City Directories and History: The Robbins – White Tour History state this area was, “Now let us go back to the Smith-Fewell building on the opposite side of East Main Street, just east of the big Friedheim’s store building. Right next to the alley, which was adjoining the Smith-Fewell building, was the mercantile establishment of Mr. Charlie Frew and his brother. Next to that was the Bass Furniture Company, operated by Mr. R. E. Bass. And next to Bass’ place was the Gill-Neely Grocery, owned and operated by Mr. W. W. Gill and Mr. Thorn Neely.”
Lots 3 and 4 North—Purchased from A. T. Black on November, 22, 1856 by Jonathan N. McElwee, Jr., for $110. Each lot measured 68’ in front with a depth of 212’. On April 14, 1887, J. Lewis McElwee, acting for his father, sold from the western part of Lot 3 to C. W. Frew and W. M. Frew a lot measuring 54’6” in front by 213’ in depth. Each of the brothers erected a new building, side by side, to house the various business enterprises they were engaged in at that time. One of the structures was a three-story building. These brick storehouses have survived to the present time. The writer recalls that a dime store, Newberry’s, occupied the building next to the 11’alley that connects Main Street with the back lots of the stores there. In more recent times Friedman’s was a tenant of this building. Next door in the same time period was Marilyn Shoes. The owners of the property were Frew descendants, the Hamiltons.
Next, J. Lewis McElwee conveyed a lot 26’ x 213’, next east to the Frew Lots, on September 25, 1883, to J. B. Johnson, for $800. On June 27, 1887, J. B. Johnson sold the same lot to J. Henry Toole, Rock Hill’s premier barber of that day, whose brother lived in Washington, D. C., and was barber to President Grover Cleveland. It was on this lot that Henry Toole operated his renowned barbershop. In an exchange of real estate, looking toward the building of a new Methodist Church.
The Herald contained an ad Jan. 11, 1883 – “for the firm M. Johnson and Son. Makers of saddles, harnesses and bridges. They had sales rooms over J. P. Caston’s store.”
Henry Toole sold this lot in November, 1895 to A. R. Smith, Susan R. Smith, and Paul Workman for $3,500. A. R. Smith and “Miss Sue” Smith were brother and sister, and Paul Workman was their nephew. They acquired the property for rental purposes. The property eventually came to be owned by A. R. Smith’s widow, Alice (Nelson) Smith Dial, wife of Dr. W. H. Dial of Laurens, S. C. Doctor Dial sold the land on April 25, 1923 to Mrs. Daisy D. Johnston, wife of T. L. Johnston, president of the People’s National Bank. In the Evening Herald of December 9, 1939, page 3, we find an article by James S. White, local historian and lifelong resident of Rock Hill. A photograph of the building standing on the Toole-Smith-Dial lot was shown in the paper and Mr. White wrote his memories of the structure, saying that it was the old building of W. G. Reid & Son, furniture dealers and funeral directors. He added that he had known this building as a barber shop [Henry Toole’s], a furniture store, and a grocery store. It was then occupied by the A. & P. Chain Store. He concluded by saying that it was his recollection that A. R. (“Mr. Andy”) Smith had once owned the lot and building. Mr. White had a very accurate memory of the town and city his ancestors helped to build. In more recent times the building was occupied for a number of years by Smith’s Drugs.
The next part of Lots 3 & 4 North to be sold by J. Lewis McElwee was a lot measuring 30’ x 213’, conveyed to James P. Caston on January 2, 1882 for $1,000. It is likely that Caston erected a two-story building there, a structure that is still standing. Caston left Rock Hill under a cloud in the 1880’s and the property fell into the hands of Colonel W. B. Wilson, a Rock Hill attorney and community leader. Colonel Wilson sold the lot to R. Lee Kerr, a banker, together with the vacant lot next east, on March 1, 1899, for $8,500. Then, Mr. Kerr sold the same to Samuel Friedheim on February 8, 1900 for $9,100. Finally, the valuable commercial lot with improvements was sold by an agent, Colonel W. B. Wilson, perhaps to the Barron family, who used the property for rental purposes. In recent times, the occupants were Tollison-Neal Drugs and a popular newsstand. At one time many years ago the R. W. Cranford Company occupied the lot.
The last part of Lots 3 & 4 North was sold by J. Lewis McElwee on January 17, 1880, to Ferguson H. Barber, local merchant and churchman. The lot measured 30’ x 213’. (For some inexplicable reason the front width of the lot had changed to 32’ 4” by 1894.) On October 25, 1894, Mr. Barber sold the vacant lot to Colonel W. B. Wilson for $800. Then Wilson sold to Kerr, as stated above; Samuel Friedheim then obtained the lot. Finally, on May 15, 1909, Colonel Wilson as agent, conveyed the premises to the People’s Trust Company for $6,600, and it was on this lot that the multi-story People’s National Bank building was erected in that year. This structure still stands and has recently been improved and restored for office space and for private residence.
