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Apr. 4 - Historic Savannah Foundation Taps Savannah Tech to Document Historic Building Before Demolition

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

April 4, 2016 - Historic Savannah Foundation, a leading preservation organization committed to preserving and protecting Savannah’s heritage, partnered with a historic preservation class from Savannah Technical College in a last minute effort to document an endangered historic structure at 1811 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Savannah. The historic corner store at MLK and Kline Street will be torn down by the City on Monday, April 4, per a court order.

In an effort to document the building before it is lost forever, HSF reached out to Benjamin Curran, with the Historic Preservation Department at Savannah Tech. He engaged his Structural Theory and Pathology class beginning Friday, April 1 at 8 a.m., where the students photographed the building’s interior and exterior and took measurements from which detailed floor plans and elevation drawings will be produced.

The two-story, wood-frame building was constructed around the turn of the 20th century. It has been scrutinized by the City for nearly two years for repeated code violations. It was deemed unsafe and unfit for human habitation by city code enforcement, and has been vacant for some time. When repeated efforts to force the property owner to make necessary improvements and repairs failed, the City resorted to Recorder’s Court. 

The City’s Property Maintenance Division approached HSF about three weeks ago, when their efforts to document the building fell short. 

“We are always troubled when we lose a historic structure to demolition, but we are grateful that the City is allowing us this opportunity to document the building so there is some record of it,” said HSF Historic Properties Coordinator, Ryan Arvay. “We are concerned with what we see as a trend in demolition in Cuyler-Brownville and along MLK. This is especially painful since the building is just a block down from Meldrim Row, which was demolished last year.”

He added, “We feel there are better alternatives to demolition and we will continue to work with the City, property owners, and other organizations to find creative solutions that will reuse these buildings.”

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Savannah Business Then & Now: The 125th Anniversary of Tybee Earthquake

By Thomas Clark
SBJ Special Contributor


Aug. 29, 2011 –It was a quiet evening, the last day of August 1886, expected to pass quietly for Tybee Island residents and visitors. A few days earlier, a hurricane had tracked to the east sparing the island, Georgia and South Carolina.

The storm left behind a steamy air mass but no one was complaining. The night promised to be tranquil with no hint of storms in either the western or southern skies.

One hundred miles away in Charleston, some folks were returning from church services that evening. They described the nine o’clock hour as having such “a profound stillness in the air that it provoked general remark.” 

The date was Aug. 31, 1886 and that stillness would be shattered forever, just moments later.

Terror from below
At approximately 9:25 p.m., Savannah and Tybee Island experienced a low rumble…then a major tremor.

“At Tybee the shock was more severely felt than in the city (Savannah). The people on the island rushed from their houses to the beach. The oscillation lasted several minutes. Lantern lenses in the lighthouse was broken and the machinery of lamps was disarranged…The water was agitated and the waves rose high on the beach. Houses swayed to and fro as if they would fall to pieces,” according to a story published by the Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine, on Sept. 2, 1886

“(In Savannah) three distinct shocks have been felt since midnight…People are still greatly excited, and sitting out in the streets and squares, or crowding around the telegraph and newspaper offices.  At Tybee Island…. the lenses in the lighthouse were destroyed. The people on the island telephone to the city that they are in a state of terror. There is no communicating with the mainland until daylight and all the inhabitants are assembled on the high land. Their chief cause of fear is from a tidal wave, the island been swept away in 1881”.  Galveston Daily News, Sept. 1, 1886

“Reports from Tybee Island announce the breaking of the lens in the lighthouse, the twisting of the iron bolts and brass wires, extinguishing of the lights and damage to the structure proper…. The summer colony on the island spent the night huddled…. in abject terror and in momentary expectation of being swallowed by a tidal wave…Three shocks subsequent to the first, came at irregular intervals of an hour or so apart. These served to keep the terror of the people at the highest pitch…(many) wandering the streets during the night beseeching the Almighty to have mercy on them.”   Boston Daily Globe, Sept. 2, 1886

According to the U.S. Geological Service, “the Tybee Island lighthouse cracked near the middle where the walls were six feet and the one-ton lens moved an inch and a half to the northeast.”

