LOOKING BACK: 1216-1218 Washington Street and its many-colored past

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 7, 2023

By Nancy Bell, Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation

In the first of a series on these properties, 1216 Washington Street is the north half of a four-story building that may have been built following a fire in 1867.

In 1869, Scharff Brothers advertised its dry goods, clothes, boots and shoes in the building. In March 1872, Rice and Company advertised its furniture store in this building, offering mirrors, wallpaper and window shades in addition to furniture. They also advertised a “woven wire mattress — the greatest luxury of the age, warranted never to get out of order, never to need a repair, never to make a noise.”

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By 1876, the paper was advertising James Wallace’s Great Model Cash Store under the supervision of I. Reinhardt and Company and boasted that the four-story building was “130 feet deep with a patent elevator, conveying customers to every floor and department of the house.”

The fourth floor spanned the width of both 1216 and 1218 without a wall dividing them. The Vicksburg Herald announced that Wallaces’ Dry Goods store would have a grant clearance sale because he “was fully determined to dispose of my entire stock and RETIRE FROM BUSINESS in Vicksburg, and will sell out IN FULL by the first of May, 1878.”

In June of that year, Jacob Shlenker and Company Clothing moved to the building from across the street and by 1881 he had added plantation supplies and staple and fancy groceries to his stock. In December 1884, Shlenker announced a “Great Bankrupt Sale,” but in February 1886, he was still in business. An ad in the Vicksburg Herald stated that “D.J. Shlenker is offering his entire stock of dry goods at a sacrifice. As I intend to retire from that line of business. Closing out sale. This is not humbug, but a genuine closing out sale, and my store is for rent, possession given March 1.”

It must have been “humbug” however because, in October 1996, he is still in business at this location and has added a cotton factor to his business. He remains here until 1907 when Gotthelf Jewelry Co. announced that it will move into this store by June 15, 1907.

The Vicksburg Herald reported about the pawnbroker’s side of this business.

“It is not always the improvident who are pressed for money. Many a one through force of circumstances over which they have no control are placed in a position of temporal financial embarrassment and rather than go to a friend to borrow a small amount or being unfortunate enough to have no friend from whom to borrow find it a source of great convenience to have a merchant who makes it a business to furnish such accommodation. The custom itself dates back to time immemorial. They will loan money at very reasonable terms and anyone dealing with them will find them to be honorable and straightforward.”

On Feb. 12, 1910, a fire damaged both sides of the building and the 4th floor was removed. Gotthelf moved to the J.E. Teller Coffee building across the street while renovations were made to the building and when he moved back, he moved into 1218 instead of 1216.  To be continued next week.