The Evolution of 104 Jefferson

When searching for his next renovation project, Wesley Crunkleton, Principal at Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate, ended up finding a space that surprised him.

“When I was initially told about this property being a potential opportunity, I had a hard time identifying which property they were referring to,” he said. “When I walked over to Jefferson Street to check it out, I remember saying to myself that I didn’t think I’d ever realized the building was there. However, once I started walking through the space I saw a ton of potential.”

After finishing The Garage at Clinton Row, the 11,000 square foot mid-block building would soon become the site of Wesley’s next downtown real estate redevelopment.

The exterior of 104 Jefferson before renovations began.

The Plan

During the past few months, anyone walking downtown near Jefferson Street noticed the changes taking place at one of the block’s historic buildings. Although hidden behind a construction tent at times, the property was quickly becoming one of the city’s next modern office spaces.

“We had been looking at other opportunities for renovations downtown that didn’t work out at the time,” said Wesley. “The contractor I used for The Garage at Clinton Row put me in touch with the owners of 104 Jefferson and that’s when the project really took off.”

After a few months of deliberation and patience from all parties involved, everyone agreed to terms of the building’s purchase. A schedule of events was quickly put together.

“Our first order of business, after we had devised a plan for the property, was to make sure that the City of Huntsville Inspection and Fire Department were on board, as well,” he said.

“These older properties can be tricky because they were built during a period of time that either did not involve the inspection process or the process was vastly different from today. Both the Inspection and Fire Department can really be helpful on the front end with a project like this, and I would always recommend that anyone planning to undertake a downtown renovation get them involved early in the process.”

(Below are images of the property BEFORE the renovation.)

From January to July of this year, the look and feel of the property changed dramatically.

The Design: Modern Industrial

Although the building’s construction was completed in 1915, its interior design was frozen in time somewhere between the late 80s and early 90s.

“When I came across the space, everything was very retro,” explained Wesley. “Funky shapes, bold reds, and other dated elements were interspersed throughout the property. We knew there needed to be a significant amount of work done to uncover its true potential.”

104 Jefferson’s facelift was not a simple undertaking. Work began to expose brick walls and incorporate sleek glass, clean lines, and aesthetically pleasing paint colors. In fact, only two colors were used throughout the final product. The wooden doors you see today are made from the wooden rafters taken out of the second-floor ceiling.

“The goal was to make everything clean as possible,” he said. “We ended up using a dark tile with a dark grout that gives the lobby a slate or concrete finish look. The seamless glass entry doors in each suite are a hint to the modern, while the exposed brick gives it the industrial feel.”

(Here are images of 104 Jefferson AFTER the renovation.)

The character of the property began to take shape with the addition of exposed sprinkler pipes and artistic lighting fixtures. But its crowning jewel was something that received much attention from the community—a hidden mural that made its debut during the fourth day of chipping away at the lobby’s plaster.

The Discovery: A Message From The Past

 “Without a doubt, you need to remove the plaster. Take it off.”

This was the advice given to Wesley on a business trip to Chattanooga while visiting a contractor acquaintance who had tackled similar projects. Not wanting to begin a project that he couldn’t execute 100 percent, the encouragement was the push he needed to make the final design decision to uncover the wall beneath the old plaster.

“I already knew it was something that I wanted to do—expose the brick,” said Wesley. “And sure enough, we started chipping away and found yellows, greens, and blues. The old sign started to show itself. It was a welcomed surprise.”

After doing research, Wesley determined that the sign was for Bull Durham Tobacco. Co. and had been hidden for decades.

“It’s the same tobacco company whose factory was operational in the mid-1900s but burned down in North Carolina where the company was based,” he said. “We thought the connection to the past would be a wonderful feature to the building that would add personality and interest its visitors.”

The Modern Office Space: Where Is It Headed?

It’s impossible to ignore the changes in the look, feel, and function of 104 Jefferson. In an effort to keep pace with the transformations in today’s office settings, the space was built to encourage collaboration, creative team building, and successful project execution.

“Simply put, offices are headed to less of an office feel,” clarified Wesley. “Offices are becoming a place that you not only work but hang out, as well. The days of squeezing into a tiny conference room and exhausting yourself over a whiteboard are gone. Now, business might be done over a game of pool in the back lounge where people brainstorm.”

The Environment: Downtown Huntsville

Businesses are flocking to the downtown area in order to take advantage of the off-site meeting spaces, like coffee shops and bars, in order to recruit new hires and take a mental break from the daily grind.