Perspective
Remarkably, other than the lighthouse, no other major damage was experienced on the island. In Savannah many had difficulty remaining standing during the quake. It was also reported that one woman “died of fright as the shaking cracked walls, felled chimneys, and broke windows.” Panic at a revival service left two injured and two more were injured leaping from upper story windows. Falling bricks injured several more. Ten buildings in Savannah were damaged beyond repair, including some local businesses, and at least 240 chimneys were damaged.

The quake centered in South Carolina and is known today as the “1886 Charleston earthquake.”  Between 60 and 105 were killed there.  At its center it measured between magnitude 6.9 and 7.3 on the Richter scale, and damaged 2,000 of Charleston’s buildings costing $6-8 million dollars in property damage.  Hardly a structure went undamaged; by some estimates seven of every eight were casualties – many sustaining significant damage.

The 1886 earthquake is one of the most powerful quakes to have ever occurred in the southeastern United States, with its effects felt as far away as Boston, Chicago and New Orleans.  Cuba and Bermuda also felt its reach.

Present Day Reminders
Interestingly, prior to 1886, Charleston had not experienced any noteworthy earthquake activity. However this dormancy may have contributed to the severity of the 1886 tremor. The earth may have been holding back this terrific pressure perhaps for eons. And Savannah had a remarkably low level of damage.

Today the region lies in one of the most seismically active spots along the East Coast. And although earthquakes are rare in Georgia they do occur and are listed in emergency preparedness guides for the state. The City of Tybee lists the threat under Tsunami:

http://www.cityoftybee.org/EmergencyMgmt.aspx?CNID=1366


The history and threats of Georgia earthquakes can be found in this 1999 assessment prepared by Georgia Tech:  http://quake.eas.gatech.edu/EMguide/EMguide.htm

Remarkably, the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) continues to measure micro-earthquake activity nearby even today which they believe may be a continuation of the 1886-aftershock series.

Ominously, 125 years later the earth still sends reminders to us not to forget that last day of August 1886 when light was extinguished and terror ruled the night.

Published by Savannah Business Journal.®All Copyrights Reserved ©2011. www.savannahbusinessjournal.com®
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Savannah Business Then & Now: From Habersham to Hyatt at 2 West Bay Street

Special to SBJ.com

From her front porch overlooking the Vernon River on Savannah’s south side, Laura Lawton recounts a bit of family history. Her ties to this ground go back eight generations. The vestibule walls of her comfortable low country home are lined with family portraits. Closest to the ceiling is the first generational layer, a solitary picture of James Habersham. Laura refers to her great-great-great-great grandfather as “Mr. Habersham.” It’s a matter of respect.

Lawton continues. “Mr. Habersham was an early leader in the economic development of Savannah.” That is an understatement. When James Habersham was convinced to cross the Atlantic with his good friend, the Rev. George Whitefield, it was to engage in Whitefield’s plan to build an orphanage. (Known today as Bethesda Academy, it is the oldest orphanage in operation in America and remains on its original acreage on Ferguson Avenue.) From the year of his arrival, 1738, the young Habersham both supervised construction of Bethesda and served as its first teaching master.

By 1743 the orphanage was in trouble financially. The farm was not self-sustaining. Habersham had begun an apprenticeship with his Uncle Joseph, a prosperous wholesale grocer in London, before the age of 13. He now looked to that experience for a solution. Habersham resigned his position at Bethesda. He and fellow entrepreneur, Francis Harris, became Savannah’s first successful merchants, importing goods from England. Habersham became the major benefactor of the Bethesda orphanage.

But, there were no facilities to handle trade on the Savannah River yet. Georgians had to rely on Charlestown (Charleston) for imported foodstuffs and clothing, which had proven very expensive. A transshipment charge was added to the cost of importing provisions from England to bring them on to Savannah.

Habersham and Harris built Savannah’s first wharves, warehouses and offices on a parcel of land in the heart of the village on the river. With these facilities in place, products could be exported directly to England for the first time, bypassing the expensive Charleston connection. The stone, brick and wooden complex of Habersham and Harris stretched from the river up the bluff to Bay Street and from the head of Bull Street west the full block to Whitaker.

