by Andy Poore, Curator, Special Collections, Mooresville Public Library
The Central Hotel occupied what is now the last two buildings of the D.E. Turner Hardware row and the park area that is beside the last building. The fence that is displayed in the park is from the original home of Mr. Cyrus Alexander Johnston. Mr. Johnston’s home faced Church Street with its back to Main Street. Starting in the late 1880’s, in the home of Mr. Cyrus Alexander Johnston, The Central Hotel was Mooresville’s finest hotel and gathering spot for many years.
The Central Hotel stood at 125-129 Main Street. Because Mr. Johnston’s house was directly across from the depot, people would come to his home, looking for a meal or a place to stay, as they thought it was a bed and breakfast. Mr. Johnston’s daughter, who married John A. Melchor, returned home after Mr. Melchor’s death in 1890. She started serving people who were coming to the house looking for a meal or a place to stay. Mr. Johnston quickly decided to expand his service and built an 8-room brick building on the back of his house. The building housed rooms, a dining room, a larger kitchen, and a porch and balcony area for guests to sit and relax. The family continued to live in the house portion of the hotel. In addition to the café in the hotel, there was also a school on the second floor.
If you stand in the park and look to the right, the second building was home to several stores, including a barber shop, whose walls were lined with mirrors, and whose floors can still be seen at the entrance of the building today. By the 1930’s, the building was home to a movie theater, which was named The Central Movie Theater in honor of The Central Hotel. The movie theater set parallel to Main Street. The two ends of the hotel were built at an angle with the one on the right side bearing a large sign that was pointed toward the depot so that people arriving on the train could see the sign for the hotel.
This fall, our staff is branching out a little, reading books outside their usual genres. Some are oldies but goodies, and if you can’t find it on our shelves, ask us about an Interlibrary Loan!
After hearing an excerpt and interview with the author on Fresh Air, I picked up Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart– I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not reading a dark memoir, that these stories are fiction. Acerbic humor and a tiny bit of self-deprecation mark these short stories that flow together like a memoir. For fans of Amy Tan or Lisa See, those with interest in Chinese American historical fiction will enjoy branching out a little.
I am reading, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Bachman; not done yet, so far so good.
I just finished reading, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; it was a long book and it kept my interest. In fact, I stayed up late last night to finish it.
I just finished Hunter/Prey by Sid Sisavath. It was quite a ride with thrills and action from start to finish; it was so exciting, I couldn’t put it down to sleep!
The Tea Girl from Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See; wow, it was wonderful, and went in so many directions!
That Sherman Alexie, he is way too clever. In one of the lines just past the middle of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, he says his wife tells him he’s constructed this story like his mother’s patchwork quilts, and I concur. It’s an incredible weave of narrative, poetry, re-working of past, present and future, serious and humorous, love and hate, just, man, a great memoir.
There are works of fiction he has written that I love, consider them modern classics in literature, and didn’t realize just how autobiographical they were until I read this memoir. I use Junior’s soliloquy about “the tribe of me” in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian as inspiration for my diversity statement, and have re-read that book a few times. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
I just finished Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Like many of her books, she incorporates characters from past books. However, they don’t necessarily have a big role in the story, but they help set up some of the current characters. This book revolves around the town that her last book’s main character, Lucy Barton, came from. I enjoyed knowing more of Lucy’s back story and the important role her family played in the current character’s lives. This book is a great slice of life in small town America.
The Charles Mack Wholesale Building
Compiled by Andy Poore, Curator, Special Collections, Mooresville Public Library
The Charles Mack Wholesale Building was originally built in the 1890’s as a drying house for Barger Brother’s Construction. The building was located behind D.E. Turner’s Hardware Store. The building faces Center Avenue and is built at an angle on its’ lot. Facing the building, to the right of the front door is the original sliding door to the warehouse that allowed trucks to pick up a load of dried wood.
The boom crane and opening was located in the center of the second floor which the opening is now bricked up. The trucks would pull up to unload the lumber. The lumber was then hoisted up to the second floor where it was placed on racks. The room was lined with stoves that were used to control the heat during the drying process. There are three large chimneys on the roof of the building with the sliding doors in the ceiling of the upstairs room; these were used to control the heat and vent out smoke from the room during the drying process.
When you enter the building, the room to your left was the original sales/finance office. The windows are original, with the window on the far end the reception window for customers. Mr. Mack’s office was at the end of this long room. A counter ran from the reception window, down the side, in to the back area. When you enter, the rooms to the left, as well as the small room behind the counter were added later. Inside, on the left hand side of the warehouse was where the walk-in humidor was located. Cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products were kept in the humidor. This was the town’s first and only humidor.
Beside the humidor, you will find two cold rooms that were used to house candy products and other perishables. The candy room was lined with shelves where the boxes of candy were kept before being sold. Both rooms had large freezer doors and the temperature was regulated by a large refrigeration unit that was sold to Mr. Mack by the Mooresville Ice-cream Plant. The warehouse was lined with tall shelves that housed the boxes of items that were packed and sent out to various customers. The building still houses one of the oldest electric elevators in the town as well as the original staircase with the “slide” on the side where boxes were slid up and down the stairs. Mr. Mack operated his business until the late 1980’s until it closed.