Exterior of 104 Jefferson after the renovations.

Current tenants at 104 Jefferson include KPS Group and Prime Lending, which moved in after the renovations were completed to the ground floor.

“It really is more about your office dynamic rather than what downtown provides as an office setting,” he said. “For instance, Prime Lending moved its business from South Parkway. The ability to walk out the door and go have a drink or shop at The Garage at Clinton Row helps them utilize downtown as a built-in recruiting tool.”

The Reward: A Completed Project

“One of the most gratifying parts of any project is when people are pleased with what you’ve done to their property,” beamed Wesley. “The seller of the site found me after the renovation was complete and said they were very happy with the way it turned out. It’s a great feeling, and we are very thankful at how patient and supportive they have been throughout the process. It was truly a team effort. Everyone involved has been incredible.”

Next time you are exploring Downtown Huntsville, take a moment to stop and look at one of Huntsville’s newest office spaces that combines the present with the past. It very well could be the perfect spot for your business.

 To learn more about 104 Jefferson, click here.

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HALEY CLEMONS
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CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

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Historic Huntsville: The Story Behind The Yarbrough Building

One of the best ways to uncover the past is to speak with someone who lived it. In researching the historic Yarbrough Building, I was introduced to Mary Jane Caylor, a well-known Huntsville figure who has dedicated much of her time to restoring the Downtown neighborhood. She has worn many hats and had many stories to share.

During our afternoon of exploring the building, we discovered a beautiful story of old Huntsville and the former life of one elegant downtown hotel.

Mary Jane Caylor and I made our way to the steps of the historic Yarbrough Office Building on the corner of Holmes Avenue in Downtown Huntsville. As our eyes adjusted to the sun-filled day, Mary Jane examined the front door.

“I can still see Chapman standing here greeting guests,” she said. “He was the head bellman at the hotel, and he was so nice to us as children.” She shook her head as if to break her trance. “He wore an all-white jacket and was friends with the other bellman, Grant. You know, Holmes Avenue used to be a major thoroughfare. Traffic, parades—it was the place to be.”

Located along Washington Street and Holmes Avenue, the Yarbrough Building was once a towering icon to the City of Huntsville. The four-story fragment of history welcomed families, guests, and traveling businessmen as the Yarbrough Hotel between 1923 and the early 1960s.

In a time when the city had a more modest population and the glitz and glamor of a new hotel attracted the elite, the Yarbrough was a promise that the town was growing and evolving.

We ambled up the steps beneath the elaborate awning and opened the doors to the lobby of the office building. For Mary Jane, born in 1942, the building held many happy memories.

“See that banister there?” she said while pointing to the ceiling and motioning her hand in a circle. “When I was little, I would hang over the side of it and get a spanking every time.” She chuckled as she continued to examine the lobby.

“Is it very different from when you were a child?” I asked.

She paused for a moment. “In my memory, this place was massive. And when I return for visits, I’m reminded that I saw it through the eyes of a child.”

Plans For A Grand Hotel

More than a simple brick and concrete structure, the Yarbrough Hotel was known as one of the premier hotels in the Huntsville area in the 1920s. On March 29, 1923, the Yarbrough Brothers announced in the Community Builder that the construction of a four-story hotel would take place, costing roughly $150,000. It was proposed that the hotel would include 75 rooms and communal baths on each floor.

“It was a luxury to get a bathroom to yourself at the Yarbrough,” said Mary Jane. “That was the setup—Jack-and-Jill-style bathrooms with one shower.” Even today, you can still see the same restrooms on the 3rd and 4th floors—sans the showers.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, Mr. Brogan of Fayetteville, Tennessee held the contracts for the footing and J.H. Goodwin was the concrete contractor.

Plans were later proposed by architect D. Anderson Dickey to add an additional 5th story to the Yarbrough that would house 20 guests rooms and a large banquet hall. The manager at the Twickenham Hotel, located where The Garage at Clinton Row is today, had announced a week prior that they would be adding their own banquet floor. As it turns out, neither hotel saw their plans through.

The Yarbrough also featured storefronts on the ground floor of the hotel that catered to businessmen, including a barbershop and Hilding Holmberg’s Men’s Wear, located on the corner of Holmes Avenue and Washington Street. There was also a small billiard room near the boiler room on the hotel’s basement floor.

