LOOKING BACK: The long history and changing faces of 1306 Washington St.

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

By Nancy Bell, Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation

The building at 1306 Washington St. was most probably built in 1866 and was a three-story building at the time that housed W.H. Woodruff booksellers.

The drawing of the building pictured here was printed in the Vicksburg Daily Times in May 1869. Woodruff operated a bookstore a block north of this location as early as 1864 as Titcomb and Woodruff, offering books, music, musical instruments, fancy notions and military goods. Military goods consisted of blank forms for officers’ use (such as ordinance returns, receipts, invoices, expenditures, lists of quartermaster’s stores and receipts of clothing), camp and garrison stores, swords, belts, spurs, sashes, shoulder straps, field glasses and clothes.

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In 1865, the store changed to Woodruff and Diserens and then in October 1866, they announced the move to a new store and sold their counters at the old store.  By 1868, the store was called W. H. Woodruff Book and Music Emporium and the military goods had been replaced with toys, pianos, picture frames and wallpaper. Woodruff remained there until February 1885 when he sold his stock and moved to Kansas City. It was reported that Woodruff had leased the building to Jacob Schaeffer and Co. which sold guns and ammunition, sporting goods and fishing tackle.

This was, however, short-lived, and in 1886, A.G. Tillman Sewing Machines was operating from the building.  R.C. Just, a jeweler, was also renting in the building until about 1899. By 1901, Searles Brothers sold bagging and ties for grain, flour, provisions and heavy groceries in the back of the building at the basement level. Behind the jewelry store, Charles Long operated his photography studio.

In April 1909, Robert Ernst moved his jewelry store into the space occupied by Just. He advertised that he had “the most complete line of souvenir spoons in the city.”

The U. S. Army recruiting center was located on the second floor in May 1916. During World War I, its advertisement stated “Men Wanted. Able-bodied unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 35, citizens of the United States of good character and temperate habits, who can speak, read and write the English language.”

Robert Ernst died on November 3, 1922, at his desk in the jewelry store at the age of 72. He moved from Saxony, Germany to the United States and operated a jewelry store in Vicksburg for 47 years. Ernst’s nephew, E.C. Amborn, continued to operate the store for a number of years.

By 1929, Central Smoke House is listed here and remains into the 1930s, and then in the 1950s it was Miller’s Women’s Clothes. The building remains today but lost its third story during the 1953 tornado.