Relics from the past found

Published 4:39 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

With recent construction being done to the historic Nelson Building, a number of items from the building’s past were discovered.

The building, located at 301 E. Water St., was purchased by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in 2006 and has recently been under renovation to help support and stabilize the structure.

During construction, several walls and segments of flooring were removed to be replaced. As the floor was removed, workers began to find old bottles in the dirt below.

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Learning of the finds, Amanda Glover, Keith Pollock and Dustin Dowdy decided to do some treasure hunting. The group, along with the workers, found more than 20 bottles from Bainbridge’s past as well as a number of ledger materials and documents from a previous occupant of the building.

Two of the bottles found were half-pint milk bottles from local dairies—O.M. Toole and J.M. Clark Dairy. The empty bottles were owned by the dairies and are remnants of the days of the milk man who brought fresh milk to homes.

Other bottles found ranged from old Coke bottles to medicine bottles still containing their original corks.

Another piece of the past unearthed beneath the flooring was a collection of documents dated between 1949 and 1950 from two Bainbridge businesses—The Hub and The Fair Store.

Numerous bank statements and canceled checks through The Citizens Bank and Trust Company of Bainbridge were found for The Hub dating throughout 1950 and signed by Herbert Michaels. The bank was located in the building where Regions Bank is now located in downtown Bainbridge.

Checks were made out to various companies for inventory purchases such as shoes, coats and hats. Several checks were also made out to local businesses including radio station WMGR, Decatur Hardware Company, Georgia Power and Light Company and Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company.

There were also numerous invoices found from The Fair Store for the purchases of clothing inventory items from companies as far away as New York. One such invoice was for the purchase of brown oxford shoes from the Municipal Shoe Company in Brooklyn, N.Y., for $2 a pair and $2.05 for boots. Another was from Gladstone Brothers clothing, located on Fifth Avenue in New York City, for trench coats costing $12.85. The bulk of the purchase orders were from Sewell Manufacturing Company out of Bremen, Ga., located west of Atlanta.

A gas bill for The Hub Store was among the old documents found. The service was through Hydro-Gas Services Company out of Tallahassee, Fla., with charges for the month of October being $1 and $3.30 for November. Also listed on the bill was the telephone number for the store, which was 407.

Long time Bainbridge resident Jody Grollman provided The Post-Searchlight with some insight into the businesses.

Grollman said his father owned Grollman’s Shoe Store, located on Water Street across the street from The Fair Store, in the building that is today Jake’s Pawn Shop. Grollman said The Fair Store was owned by Maurice Michael, whose son-in-law was Sid Gardinkel—the owner of The Hub. He said at that time the Nelson Building was The Georgian Hotel and The Hub was located inside the building. Both businesses were dry goods stores selling general merchandise, according to Grollman.

Grollman provided a bit more history, noting that Gardinkel went on to start a franchise of businesses called Pixie Shops, with more than 100 shops being opened throughout the southeast. He later purchased the Nelson Building and used it as a warehouse for products he supplied to the stores.

Information about the history of the Nelson Building was also discovered by Glover by referring to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The maps showed the original site of the building can be dated back to 1898 when it was Hines and Calahan Livery Stable—where horses were housed for a fee.

In 1905, the building became the Fordham Hotel, and in 1924 it became the Central Hotel.

Others items found inside the building when it was purchased by the DDA include a framed diploma for Samuel Clark Hopkins, who graduated from The Atlanta College of Pharmacy in 1901 and a Sentinel record player.