“Adams and Walker Drugstore preceded Hilding Holmberg’s Men’s Wear where Downtown Huntsville, Inc. is housed today,” she explained. “Chad Emerson, the President and CEO, wanted to keep the original floors and you can still see where the stools from the soda fountain were placed. People visit and they love that the history has been preserved.”

And, as history tells it, The Yarbrough Hotel opened to eager crowds with a wonderful Grand Opening Celebration in 1924.

It wasn’t long until Mary Jane’s grandparents moved to The Yarbrough in 1925.

The Smith Family

Mary Jane’s grandparents moved from Corinth, Mississippi to the Yarbrough Hotel with their seven children in tow. They were one of the hotel’s longtime residents, as the children remained there until growing up and going their separate ways. But the family would gather again for special occasions and bring children of their own to visit their grandmother. Mary Jane, daughter of Charles R. Smith Sr. and Leona Butler Smith, holds on to fond memories of visiting her grandmother at the hotel.

As a product of Victorian upbringing, her grandmother, Lena Rinehart Smith, was the definition of refined and expected her children and grandchildren to be well behaved. The hotel was a place where the children acted with much civility—not a place to horse around.

The Smith Family celebrating at the Yarbrough Hotel.

“Any time we were at dinner we would get a stern look if we so much as turned around in our seats,” said Mary Jane. “It was a strict upbringing, but it was good for us.”

Mary Jane and I had found a cozy spot to stop and chat. “What would you say is your favorite memory at the hotel?” I asked.

“Probably the Christmas dinners we had there,” she smiled. “On Christmas night we would go and visit my grandmother in our finest clothes. And, I’m not exaggerating, my mother would bake anywhere between 15 and 20 cakes during the Christmas holidays, thus, she provided the desserts for the Smith Christmas dinners! All kinds of cakes—coconut, lemon, chocolate, white, fruit cakes, you name it.” She paused and smiled.

Mary Jane’s grandmother with the Smith cousins in the 1950s at the hotel.

“Afterward, we’d all gather around the piano and Aunt Elizabeth would play while we sang Christmas songs,” she said. “You know, you rarely appreciate those good days when they are happening, but we are not promised tomorrow. I’m very thankful for those memories.”

We went on to talk about Bertha (the elevator operator in the hotel’s heyday), popular residents at the hotel, and stories of days gone by.

Mary Jane’s father and grandmother in the lobby of the hotel.

“There was a ballroom on the second floor, just to the left of the elevators,” she explained. “The ballroom adjoined the suite where my grandmother, Aunt Eugenia Smith, and cousin Sara Ann Smith lived at the hotel.”

She told me area high school students took ballroom dancing lessons from Irene Jones there, one of the only dance instructors in the city at the time. The ballroom was also the setting for those family Christmas dinners she adored.

But The Yarbrough wasn’t the only hotel in town back in the day, and when the Russel Erskine opened its doors in 1930 business took a hard hit. The Russel Erskine was much larger, featured 132 rooms and stood 12 stories high.

As the sparkle of the hotel faded and Huntsville began to expand outside of the downtown area, the hotel was less frequented.

“The Yarbrough was very popular for a long time,” she said. “But we especially saw a decline of the downtown area as a whole when the parkway opened in 1955.”

Even with heavy competition, the hotel remained in business for several years before closing in the early 1960s.

The Yarbrough Office Building Today

In the 1980s, the building underwent renovations to reopen as an office center.

Frederick Lanier is the President of the West Huntsville Land Co., a property management company formed in Huntsville in 1923. The West Huntsville Land Co. acquired the ownership of the building in 2002 and has leased out almost all of the space to thriving businesses including Heart of the Valley YMCA, Community Development, and several successful law firms. He joined us on our walk through the past and shared some of his insights on the building.

“My father always told me to never own a building with an elevator,” he sighed. “Three months after I purchased it the elevator failed. Because of the hydraulics, it took awhile to get it fixed, but we haven’t run into any major issues since.”

A proud owner of other historic buildings downtown, Frederick said that the lobby of the building was just as it was the day he bought it.

“It’s almost fully occupied here and the tenants love it,” he said. “We are like a family.” He gestured for both of us to follow him to the back of the building where we were greeted by a small awning that boasted a large “Y” on its front.

The original hotel logo.

“That’s the original symbol for the hotel,” he explained. “We had them recreate it as a way to remember the building’s significance.”

In addition to the original lobby, the second-floor mezzanine was retained for historic purposes, as well.

“It is very important to us as stewards of the Yarbrough to preserve the historic integrity of the building,” he said. “This is a piece of Huntsville history—it’s a part of who we are as a community.”

