The Vagabond – Smallest building in Gadsden


It is very unlikely that few if any Gadsden residents can locate where the smallest brick business house on Broad Street or, for that matter the smallest building in the city was located. 

Yet, it is right in the center of the downtown district.

The building was a one-story structure wedged in by what is today’s Gadsden Museum of Arts, the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts and The Imagination Place. The building was located in the 500 block on the north side of Broad Street.

Back in the 1950’s, the building was located between J.C. Penny and the White Furniture Company store. 

The building was only six and one half feet wide and its walls are the walls of the two largest buildings, so it was easily and cheaply built.

This little storeroom was occupied by the Public Hat Cleaning Shop, of which John Stamolopolas was the proprietor and operator. He had been there a long time and did a good business.

Many locals recalled the little building on Broad Street. One person was Gary Holloway, who said, “Dad got his hat’s cleaned there. Public Hat Cleaning operated by Mr. Stam. Even as a child, I noticed how small this building was. I will always remember the little chair inside a bottle in the window.”

Col. R.B. Kyle willed the property to his daughter, Mrs. Florrie Kyle Harris, who willed it to her husband, the late R.A. Harris, and then to their daughter, Sarah. Sarah became Mrs. Knox Ida of New York City in later years.

When Col. Kyle erected the old Kyle Building in 1883, it was the largest and finest of its kind in the city (it was the White Furniture Company building in the 1950’s).

In 1887, the Gadsden Land Improvement Company made a lithograph of a drawing of Gadsden, and the Kyle Building and sent copies all over the country.

Gadsden was on a boom during that time, and the city did much advertising of its resources. The Herzberg store and the Kyle sawmill were also pictured on the map.

For some reason not understood, Col. Kyle left the 6-1/2 foot space on the west side of the building vacant.

Years later, a stairway was built in the alley to the second story because of the YMCA headquarters. An arched doorway was built out through the wall so that members could reach the YMCA rooms that included at basketball court. Many cage games were played there in the good old days.

Sam W. Berger, one of the big dry goods merchants of the 1880s, was the first occupant of the building. His Cincinnati store became one of the largest in Northeast Alabama.

When Mr. Berger moved to Nashville, Loveman & Sons took over and later became known as Loveman & Reich, owned by Louis Loveman and David Reich.

Louis Loveman and the Herzberg family later merged their interests and created the Herzberg & Loveman store, which flourished for a long time at the corner of Broad and Fourth streets.

The J.C. Penny building was erected by the late Fred Lucy and owned by his sister, Mrs. Gertrude Gwin of New Orleans. 

The building’s first occupant was a Montgomery-Ward store, which eventually left.

The city and downtown Gadsden has grown since those days. The little 6-1/2 foot lot can be enlarged upwards but cannot be spread out on either side. It probably will remain that way forever, permanently wedged in between the two large structures as an alley.

“This spot has always been one of my favorite Gadsden history stories,” wrote Fran Phillips. Before I had learned this was once a store, I walked through the alley from the museum to go to my car on Broad, and got a very eerie feeling about halfway through. It seemed like the buildings were closing in on me.”

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