The writer makes bold to say that he thinks old Captain J. N. McElwee, Jr., who loved to dabble in profitable real estate, would be pleased to learn that his original Lots 3 & 4 North have been home to any number of successful business ventures since his day. [Information provided via Along the Land’s Ford Road – Vol. I, 2008 by William B. White, Jr.]
Jan. 25, 1896 – The Herald reported that, “Mr. Brodie formally of Spartanburg, will open a jewelry store in Mr. A.R. Smith’s building on Main St., formally owned by Henry Toole. Improvements will include new plat glass windows.”
The Herald reported on Feb. 1, 1896 – “Mr. J.D. Scuggs learned that a gentleman was looking for a good town to locate in. He sent the man, F.E. Brodie, a copy of the book, the City of Rock Hill by Mr. Cherry. The next day, Mr. Brodie came here looked at the town, and determined to locate in Rock Hill. There was an ad in the same issue of the Herald announcing coming a new jeweler, F. E. Brodie, opposite the post office.”
The Herald reported on April 22, 1896 – “The effects of the Catawba Club were sold at public auction Saturday. Most of the furniture was bid on by A.E. Hutchison, the billiards table was purchased by the Carolina Hotel.” (It appears the club was later revived at this same location.)
*** The Rock Hill Record reported on April 1, 1904 – “The Smith – Fewell Co., have had their store equipped with the Barr Package carrier system and an elevated balcony where the cashier makes change and wraps the goods. They have three stations with large wire baskets which carry both the change and goods to the cashier’s desk. Mr. Charlie Oates is cashier.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on Jan 21, 1909 – “Effective Feb. 1st, Walter M. Dunlap and Herbert M. Dunlap will practice law as Dunlap and Dunlap and will have offices in the Ratterree Building. Herbert has resigned as manager of the Smith – Fewell Company. The partnership of Spencer and Dunlap is terminated but Mr. Spencer will continue to practice law.”
The Fort Mill Times reported on April 4, 1910 – “Considerable interest is manifest throughout the county in the sale of East Main Street lots in Rock Hill on the 19th by the real estate dept. of People’s Trust Company. The sale of these lots will open for improvement a hitherto undeveloped portion of the city and the indications are that buyers will not be lacking.”
ROCK HILL’S “FIRST SKYSCRAPER” WAS A WONDER – Contributed and written by Paul M. Gettys
In 1910, the local newspapers were full of enthusiastic articles about the new Peoples National Bank Building on Main Street. The building, which was converted to residential use several years ago by Harry Dalton and now houses several condominiums, elicited excitement among Rock Hill’s citizens when it was under construction. The Rock Hill Herald, in articles on April 21 and 22, 1910, gave detailed descriptions of the building and its opening. It noted that “Rock Hill’s first ‘skyscraper’ presents a handsome appearance, both inside and out. Built of brick with stone trimmings, it is four stories high and has also a roomy basement…”
The main floor was occupied by the Peoples National Bank and the Peoples Trust and Insurance Department. The bank space was “a marvel of quality, elegance, and good taste. The fixtures are of purest white marble, the gratings of bronze, the woodwork of highly tones golden oak, and the floor beautifully tiled.” The lobby featured columns supporting the ceiling and three large stained glass lights. The writer noted “an especially attractive feature, adding greatly to the bank’s facilities, is the ladies’ booth, occupying the center space. In an alcove is a table and chair where ‘my lady’ may sign her checks unmolested by the bustling crowd.” It seems the banking world has changed.
In addition to the bank and insurance business, the building housed a number of other tenants. The second floor housed the Wilson and Wilson law firm and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company office. On the third floor were the Spencer and Spencer law firm and Mr. C. K. Chreitzberg. The basement was ready for occupancy by a barber shop. On the dizzying heights of the fourth floor, the Catawba Club had great views of the city far below. On the Thursday before the building’s opening on Monday, April 25, the elevator was running and “many citizens took a ride on Rock Hill’s new ‘vertical trolley.’”
Reported the Peoples National Bank Building was built in 1909 for a cost of $40,000, with architect Gaston Edward Shand. Information from the SC Architects 1885 – 1935: Wells and Dalton – 1992
The Herald reported on April 16, 1925, – “That Harry Gardiner, the World’s Original Greatest Fly, will scale the front of the People’s Bank Building on Saturday at 4:00.”
The Herald reported on Nov. 18, 1925, “that Peoples National Bank has moved back to their old building after temporarily being across the street during construction. The interior of the bank building has been totally rearranged at a cost $135,000. The contractor for the work was Walter Kidde Company of New York and the architect Charles C. Hartmann. The bank was founded in 1906.”
Click on the More Information > link found below the picture column for additional data on the extensive development of Rock Hill via C.L. Cobb. And also enjoy the Main Street Database PDF.
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