Mary Jane’s father, Charles, and Frederick’s father, Pete Lanier, were great civic leaders and good friends.

“Daddy would be so happy to know that Frederick owns the Yarbrough today,” she said. “He has done an outstanding job in preserving the historic significance of the hotel.”

A Downtown Dream

As we completed our tour of the building, Mary Jane looked around the busy downtown streets.

“I remember a time when shops downtown were boarded up,” she said. “You didn’t travel downtown. But now, it’s moving back to where it once was—a wonderful place to bring families and live, dine, or enjoy a night out.”

We shut the doors behind us and strolled back to the corner of Holmes.

“There are days I don’t need to drive through downtown to get somewhere, but I find myself doing it anyway,” she remarked. “I just love seeing the crowds and families—it’s wonderful. And the Yarbrough, well, every time I step inside I’m happy to be there.”

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NOTE: All information for this article was collected from copies of The Huntsville Daily Times, the National Register of Historic Places databaseand the interviews mentioned above. If you have additional information about the Yarbrough Hotel, please email haley@crunkletonassociates.com. We’d love to include additional or updated info.

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HALEY CLEMONS
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

Historic Huntsville: The Russel Erskine Hotel

In many ways, the story of the Hotel Russel Erskine in downtown Huntsville is the story of Huntsville itself.

For over 45 years, this historic building located on the corner of Clinton and Spragins was the central hub for all civic and social gatherings. Prominent figures in Huntsville’s history called it their home, club meetings were held there, weddings were attended and major business was conducted within its walls. And in many ways, its prominence and renown within the region was a major contributing factor for Huntsville being chosen to host Redstone Arsenal. Something that has come to define the very essence of our city and economy.

But perhaps more surprising, is that the building itself was not a product of a large corporate investment or single enterprising individual looking to turn a profit, but instead the work of several local Huntsville businessmen coming together to enrich their community.

THE BEGINNING

img_00457In the late 1920s, there were two passenger trains each day to and from Huntsville and Washington and New York. The travelers from these trains, most of whom had business in Huntsville (then reknown for its mills, banks, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and its nurseries – which were among the largest in the world), were used to life on the road and they knew what they liked in hotels.

So with everyone still basking in the the rosy financial glow of the 1920s, seven local Huntsvillians decided to undertake the creation a hotel that would impress this growing number of business travellers, or any other discriminating guest who sought well-kept, up-to-date rooms, good service and excellent food.

In the end, after coming together to form the “Huntsville Hotel Company” the major burden of assuring that all financial obligations would be met for the project fell on the shoulders of: Lawrence B. Goldsmith and Robert Schiffman (brothers in law, partners in I. Schiffman Co. dealing with commercial property, farm property warehousing, etc.), Morton M. Hutchens (Partner in the Hutchens Company, plumbing, heating and electrical supplies, hardware, wholesale and retail), Robert E Smith (attorney at law), T.T. Terry (dry goods merchant on the square), Wells M. Stanley (a vice president of the Alabama Power Company) & J. Emory Pierce (editor and general manager of the Huntsville Daily Times).

Investing a grand total $614,932.92 into the project, (which equates to nearly $8.9 million in today’s economy – a large sum of money to invest in a town of only about 11,500 people) the Huntsville Hotel Group along with Huntsville’s business and civic leadership saw itself as the commercial capital of North Alabama and viewed this hotel as a way to announce that to the country.

And so, on January 3rd 1930, three years after forming the Huntsville Hotel Company and after a lengthy and somewhat tumultuous financing and construction process (and just a few short months after the stock market crashed in October of 1929), the Hotel Russell Erskine opened its doors and celebrated with a grand party, which was has been boasted as one of the bigger-than-life occasions in Huntsville’s history.

THE HOTEL

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Front lobby of Russel Erskine Hotel. (Huntsville Public Library).

The hotel stood 12 stories, boasted 132 rooms and was equipped with a number of modern luxuries for the time including running ice water, electric fans, and a radio in every room. This last involved a rather expensive rooftop radio antenna that brought broadcasts to each and every room by means of radio cables.

