JournalHeadline

It’s not official until the newspaper of record says so, so now everybody knows that the Pepper Building, at least three times threatened with death by the barbarians, and at least three times saved by the non-barbarians, will be reborn as an Indigo Hotel. We have met all the principals and are impressed by their intelligence and enthusiasm. And we just had a chat with the person who will be dotting and crossing the “i and t” parts to be sure that the architectural history is correct. So now we can move on to produce a big blog post on the complicated and sometimes bizarre history of the building. Watch for it.

The Indigo concept is focused on that history, not just of the building, but also its neighborhood. For the moment, let’s take a quick look at what went on inside the building itself over half a century or so.

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The Davis-McCollum Department Store opened Hallowe’en week, 1928. The night before, an open house drew about 3,000 local citizens eager to see the Twin City’s latest wonder.

In the beginning, it was the Davis-McCollum Department Store, one of the finest and most glamorous in the South. But thanks to the fall of Wall Street in October, 1929, that did not last long. In an attempt to save the concept, the original owners handed it off to the first manager, renamed the Van Dyke Department Store, but it could not be saved. By 1932, the building was standing empty, and would remain so until later in the 1930s.

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Once the Pepper family gained control of the building in the 1930s, the Huntley Hill Stockton furniture company occupied most of the building for the next decade.

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From the early 1940s until around 1960, WAIR radio occupied the fifth floor of the Pepper Building. There, Gil Stamper, “Uncle Gil” to his fans, produced a live country music show and dance from noon to 1 PM, Monday through Saturday.

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This 1951 photo shows shoppers on Fourth Street, with the S&M Clothiers store in the background on the first floor of the Pepper Building.

At  this point, the sixth floor had become the heart of the community, with offices occupied by the Community Chest, Family & Child Services, the Junior League, Social Services Exchange, the Girl Scout Council, the Community Council & the Community Radio Council.

And other office space was filled by some of the top lawyers in the Twin City, including Fred Crumpler, Elledge & Mast, Deal Hutchins & Minor, Edward S. Heefner, Gaither Jenkins, Odell Wagner, Fred Parrish, William H. Boyer, Ransom Averitt and one of the city’s most venerable firms, Craige Parker Brawley Lucas & Hendrix, whose later partner Tom Ross would become president of the University of North Carolina.

Until 1963, there had never been a restaurant in the building. The basement space had been reserved for the building’s management and maintenance force. But in 1964, Elton S. Hudson and John J. Ingle, Jr. completely renovated the basement space and opened The Beefeater, Ltd.

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The Beefeater, Ltd. was a high end restaurant, featuring oysters on the half shell and Oysters Rockefeller, and other rare dishes, presenting a challenge to the long time favorites at the Town Steak House and Staley’s Charcoal Steak House, but the concept was not quite working.

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So in early 1966, Elton Hudson acquired a new partner, Jack Snyder, repurposed the restaurant for a younger, more vibrant audience and renamed it The Red Lion. Unfortunately, Winston-Salem was not quite ready for that either.

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The Red Lion closed in the fall of 1966. It was soon acquired by the Kerrigan family and reopened in 1967 under the management of Jack Kerrigan as the Sir Winston Restaurant. That one worked, having a long run as one of the Twin City’s best restaurants.

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