A history of 119 North Street

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 24, 2020

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Story by Dr. Ray Gaskins

Professor emeritus, Hampden-Sydney College

A story appeared on the front page of the Sept. 1, 2017 edition of The Farmville Herald detailing Bill McKay’s plan to open a new restaurant at 119A N. Main St. Although the building the restaurant will occupy has always been partitioned into a southern half and a northern half, it was not always possible to distinguish between 119 and 119A. Even Clark’s Pharmacy, which from 1991 to 2016 occupied the space where the new restaurant is going, was listed in the phone book as 119 N. Main St.

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Indeed, a 1942 Farmville map even shows 119A and 119 reversed from the way we think of them today. Thus, “119” is historically appropriate as the name of the new restaurant.

Soon after Farmville became a town in 1798, what is now 115-119 N. Main St. was the site of Central House (or Central Hotel). We can trace this hotel back as far as 1847, at which time Col. Joseph L. Carrington operated it.

Col. Joe’s hotel was a routine stopover for Hampden-Sydney College boys on their way to school by stagecoach and a place where the parents of Farmville Female Seminary girls stayed when visiting their daughters.

It was large enough that in 1895 it hosted a Masonic supper for 100 people. By 1897, the Central Hotel had relocated to a new building one block north and the old building stood empty until torn down about 1902.

By 1903 a new building had been erected on the site of the old Central House. This building was partitioned into four ground-floor units, with addresses 321, 323, 325 and 329 Main St. Much later these addresses became 119A, 119, 117 and 115 N. Main St. The original addresses represented that this was the third block from the beginning of town going south.

The new addresses represented that this was the first block from the center of town, going north.

Buildings on both sides of the old hotel were demolished and rebuilt at about the same time, resulting in new buildings at 109-121 N. Main St. by 1905. This stretch began with the post office, which moved into the lobby of the Westover Hotel in 1907, and ended with the C.C. Cowan Furniture & Undertaking Establishment.

Between these lay four stores on the site of the old Central House: Ideal Shoe Store (115), H.H. Hunt Photography & Mrs. Hunt Millinery (117), Sam & Mack’s Barber Shop (119) and the China Shop (119A). As far as we can tell, there has never been a structural fire in any of these buildings.

The longest-lived business at 119 was a barbershop, which existed under three different owners from 1903-1955. The business that may surprise most Farmvillians was one that was relatively short-lived: Mick-or-Mack Grocery (1937-1941).

The record for the most businesses coexisting at 119 was four: Collins Florist, Western Union Telegraph, Leese’s Pastry Shop and Garland & Harwood Insurance are all listed at that address in the 1965 Hill’s Farmville City Directory.

This article has been re-printed from Farmville the Magazine October 2017.