Habersham and Harris had set in motion a plan that would move a stagnant, dependent and foundering economy, thereby assuring the survival, growth and success of the colony. But there was a catch. The charter establishing the Colony of Georgia in 1732 prohibited slavery. For export to be profitable, a huge number of workers would be required to produce sufficient quantities of the labor-intensive crops that grew so well in the Lowcountry. And they’d have to come cheap. The powerful merchant made it happen. Habersham secured the colony’s future through the export of large quantities of rice, indigo and cotton. But, it came at the high price of lifting Georgia’s ban on the importation of slaves. Little more than two decades after James Edward Oglethorpe had claimed this land as England’s 13th colony when he stepped from the good ship Ann at the very same address – 2 West Bay St. – both Georgia’s economy and the slave trade began to grow.

Today 2 West Bay St. is the address of Savannah’s downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel. Local developers, Merritt W. Dixon III and H. Mitchell Dunn Jr., built the long, box-like, unadorned 351-room structure in 1981. Emma Adler, a voice of the preservation and restoration effort in Savannah’s Historic District since the 1950s, recalls nearly a decade of heated debate over plans for the project. “Two brick, Victorian-era warehouse buildings had been demolished by the city,” she said, “and many believed construction of a hotel on that lot would be a wise economic move that would increase the number of visitors coming to Savannah. Developers submitted a proposal for a building of site-appropriate height and size, with a façade of Savannah grey brick. It would have fit in nicely.”

But critics of the design envisioned development on a much larger scale and submitted a plan for a structure that would have 14 floors and a massive tower. Adler attributes serious consideration of this grandiose proposal to self-interests of the developers and revenue potential seen by a group of power brokers in town. “It would have been totally out of proportion with existing buildings and would have dwarfed City Hall next door,” she explained.

Preservationists were horrified by such a violation of aesthetics and lack of sensitivity to the history of Savannah. A compromise plan was finally approved that reduced from 14 to six the number of floors of the second proposal, but extended the building horizontally over River Street, creating the tunnel of dead space that exists over a stretch of River Street today. The exterior was altered from brick to painted stucco.

Time and recent improvements have softened the distraction of the Hyatt. Mature live oaks mercifully stand between Bay Street and the hotel, camouflaging the urban eyesore. A recent renovation included painting the unsightly pink façade a soft tan that blends with the sand-colored limestone of City Hall next door.

The time of James Habersham was separated from that of Merritt Dixon III, H. Mitchell Dunn and the preservationists by more than two centuries. But all have targeted and played crucial roles in Savannah’s economic growth by what they envisioned for this little piece of land – 2 West Bay St. – on the river. No reference to their contributions is found today on the property.

However, on the north side of the Hyatt Hotel, down on the river walk, a circular inlay informs visitors of the precise spot where Savannah’s founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, first stepped foot on Georgia soil in 1733 to begin the business of settling the 13th colony. And on the south side of the Hyatt, in the small park on Bay Street preserved since Savannah’s early days, sits the gracefully curved stone bench placed in 1906 by the Colonial Dames of America to honor the place where Oglethorpe pitched his tent upon landing.

The first entrepreneur, the most influential of all in the economic development of Savannah, who might most properly be referred to as “Mr. Oglethorpe,” still is remembered at 2 West Bay St. Laura Lawton and Emma Adler would agree it’s a matter of respect.

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Savannah Business Then and Now: Making Things Right on Wright Square

by Ted Eldridge
SBJ.com Contributor


Young visitors to Savannah chatter with excitement at the gate outside the English Regency style Wayne-Gordon mansion on Bull Street. Donning sashes of patches boasting their dedication and accomplishments, they eagerly await their turn to tour the birthplace of the founder of their organization. Juliette Gordon Low is known to every American girl and woman who ever raised three fingers and took the Girl Scout oath.

But, they, as most others, have never heard of her granddaddy, William Washington Gordon, who put Savannah on the map through his accomplishments, or her mamma, Nelly Kinzie Gordon, whose dedication to a cause restored Savannah’s tarnished honor in Wright Square, just a block away.