In 1937, Charles Mack bought the building to move his wholesale business from Main Street into a larger building. The building was then purchased by John Mack, the son of Charles Mack, who gave the building back to the Town of Mooresville in 2006. The town then decided to use the building to house the Mooresville Museum. Walking back up the street to the corner and crossing the street toward the depot, we will continue our tour on Broad Street to the Central Hotel which we will discuss in next month’s local history corner.
compiled by Andy Poore, Special Collections Curator, Mooresville Public Library
Buying out the Tomlinson Hard-ware Store in 1899, Mr. D.E. Turner, in conjunction with his father, W.W. Turner formed the new D.E. Turner Co. and was first established at 170 North Main Street in 1899, before moving to their current cite at 111 North Main Street in 1909. The building at 170 North Main Street then became the Confectionary store for Charles Mack before he moved to Center Avenue in 1937; today, the building is home to The Famous Toastery Restaurant and the former home to The Daily Grind. In addition to a hard-ware store, one could purchase buggies constructed at the store at a cost of $23.75 to $123.00 as well as other goods. The double doors to the right were used to roll completed carriages into the street. The balcony at the back of the store was where the carriages were assembled before being rolled out of the store. The large arch to the right of the store was the entrance to the First National Bank which was located beside the hardware store as well as the entrance to Dr. Stephen Frointis, whose dentist office was located on the third floor above the hardware store. Today, the stairs are closed, but the doorway was located just to the left of the inside of the arch. Inside Turner’s, the wall to the right is the back of the staircase, which was moved three feet out into the store to accommodate the staircase. Upon entering the store, you will find some of the original items sold at the store over the years in a display case. The store also houses the original counters that are now more than a century old. With the advent of automobiles, the store also became the first gas station in town, selling gas from a crank pump located in the front of the store. The store was constructed with granite from the area as seen in the areas above the windows as well as the end post on either side of the store front. The brick building that Turner’s Hardware has occupied since 1899 was built in the 1890’s and was one of the first brick buildings in the Town of Mooresville. At the back of the store, you will find the oldest certified elevator in the Town of Mooresville. The elevator was used to move the carriages as well as other materials. Even though the elevator is still certified, the elevator is no longer needed, but because the elevator is significant in the history of Turner’s Hardware as well as the Town of Mooresville, the elevator is kept on display in the hardware store. Turner’s Hardware has continued to serve Mooresville for more than a century and today, it is one of the oldest operating businesses in the town.
The Southern Railways Train Depot
The Southern Railways Train Depot has been the center of life and the community for the Town of Mooresville since the construction of the first depot built in the 1870’s by Mr. John Franklin Moore. The depot stands in the exact center of town with the original town limits being a mile radius from the depot. Originally standing in the center of what is now Broad Street, the first depot was torn down, as a newer, larger one was constructed for reconnection of the railroad after the Civil War. The second depot burned in 1925 when a stove was left unattended on a windy night, causing ash to be blown out into the floor. Fortunately, only part of the depot burned, due to the close proximity of the fire department to the depot and the department’s new 1921 La France fire truck. The railroad company decided to build a fire proof building and use what was left of the older building to construct the former depot. The train tracks were originally in front of the depot where the sidewalk and Main Street are today. The tracks were taken up in 1865 to keep the Danville, Virginia line open. The tracks did not return until 1882 when Southern Railroad brought the tracks back through. We know this because Mr. H.M. Johnston, who was a member of the town board spent three meetings complaining that the train depot was taking up 14 feet of his front yard. The depot was expanded and the buildings behind the depot on Main Street were built as the freight warehouse. The tracks as well as several sides (tracks beside the main line where railroad cars could be pulled safely to load or unload) were laid down behind the depot. The second building was built on the current spot, moving the building to a more central location between the two streets. The main entrance into the depot originally faced Center Avenue. The former ticket office is now the main entrance into the artist guild which is located on Main Street. The doors were still left on Center Street with the office door in the middle. Due to segregation at the time, one door—to the right of the middle door was for white passengers and the one to the left was for black passengers. The current main door that faces Main Street was left in place as it was used for people coming in to conduct other business such as sending or receiving telegrams. When you come in today, you enter through what is the first gallery for the artist guild and the former waiting room for the white passengers. The hardwood floors and walls are original to the building and you will notice on the wall in front of you, the original drinking fountain. The depot was built with restrooms inside and today the restrooms for this waiting area are located where the gift shop is currently. The middle section of the depot with the skylight was where the office was for the depot. The stairs at the back lead to the freight area which we will talk about in a moment. The next room, or lower room was the black waiting room. The restroom and water fountain were located at the back of the room. In both waiting areas, benches would have lined the walls as well as run down the center of the room. If you go back to the middle of the room and up the stairs at the back, you will be in the freight warehouse. This room was part of the second depot and survived the fire. The walls and doors are all original along with the exposed roof and beams. Tung and grove boards were used for the floor and walls. The large room, as you enter to the left was the freight master’s office where items were weighed. In front of the door, you’ll find the scales that were utilized to weigh items coming into the freight warehouse.