Once inside the hotel, visitors could either turn left into the barber shop, go right into the Blue Room (perhaps to a luncheon) or walk straight ahead toward the lobby which featured marble floors, elegant chandeliers red damask curtains, thick rugs, a brass and marble reception desk, and Miss Josephine’s newsstand which was filled with magazines, candy, tobacco goods and comic books. From there you could climb the stairs on the left to go into the beauty shop or the office of the Automobile Association of America, which later became the home of the Rocket Club. One could also continue on to the hotel’s coffee shop, then Huntsville’s most elegant restaurant, or walk through the lobby to the ballroom which hosted club meetings, parties, proms and wedding receptions along with other events.

The tallest hotel with the most rooms in all of the Tennessee Valley, the Hotel Russel Erskine was the place to stay when one had business in North Alabama.

BEHIND THE NAME

Albert Russel Erskine

Albert Russel Erskine

Named after Huntsville native Albert Russel Erskine who went on to become an automobile magnate and president of Studebaker Motors, there is quite the plethora of colorful stories about how the hotel came to settle on that name. According to some, the original name for the hotel was meant to have been the Joe Wheeler, after the famous Confederate general. However after financing fell through and building capital fell short the founders decided to name it the Russel Erskine in the hopes that as a member of one of the oldest Huntsville families he could be expected to enter into the civic spirit of the enterprise to the extent of investing substantial funds into it.

However, after noting he was down for 100 shares of stock and the pledge of a $10,000 investment during a meeting on April 1928, it is said that he was unfortunately not good for his word and reportedly only invested a token $500 into the project in addition to loaning the Huntsville Hotel Company an oil portrait of himself. (Under the condition that he reserved the right to withdraw the portrait from the hotel at some future time).

Other sources state that the name change from Joe Wheeler to Russell Erskine was a direct condition from Russell Erskine himself in response to the request for financial support from the hotel financiers but that when he arrived for the grand opening (which other sources say he did not even attend) he was wined and dined, but left without opening his wallet.

Sadly, just a few short years after the grand opening of the hotel in 1930 Erskine committed suicide in 1933 after becoming distraught over the Studebaker company entering bankruptcy during the great depression. He is buried at the top of the hill in Maple Hill cemetery.

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

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After the stock market crash in October of the previous year, there were ominous signs that the nation’s economy was in serious trouble at the time of the Hotel’s opening in 1930. However, with the guidance of the stockholders, the directors and the sure hand of Lawrence Goldsmith Sr, the hotel remained open and solvent so that when the economy recovered the hotel was able to fulfill its promise of becoming the social and civic center of Huntsville.

On Sunday afternoons, churchgoers from the town’s six or seven downtown churches would flock to the Hotel Russel Erskine wearing hats, gloves, suits and ties to lunch at the coffee house. Greeted by the head waiter, Cristo in his dark pants and white coat, the townspeople would dine on menu items such as homemade rolls, chicken croquettes, red snapper, prime rib, steak and for dessert ice cream or apple pie.

It was the gathering place for most club meetings, civic and social, for weddings, proms, business meetings, and birthday parties. And in the words of the former manager Jimmie Taylor “provided a facility for everything but funerals.”

The Hotel also contributed greatly to Huntsville’s growth, serving as caterer for most of Huntsville’s major events it became a major player in luring the generals who would choose Huntsville as the site for Redstone Arsenal during the approach of World War II, which in turn would become the site of the space and rocket industry that brought prosperity and growth to a city that may have otherwise remained a farming and mill town.

CHANGING TIMES

After the war, Huntsville was a quickly growing and changing city and soon it found itself outgrowing the hotel in favor of more modern facilities that were being built to accommodate the needs of the growing community.

Motels were being built to serve travelers not arriving by train anymore, but by cars and planes. Retail business began migrating from the downtown area which had been its home since the founding of the city in the 1800s to the newly constructed parkway.

Slowly but surely it became apparent that like other, older, downtown hotels all over the country the Hotel Russel Erskine was doomed.

And so it was in the winter of 1975 that the hotel said goodbye to its last guest and closed its doors.

THE RUSSEL ERSKINE TODAY

dsc_9933_smallAfter being rented for some years after the hotel’s closing, several investors purchased it, intending to alter the building into a suite hotel. This plan was soon abandoned though and eventually the building was purchased by a group who converted the hotel into HUD apartments for the elderly. It has been remodeled from its original 132 rooms to contain 69 apartments: 57 one-bedroom units; 10 two-bedroom units, and two rooms for handicapped residents. However the main lobby and ballroom, while somewhat remodeled over the years, have remained relatively intact, the ballroom itself has undergone an extensive restoration recently.

Today, the Hotel Russel Erskine is the last tall building from the 1920s and the only one of these in the Neo-Classical Revival style still standing in Huntsville.