When Eli Whitney, fresh out of Yale in 1792, came down from New England to tutor children on Savannah’s Mulberry Grove Plantation, his invention that mechanized separating cotton seed from fiber spurred the great race for dominance in the cotton export business. The competitors were Charleston and Savannah. Each sat at the mouth of a great waterway. Cotton grown near the coast could easily be shipped down the Savannah, Cooper and Ashley Rivers to the markets of the world. But, when the cotton gin cut to a fraction the number of workers needed to process massive amounts of the fiber, the sandy coastal plain of inland Georgia and South Carolina cried out to be planted in cotton. It could transform the region if only there were an efficient way to move large quantities from inland to the port cities. In 1833 South Carolinians had completed a railroad from Charleston into Aiken County, almost halfway into the state and very near the Savannah River. If Georgia were to remain in the race, a dreamer with a grand vision was needed for the little town to compete with her older sister to the north.

William Washington Gordon, born in Screven County in 1796, turned out to be the right man in the right place at the right time. In 1836, Gordon was named president of what eventually became the Central of Georgia Railroad Company. Beginning with a plan to link Savannah with Macon in the center of the state, Gordon led Georgia’s bid for superiority in the cotton export business. He believed a network of rails throughout the interior would be the ticket to growth and prosperity in Georgia and would put Savannah at the heart of the cotton export business. He was right.

Track was laid, acquisitions made and mergers forged throughout Georgia and, later, into Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. Land was cleared along the rail lines. Settlers moved in. People planted cotton. Towns grew. Farmers, traders, shippers, the railroad – and Savannah – thrived.

With all roads (railroads) built by the Central of Georgia Railroad Company leading to the port of Savannah, by 1850 the sleepy little town had become the bustling center of the cotton export business at a time when cotton accounted for 60 percent of the exports of the entire United States. World market prices were set for cotton at the City Exchange Building on Bay Street, where Savannah City Hall stands today. It was all beyond even William Gordon’s wildest dreams.

But, sadly, William Gordon, considered the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad system, never saw what he had envisioned. While working on his railroad he contracted malaria and died at the age of 46 in 1842. Within just one year of his death the stretch of the railroad he had championed was completed between Macon and Savannah, making the Central of Georgia the longest railroad in the country under one management company.

A magnificent monument was designed to honor William Gordon. The site selected was the center of Wright Square in the heart of the city. The area was excavated. An elaborate sculpture resting on four pink granite columns rose from a base bearing an inlaid carving of the Central of Georgia crossing a trestle. The remains of Gordon were buried beneath the monument.

This decision – to inter William Gordon and build his massive memorial in the center of Wright Square – defies explanation. Someone was already buried there and, by disturbing the grave site, ground considered sacred was desecrated.  

More than 140 years earlier, in 1739, Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia, had served as a pall bearer in the funeral procession that came to a halt in the center of Wright Square. The deceased was 97-year old Tomo-chi-chi, chief of the native Yamacraw tribe, who had welcomed the English colonists and assured their survival during the early years of settlement. Gen. Oglethorpe himself had decreed the center of Wright Square to be the fitting burial place for his dear friend. A symbolic Indian burial mound of rocks was constructed above the ground under which Tomo-chi-chi was laid to rest. Photographs reveal what appears to be a large, cast iron, stylized headdress of feathers later added.

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the remains of Tomo-chi-chi. The only relevant note recorded that the city had bulldozed the memorial in the early 1880s. There appears to be nothing – written or oral – that confirms Tomo-chi-chi’s bones were found, were moved, were lost or were even considered.

This appalling act of disrespect and disregard for history was addressed within a short time of the completion of the Gordon monument in 1883. His daughter-in-law, Nelly Kinzie Gordon (mother of Juliette Gordon Low), spearheaded the local movement to have a fitting memorial to Tomo-chi-chi placed in Wright Square, even if it wouldn’t cover his remains.

In 1899, Mrs. Gordon’s steadfast efforts bore fruit. A large, rough-hewn boulder of granite from Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, was transported on the Central of Georgia Railroad to Savannah, where it remains on the southeast corner of Wright Square. Dubbed Tomo-chi-chi’s Rock, it serves as a fitting memorial to this native-American and Georgian.

