Pieces of history
New business reveals old building's treasures
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A 100-year-old deed to the former Byford Plumbing building on Main Street in historic downtown Hartselle is only one of many indications that the structure has had a lengthy and exciting history.
Another is that its top floor housed a local dentist, noted only in Hartselle's history books as Dr. Johnston, on the night of the town's "Great Bank Robbery" of March 16, 1926.
Rumor has it that a single bullet from the event is still lodged somewhere in an upstairs windowsill.
That single shot is what awakened Dr. Johnston and helped him to alert others to the robbery in progress.
A mysterious peephole in a seemingly ill-placed top floor backdoor, a hand-painted Dobb's Slaw Shop sign, what appears to have been a photographer's darkroom, and various other remnants symbolic of the many lives the building has led leaves more than one question unanswered concerning the building's past.
However, one remnant, untouched for more than 60 years, is now playing a vital role in answering one question concerning the building's past and future.
A long wooden table situated in the backroom of the second floor once served as the Hartselle City Council meeting table when the building was Hartselle's Town Hall in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
The building's current owners, Gary McCaig and Larry Worley of Hartselle, began restoration and renovation efforts in January to resurrect the look and feel of that era with Old Town Hall Antiques and Marketplace.
"I am simply amazed by the craftsmanship in this building," McCaig said. "The layout of the brick, the original ceiling tiles, and the step-back entrance are truly a glimpse into the past."
With the ground floor of the building gutted, reconstruction began on the building's original step-back entrance onto Main Street.
Ceiling tiles were then carefully removed, cleaned, and replaced after the ceiling was brought up to 21st century fire code regulations.
With the original floor cleaned and sealed, warehouse lights were installed above to illuminate approximately 15 seller's booths.
"I think it will be a most interesting endeavor," McCaig said. "The marketplace will feature artists, lamps, oriental rugs, flowers, and many other unique and extraordinary home dcor items."
The Old Town Hall Antiques and Marketplace is set to open in early June, according to the business's owners Joy and Art Scharein.
"We hope to meet all home dcor needs," Joy said. "We will have everything from garden items to gourmet coffees and candies. Gary and Larry have been very supportive in this endeavor and we are proud that they have restored the integrity of this beautiful building."
John Hodges of Hartselle said he has stopped by the building many times on his daily walks downtown. Since renovation started, he's gotten to go in and explore a special connection that draws him there.
"That building has always had a strange attraction for me," Hodges said. "Like there was something there that was mine."
Part of the connection Hodges can identify is that of his late grandfather, John Pruitt Hodges-Hartselle's mayor during the building's years as town hall.
Another of Hodges' connections explains the darkroom remnants. He said the two front rooms upstairs served as a photography studio in the 1950s.
The studio's proprietors, Curly Roberts and a man Hodges only remembers as Bill, allowed the budding photographer to use their darkroom for film developing in 1954.
"I poke my head in every day or so to see how things are progressing," Hodges said. "They're really doing a bang-up job renovating the old building."
As for the nearly forgotten council table that inspired the renovation process, it has been placed in the care of the city of Hartselle.
Once the table has been properly preserved and restored, it will be placed on display with other historical items at the Hartselle Historic Depot Building.
Plans are also underway to renovate the building's second floor later this year.
For information on booth rental, call the Schareins at 751-1776.