ever stood behind a counter."

(Russell & Murrell had started business on the same corner in the late 1880s and remained there until Judge Jones had the old building razed to construct the new one mentioned above. For the better part of 1898, Russell & Murrell did business in the rickety structure then occupying the Isenburg corner. )The corner of Burkesville Street and Public Square again became home for Russell & Murrell (later Russell & Co.), this time for just over a decade. When that firm moved to its own proud new edifice on the Isenburg corner in the spring of 1909, the News reported that the just-vacated building would be remodeled prior to being put into use again. However, almost a year elapsed before this appeared in early February, 1910:

"The interior of the Jones Building, the one Mr. Frank Sinclair ( Frank Sinclair, Columbia businessman (1866-1915)) will occupy, has been repainted and some other necessary work has been done. Mr. Sinclair will commence opening goods in a few days."

Come mid-month, a three-line note on the front page stated that Mr. Sinclair was ready for business, and a small ad on page five served notice that he was "opening a Variety Store in the Jones Building...where I will endeavor to furnish goods to my customers at the lowest price..." A few days later, he placed an ad stating he was "fitting up a room in my variety store with small and useful articles for the kitchen, and invite the ladies to visit this department when in town," and shortly after that, Mr. Sinclair advised readers he was "receiving some nice spring suits for young men in the latest styles."

In the closing days of 1911, Judge Jones and J.R. Garnett (not to be confused with James, son of Judge Garnett) formed a partnership in the practice of law, "their office being over Mr. Frank Sinclair's store." Mr. Garnett served as the assistant cashier at the Bank of Columbia for a number of years and had passed the bar in the spring of 1910. Judge Jones was a long-time Director of the bank.

In the spring of 1914, a bit of horse trading occurred around the square. Mr. Sinclair, then in failing health, sold his stock of goods to W.H. Gill & T.E. "Tom" Waggener, the latter-named gentlemen -- each of them"staunch citizens," according to the News -- to continue conducting business at "the same stand," that is, in the Jones Building. As part of the swap, Mr. Sinclair took possession of the grocery store operating under the name Wilson & Gill (George H. Wilson & W.H. Gill, proprietors), said establishment to be run by Mr. Sinclair's kinsmen, Ed and Al Sinclair. The News states that Mr. Wilson was bowing out of the Columbia business scene, at least temporarily, but that he was "a high gentleman, who will have the best wishes for success...." (Actually, Wilson had sold his interest in the business to Gill a year earlier.)

By the middle of May, 1914, the firm advised readers that a "New line of the season's latest styles in Dress Goods are open for your inspection this week," and also admonished, "Don't fail to see our new line of Furniture..." These were in addition to "a new and complete line of General merchandise" then being received by the Messrs. Gill & Waggener. They also promised to pay "the market price for meat, lard and eggs."

1915 ended quietly enough for Gill & Waggener with a short thank you message to customers for patronage during the year and the request that "those owing us call and settle within the next few days." 1916, however, started off with the surprise announcement, via a large ad in the News, that the firm was going to conduct a going out of business sale beginning Friday, January 14th, at 9 a.m. sharp. In language worthy of a tv truckload furniture sale commercial, the ad trumpeted in part,

Nothing like it before. Nothing like it may ever occur again. Like a stroke of lightning from a clear sky, comes the startling announcement, that the entire $19,800 stock of Gill & Waggener will be placed on public sale to be closed out in 10 days...Wait! Wait! wait for the biggest, best, most startling unmerciful bona fide sale ever known in all past history...

The following week, a much smaller announcement on page one stated that "People swarm the store daily...The stock is large...Clerks in every department..." This ad again reminded shoppers that the sale ended on January 25th. In the News dated January 26th, Murray Ball, a jeweler by trade who resided Edmonton (and later, in Columbia) reported that "The furniture and fixtures at Gill & Waggener's store must be sold at once," and asked that any interested parties contact him. (This announcement appeared under a most puzzling headline: "Soda Fountain for Sale." That may trace back to the spring of 1913 when W.H. Gill, "of Wilson & Gill," purchased a soda fountain.) This same edition carried another large ad, stating the 10-day sale had been extended another 10 days, until February 5th.

Other than Mr. Murray's announcement which ran for a few weeks and a single plea from Gill & Waggener for settling up from those who had not paid their accounts, no mention of the firm appeared again for almost two months, when a five line article in the March 22nd, 1916 edition stated Mr. Waggener had purchased Mr. Gill's one-half interest in the general store, and that the former would continue doing business in the same place.

By early 1917, Mr. Waggener had begun laying in plans to remove himself from Columbia's mercantile scene. In a front page announcement in the January 31 edition, he wrote, in part:

A Splendid Stock of Goods for Sale
Having sold my farm, my mind is made up to remove to a Western state, and I now desire to sell my large stock of general merchandise, consisting of everything kept in a first-class store. The stock is fresh--no hard lots in it...My business is good, and I have as good if not the best location in Columbia...I am in a position to offer inviting inducements in prices and terms. I am ready to show any prospective purchaser through my stock. /s/ T.E. Waggener.

He had no takers, and in the summer of 1917, began running a series of small ads, notifying customers he was closing out this or that line of goods. By early October, a 2/3rds page advertisement, complete with a screamer headline, promised in part

Closing Out Sale
From this date until Closed Out, I will sell any article in my stock of Dry Goods, Shoes, Clothing of every description, for less than present Wholesale Prices. Also store fixtures consisting of Show Cases, Oil Tank, Type Writer, Safe, &c., at inviting prices...Rugs, Linoleum, Carpets, Sheeting, Ginghams, Clothing, Shoes, Hats, Caps, Hosiery, Notions, Trunks, Suit Cases and every article in my store Will Go At A Great Bargain. This is no fake sale. I am going to engage in other business and expect to close out by January 1st. /s/ T.E. Waggener, Columbia, Ky.

Mr. Waggener met his target date, and W.I. Ingram became the next tenant of the main floor of the Jones Building. In mid-December, 1917 came the news that Mr. Ingram would remove his stock of goods "to the business house now occupied by T.E. Waggener, the first of January. Mr. Waggener will have closed out by that time."

By the middle of January, 1918, Mr. Ingram's move was fait accompli and an ad he placed in the January 16th paper stated he had the largest stock of goods in Columbia but gave no specifics except to note that Mrs. Pinkie Davis, "a lady who is experienced in selecting dress patterns," was in charge of the dress shop. A full page public service announcement in the October 2, 1918 paper encouraging Adair Countians to buy Liberty Bonds mentioned "W.I. Ingram, dry goods and notions," as one of the sponsors of the ad.

This story was posted on 2012-05-05 05:18:28
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Ingram & Murrell Match holder advertising piece

2012-05-08 - 200 Public Square, Columbia, KY - Photo by Julie Combs. Julie Combs of Day and Day Feed and Pet, Columbia, KY got these two match holder advertising pieces from a customer. "Gary and Anthony Day's, great grandparents were the Ingram family who had the store in your previous article. I believe that story was about the firm ca 1912," she writes. Gary and Anthony day are the current owners of another Adair County heritage firm, Day & Day Feed and Seed, which has been in business now for 56 years, since 1956. (Photo from expansion 5 years ago See also: Southwest Corner Columbia, KY Square - W.I. Ingram Bldg. Clicking ReadMore accesses Early Occupants of the Firestone/Arnold Building, 1898-1918 by Mike Watson and his wayward cousin, JIM
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