Nelly Kinzie Gordon requested the bill for the huge rock and its delivery. She received a response stating the charge was one dollar, to be paid on Judgment Day. True to her character, Mrs. Gordon sent a letter in return indicating she was afraid she would be quite busy on Judgment Day and unable to make payment then. She included a one-dollar bill with the note.

Those who live and work and learn in Savannah today do so among many reminders of the work of Savannah entrepreneur William Gordon: the railroad network that serves the Port of Savannah; the viaduct that arches over the Ogeechee canal; the Savannah Visitor’s Center and adjacent buildings; his home, now the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace; the Gordon monument; Gordon Street; and Gordonston, a neighborhood just east of downtown.

The opulent monument that stands in the center of Wright Square reflects the glory and fortune William Gordon brought to his city of Savannah. It is complemented and equaled by the simple, rough and worn granite boulder that commemorates the strength of peace and partnership offered by Tomo-chi-chi, Georgia’s first friend. No monument exists in Wright Square to honor Nelly Kinzie Gordon, but the story of “making things right on Wright Square” serves as an important reminder of this woman who represented the grace and integrity, the simple conscience and gentle goodness of Savannah. This last memorial goes to Nelly Kinzie Gordon.

Author’s note: The Central of Georgia Railroad name survived a merger in 1982 with Southern and Norfolk and Western, and the Central continues to be an operating unit of the Norfolk Southern Corporation (although few, if any, locomotives or rail cars have any Central markings).
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Savannah Business Then & Now: Remembering Broughton Street Through the Eves of Julius Edel

By Catherine Rendón

SBJ Staff

Julius Edel’s memories of Broughton Street are intertwined not only with his family’s history in Savannah but his own childhood, youth, and 81 years. Julius Edel was named after his grandfather, Julius Edel, who landed in Charleston in the late 1870s and was a peddler who ended up in Richmond, Virginia. The younger Julius’s father, Herman Edel, came to Savannah’s milder climate from Richmond, Va., at age 16 to recover from a terrible fever. He was named after his uncle, Herman Myers, an entrepreneur and prominent Savannah figure of the early 1900s.

As a young man, Herman Edel rode the Habersham trolley since he rented a room at the Isle of Hope home of Johnny Mercer’s parents. Herman Edel later recalled how he used to play with the young baby Mercer and that is perhaps why Julius Edel feels such fondness for Susie Chisholm’s new sculpture depicting the composer on Ellis Square.

The Edels came from Bavaria and although there already was a Jewish presence in Savannah dating to 1733, the German Jews, made their mark in Savannah before the Eastern Jews. The German Jews had their own club, the Harmony Club, on Jones Street, once Savannah’s Harley Street. The former Harmony Club building is now painted green and sits on the corner of Jones and Bull and now houses SCAD’s Illustration department. Julius Edel’s mother’s was a Levy and the family originally hailed from Alsace Lorraine. These Levys owned the second largest department store (with their name) in Savannah after Adler’s. In its heyday, Levy’s filled much of the white building that now houses SCAD’s Jen Library.

But it was on Edel’s father’s side, particularly through the vision and work of his great uncle, Herman Myers, that a strong link with this city was established. Myers was not only the first Jewish Mayor of Savannah but he also built the present City Hall. Myers put in Savannah’s first artesian wells and served as mayor “off and on” for 19 years. “He was wise on money,” Edel said, “and he didn’t increase taxes.”

Julius Edel himself was born on September 24th, 1929, about ten days before the great Wall Street crash. He was the third child in his family and the only son. For some time, his parents didn’t have a car and they lived with his mother’s family, the Levys, on E. 31st Sreet, which was then considered remote from the town center. When Edel’s father bought his first car it was from Critz’s Buick Agency, then on West Broad and Bay Streets. The Edels moved to 49th Street in 1930 which was then “considered the end of the earth.” Edel’s oldest sister, Helen, was among the first graduates in 1939 of the then new Savannah High, followed by Edel in 1947.