I want to take moment to say a special thanks to the Huntsville History Collection for publishing a wonderful collection of essays on the history of the Russel Erskine Hotel in Volume 30, Number 3-4, Fall/Winter 2004 issue of the Historic Huntsville Quarterly where much of the information for this post was gleaned.  If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Russel Erskine, I highly recommend reading the full set of essays for yourself!

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KADIE PANGBURN
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON Commercial Real EState Group
KADIE@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

Historic Huntsville: The Story Behind 107 Washington Street

The Huntsville Kress Building Today

Researching and sharing the history of buildings in our beautiful Downtown area on this blog has become one of my favorite things to do. I love digging into history and getting to tell forgotten stories that help to reconnect our past with our present.

So for my next research topic I just couldn’t help but choose the old Kress building downtown. I have always loved every minute detail of that building. However during my research I discovered an overwhelming lack of information on the building and it’s history.  So I have compiled what I could discover here, but if anyone has any additional information on the building (especially access to images from the early 1930s when it was first built) I would love to hear about it!  Now, on with the history:

SAMUEL H. KRESS

tumblr_inline_nmg5ztqtOD1tnae7i_500Born in 1863 Samuel H. Kress was the second oldest of seven children descending from German and Irish immigrants.

As a child he worked in the stone quarries until the age of 17 when he earned his teaching credentials which enabled him to begin work as a school teacher.

By 1887 Kress had saved up enough money to open his first store in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania selling stationery and notions. And as the business prospered, he used his profits to open additional stores, naming his chain “S.H. Kress & Co.”

Unlike most businessmen of his day, who chose to open stores in large developed urban areas, Kress made the unique decision to locate the bulk of his stores in smaller cities across the US that he felt had potential to grow. The stores he built in turn became the jewels of many of these small cities, most of which had only a dry goods or general store as their main retailer until that point.

However, these buildings would never have become the iconic city jewels they are without the work of one very important man: Edward F. Sibbert.

EDWARD F. SIBBERT

edward-sibbertBorn in 1889, Sibbert was a brooklyn-born american architect. And at the age of 35, after starting his career in Miami during the great Florida land boom of the 1920s, Sibbert returned to his hometown of Brooklyn where he answered an advertisement in a local newspaper.

Kress, who was in the process of dismissing his head architect at the time, George Mackay, hired Sibbert as chief architect for S.H. Kress & Co. And over the next 25 years the two would design a chain of stores spanning the United States, iconic for their consistent format and style, and instantly recognizable by their use of ornamental terra cotta.

S.H. KRESS & COMPANY

kress.anniston.alOne of the 20th century’s most prosperous variety-store retailers, with just over 200 locations nationwide S.H. Kress & Co may never have been the largest retail chain, however it did manage to hold the record for highest per-store sales of any five-and-dime in the country for more than 20 years.

kress.birminhamThe reasons for this were simple, for Samuel H. Kress, his stores were always more that just another five-and-dime. Instead, he envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape. And the creation of an architectural division within his company played a key role in both attracting customers and facilitating sales.

Kress received retail branding success not merely through standardized signage and graphics, but through distinctive architecture and efficient design. Regardless of their style, from elaborate Gothic Revival to streamlined Art Deco, Kress stores were designed to be internal parts of their urban districts and helped define Main Street America.

S.H. KRESS & COMPANY COMES TO HUNTSVILLE

Huntsville was little more than a village for many years until the erection of Dallas Mill finally gave the Huntsville economy a solid base and spurred construction activity.  By the year 1900 commercial development was well underway, but it was not until the 1920s that retail development really saw it’s boom. It was during this decade that national chain stores such as Penny’s, Sears, Wards and S.H. Kress & Co. began to open branches here in Huntsville.

Designed by S.H. Kress & Company’s head architect Edward Sibbert in the late 1920s and finished in 1931, the Downtown Huntsville Kress building is one of the finest examples of art deco architecture in Huntsville and since its construction has become an integral part of the fabric of the Downtown Huntsville area.

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Washington Street during the 1950s. The Kress building is just visible on the other side of the old Lyric building.

As a final note, if you are interested in leasing space in this historic building, our company actually has some space listed on the second floor! You can find all the information for that listing HERE.

And again, if anyone has anymore details about the history of the Huntsville building specifically, feel free to drop me a note, I would love to hear them!

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KADIE PANGBURN
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON & ASSOCIATES
KADIE@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM