Downtown Hartsville is about to see some dramatic changes as our “Streetscape” project is put into motion and new sidewalks and landscaping added. This project began several years ago, but like most government projects takes a long time to actually put shovels in the ground and begin construction.
We hope that some of our century-old downtown buildings can be restored and freshened up to go with the new sidewalks.
One old building is already setting an example of what happens when people care about an old property and want to bring people and activity back into a town.
We have this month visited two old homes that are seeing new lives as businesses. This week we visit an old bank!
On the corner of Broadway and Main Street is one of the architectural gems of Hartsville in the old Bank of Hartsville building.
It has a history that goes back – way back.
In 1884, wealthy businessman H.C. Ellis decided that Hartsville needed a bank.
Before that date, people either used the bank in Gallatin or kept their money in a metal box under the bed!
Joined by three other affluent businessmen of town, Moscow L. Wright, R.C. Wright and G.A. Puryear, he formed “Wright, Ellis and Company, Bankers.” It was the first bank in the Upper Cumberland region.
A bank needs a building and the men rented a storefront in town, purchased a bank safe and built a brick vault around it.
That building stood on Main Street. A parking lot occupies the site today. The bank prospered as people liked the convenience of hometown banking. Then in 1900, a disastrous fire burned every building on the north side of Main Street, including our county courthouse and the bank building! Luckily, the vault saved the bank’s deposits.
Hartsville had no fire department at that time and because so many buildings back then had wood shingle roofs, a small fire in a stable, home or business posed the risk of setting the whole street on fire.
Worried that it could happen again, the bankers decided to select a safer location. They purchased the lot at the corner of Broadway and Main and erected the impressive building in our picture. And they changed the bank’s name to “The Bank of Hartsville.”
The move was a smart one as just four years later a fire did start on Main Street and spread from one building to another. It consumed almost the entire town! But the new bank building sat safe and secure.
The Bank of Hartsville was in business for over 100 years. In 1976 it would build a more modern building further up Broadway and closer to Highway 25. The old building was still used, but as a branch office. Over the years the bank was caught up in mergers with other banks, sold and resold and it eventually closed.
But the original bank building still sat proudly on its corner of downtown Hartsville, surviving a fire on one side and a neglected vacant lot on the other. Local citizens managed to clean up the burned-out lots from the fire and the vacant lot and have filled them in with dirt and planted grass and have also done some landscaping.
The old building was then purchased by Reggie and Mary Ann Mudd, who restored it on the inside and used it as rental property. In doing so they have retained its turn-of-the-century architectural features, such as its dramatic tin ceiling. They have also added such touches as ceiling fans and historic lighting! It shows what can be done when someone appreciates an old building.
Now the next chapter in our story.
Two enterprising young ladies have decided to bring a breath of fresh air to the old bank and to our historic but sad-looking downtown.
Hartsville natives Jennifer Elmore Petty and Kendra Stafford have joined forces to turn the brick-and-stone building into a trendy new business sure to attract people and put smiles on their faces – a bakery!
Not just wanting to go into business but with a desire to bring a little life to our downtown, the pair have opened up Sweet Kuntry Bakery and Eatery!
You may have already noticed how the building is becoming a busy place, with people of all ages darting into the stately old building and emerging with glazed donuts, cakes, sweets, ice cream and sandwiches!
Check out their Facebook page for daily specials!
We welcome them to the downtown and we know that Mr. Ellis would be pleased to see his old bank full of people. Maybe not taking out loans, but enjoying themselves with food, friends and good times!