As a child, Edel belonged to the Christ Church Boy Scout Troop. The troop often met at the Christ Church Parish House (at 18 Abercorn St.) near Reynolds Square. The Parish House had once been the property of his great uncle Herman Myers. The building that still stands there today began its existence as a cigar factory. Myers had branches manufacturing cigars in Tampa and Havana, and for a long time the extensive glass roof of the Christ Church Parish House was used to dry tobacco leaves.

Myers also built what was to become Savannah’s tallest building in the early 1900s. When a neighboring businessman, one Mr. Blum, heard about Myers’s plans, he decided he would build a taller building, with six stories instead of five. Blum boasted he’d be able to look down on Myers’s building from his perch at Bull & Congress Streets. Myers said nothing and kept on building ‘til his building reached ten stories in height. Myers’s high-rise dwarfed Blum’s project. The elegant white building which then dominated Broughton St. had little of the 19th century fussiness and suggested a more streamlined world.

A large black plaque identified it as: The National Bank of Savannah. Myers, its founder, directed it for 24 years. After being the National Bank of Savannah it became the Liberty Bank before The Trust Company of Georgia acquired it. This eventually became known as the Sun Trust of Savannah and although Myers original building no longer stands the Sun Trust’s garage now occupies its space.

Myers’ boldness and business acumen not only miffed Blum but many other locals. Across the street from the bank (but on the same side of Broughton St.), stood another long vanished structure: a fine brick building with balconies and ornate details like a filigree fan. This was the home of the Oglethorpe Club, an exclusive bastion of “old” Savannah, with a membership of white, Christian men often complete with a colonial pedigree. It has only been in the last three years that the Oglethorpe Club has invited and admitted Jews to its membership.

After Myers’ death, c. 1908, his building continued to be a coveted address. For example, the law firm Bouhan, Williams & Levy which is celebrating its 125th anniversary, moved into the building after WWII. During the late 1950s even TV station WSAV came to have its headquarters on the top floor of Myers’s building. Edel recalled how this television station was able to film the terrible fire that burned Adler’s Department Store straight from their windows across the street as the flames engulfed it. That fire became the turning point that destabilized what had been a prosperous and rich urban world. This and the rise of the automobile’s popularity and other factors led to an exodus to the south of the city, what today is considered mid-town Savannah, but which then still had dirt roads strewn with oyster-shells.

Edel also remembered how Adler made little of Atlanta developer Scott Huggins’ talk of the new Oglethorpe Mall. Adler said he’d never leave downtown, although in fact, he had already acquired space at Savannah’s first mall even before fire decimated his own establishment. Broughton Street would not begin to recover its vitality until the late 1990s when merchants and SCAD began to return to its buildings and revitalize Savannah’s main street.

Upon his return from the Korean War, Edel found his friends congregating at “Anton’s,” which flanked his uncle’s building. “Their sandwiches cost 97 cents, plus 3 cents tax,” Edel recalled. “Anton’s” was Savannah’s first real Deli complete with dill pickles on every table. Its owner, Andy Andrews, was a Greek-American who invariably visited customers (before they took their final bite), saying: “I hope you enjoyed it.” Everyone knew this meant, “Ok, now that you’ve eaten, get out and make room for the next customer.” Andrews had a particularly sharp-tongued waitress who would “sass everyone.” She was as much part of the experience of going to “Anton’s” as the sandwiches and Mr. Andrews himself.

Broughton St. was a microcosm of many things: businesses ranging from car dealerships to clothing emporiums and a variety of five & dime shops as well as department stores. Many merchant families’ lives were intertwined through friendship and often knotted through marriage. Broughton Street businesses can be looked on as a diagram of an elaborate hopscotch game of old and new entrepreneurs which introduced and defined Savannah fashion. Stores like Levy’s and Adler’s predated the arrival of national chains like Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Kress, all of which eventually (after WWII) took their places on Broughton Street. Firestone Tires has always dominated the west end of Broughton Street.

