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Our genealogical genius Janice brought my attention to an old article in our vertical files by Bill East of the Twin City Sentinel on this building. It has always been one of my favorite downtown artworks. In fact, I once tried to buy it, but was sent away by the too high asking price. I wanted a better historical image than a scan from the East piece, and quickly found a magnificent postcard on eBay.
In the early 20th century, Charles A. Dobbins was a bookkeeper for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, later operated the Central Storage Garage and served as a Twin City alderman. In the fall of 1926, his wife, Wissie, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died on May 31, 1927 at the age of 45. Their 13 year old daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was devastated at the untimely loss of her mother.
A few weeks before, Wade A. Gilliam, a pharmacist from Red Springs, had married Grace Cockerham, Wissie’s niece. Wade and Charles decided to form a partnership and open a new pharmacy in the West End. Charles bought a piece of property on West End Boulevard at the foot of Summit Street and began construction of what is probably the first Spanish style building in the Twin City.
The building was designed by J.T. Levesque, who managed the local office of the well known architect C. Gilbert Humphries. Levesque, a native of France, had earlier designed a number of Asian influenced buildings in Spokane, WA. It was completed in late 1927 and opened in January 1928. It had five retail bays on the ground floor and two apartments upstairs, so it hardly qualified as an apartment building, but Charles, perhaps as a way of moderating his daughter’s grief, named it the “Mary Elizabeth Apartments”. He even had a colorized postcard of the building published.
The building was concrete, finished with rough stucco, and included randomly placed slabs of granite in various colors embedded in the stucco. The stairways at each end were originally capped with turret-like projections which were removed in the 1960s. Right from the start there was a large soda shop, extending all the way through the building, which in the 1930s and 40s became an after school hangout for Reynolds High School Students. At the rear, a balcony space was designed for a beauty parlor, which became the Summit Street Beauty Salon and Barber Shop.
Summit Street Pharmacy hit the ground running and soon expanded, pushing the Green Lantern Tea Room out. By the early 1930s, the A&P was gone as well and Summit occupied the entire ground floor. It was never after referred to as anything but Summit Street Pharmacy.
Summit changed its name to Andrews-Summit Pharmacy and moved to Reynolda Road in 1968. Harold Coleman, who had opened the first local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 1964 in a building behind the pharmacy on Summit Street, acquired the property and established it as the offices and warehouse for his rapidly expanding Coleman’s Take Home empire.
Other early Spanish style buildings
Original tenants of the “Mary Elizabeth Apartments“