The Levys and Friedmans competed with one another on opposite sides of the street. Morris Levy stood where Primary Art stands today and was the men’s shop. Once a year (during the Christmas sales) Edel’s father would buy him a suit there. Schwobilt’s on Drayton and Broughton Streets, also catered to men and was more akin to today’s Joseph Banks rather than Brooks Brothers. Men’s Quality Shop belonged to Joe Lesser and stood where 24E is today. His brother, Saul, owned the Globe Shoe Store across the street, which continues to be run by his grandson, John Sussman, today. The fourth men’s shop was called “The Hub” and was started by Lester Harris.

Broughton Street was also home to Hogan’s Department Store (now Banana Republic) across from Silver’s five & dime still recognizable today because of its red and gold signage and now a shop of imported furniture. Behind Kress’s, today’s Gap, stood the City Market (destroyed c. 1960 and now Ellis Square), a favorite destination for Edel’s mother on shopping days. The Groceteria, Savannah’s first supermarket, had the novelty of shopping buggies in aisles wide enough for only one customer. As for the City Market, it was the filthiest and liveliest part of town and the Rosenzwag family owned “The Bargain Corner,” a food store on Bay & Jefferson Streets. Then there were the Meddins, the butchers, who had a place in the City Market and “would sell you the whole picking cow if you liked.”

As Broughton Street neared West Broad, (today’s MLK) the clientele changed as did the businesses. Many of these were still owned by Jewish merchants but catered to African Americans. Yachum & Yachum, Uncle Sammy’s Boys, formerly Perelman Brothers, a department store, was perhaps the best known. During WWI the Perelmans volunteered and closed shop. The brothers were sent out to the Mexican front, and since there wasn’t much to do there they opened a pawn shop which they named after a nearby Mexican town called Yachum. So, when the brothers returned and reopened the shop they christened it as Yachum & Yachum. Although the shop survived Martin Luther King’s assassination, it was not longer after this that the shop was destroyed by a Molotov cocktail.

Saturday was the busiest day on Broughton Street. In those days everyone who attended the same schools and belonged to the same Boy or Girl Scout troop or clubs, irrespective of religion, would gather on Broughton Street to socialize, shop, go to the movies, window shop, or just meet up. Persons from the outlying counties and from “across the river” would also fill Savannah’s sidewalks. This was not only an opportunity to buy goods and visit with friends, but to partake in some of the flamboyance of some of Broughton Street’s merchants. Undoubtedly the most spectacular show on Saturdays went to Julius Kaminski, owner of the Nash dealership on the east end of Broughton, on Lincoln Street. Kaminski would time his outing for the moment the crowd was at its peak and then he’d take a Nash with a long banner and drive it down Broughton with one wheel removed, thus proving that “you could drive a Nash even with a flat tire.”

From the 1930s to the 1950s there were five movie theatres in a one and a half block radius. Their names: Arcadia, the Bijou, the Lucas, the Odeon and Wise. One of Edel’s classmates, Albert Wise, was the son of the owner of a picture palace, now SCAD’s Trustee’s Theatre, which Edel considered “the greatest thing I’d ever seen.” The boys concocted all kinds of tricks in order to be able to get as many of their friends in and they also chased after and “pulled” the B & A tram (that is the Barnard and Abercorn line) thus disrupting their runs, much to the conductor’s annoyance.

After Edel graduated from UGa and married, he ran “Alexander Brothers,” a blue jean factory that his father, Herman Edel, had inherited in part from one of the Alexander brothers, a bachelor. Edel considers himself fortunate that the jean craze of the late 1970s and 80s added to the demand of his goods. The factory was housed in the substantial pink building at 508 East Bay Street that his father had bought in the late 1920s for approximately $15,000. When Edel sold the same building in 1985 he was glad to be rid of it even though he can’t recall a better-built structure than that Factor’s Walk building.

In 1989 Edel also helped found a bank, also by the name of the Savannah Bank. Since his retirement, Edel and his wife, Danyse (née Greenwald), have been active Savannah philanthropists particularly in education, supporting institutions such as the Savannah Country Day School, the Telfair/Jepson Museums and the Savannah Music Festival. In keeping with the family tradition, Julius Edel lives in one of the tallest buildings in Savannah. From there he can see City Hall’s golden dome and every night he looks out from his bedroom window and sees the lights come on across the expanse of the Talmadge Bridge.

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