This is the tenth in a series of columns by State Rep. Sheilla Lampkin about historic sites in Monticello. Lampkin is active in historic preservation in Arkansas and has received several awards from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Association. She writes a regular historical column for several area publication.
Let’s continue our look around the Square by looking at the east side of the Square, beginning at the north end of Main Street where it intersects with East McCloy and continuing south to its intersection with East Gaines.
As we look at that east side today, we see the several storefronts that encompass Discount Merchandise. Most of these buildings are two-storied. The northernmost building formerly held Plantation House Furniture. That business was preceded by Van-Atkins before their move to Northpark Mall. Before Van Atkins moved to this corner the location housed Sterling’s, a variety store, followed by Dozier’s Shoes and Trotter’s Grocery, operated by Charlie Green. Mr. Dozier’s shoe store was in a narrow space and was known as the “smallest big store in town” to reflect his large stock of merchandise. At one time a set of stairs was built alongside the north exterior wall of this corner building. The stairs led to the office of a local dentist, Dr. Cammack, and the office of the late Congressman W. F. Norrell.
The next building was once home to a store known as the McCloy and Trotter store. Later Mr. Trotter bought out Mr. McCloy and it became V. J. Trotter’s shoes and clothing store. Many recall Mr. Trotter working at his books and surveying “his domain” as he sat on a high stool in his office cubicle. The museum is fortunate to have been selected to house his office cubicle in our country store.
When the V. J. Trotter business closed, Van-Atkins moved from its location on the south end of the block to relocate in the Trotter store. Later it expanded to the northeast corner of the block after Sterlings left. When Northpark Mall was opened, Van-Atkins relocated there. Today Van-Atkins no longer operates in Monticello.
At one time a stairway was located between the V. J. Trotter store and the next business, The Model. These stairs led to the second-story office of Dr. M. Y. Pope. The office is remembered as having red walls. I understand Dr. Pope dispensed his own medications too. I recall a Dr. Smith in nearby McGehee who dispensed “white powder” wrapped in paper for any childhood illness I ever had. The BC powders of today remind me of Dr. Smith’s medications.
Dr. Pope was educated in Philadelphia and built the two-story red brick on South Main in the Philadelphia style for his new bride when he returned to Monticello. The house now serves as offices for the Pomeroy & McGowin forestry business.
The next building on the east side of the square, The Model, was a family clothing store that operated for years next to the old V. J. Trotter Store. John Posey had the first store there – Model Shoes. Fagin McClerkin followed him. For the last half-century the store belonged to D. A. Anderson, followed by his son, David Anderson.
The Model served the clothing needs of the ladies and gentlemen of Drew County and surrounding counties for decades. The Model was one of the few stores to carry sizes for taller men. The site now houses a Pentecost church.
A more recent tenant of the next storefront was a gift shop called “Back in Time.” Much earlier the property was a drug store operated by D. T. Hyatt and son. The son was Robert Fee Hyatt, known as “Bob Fee”. Bob Fee owned and ran the store. He was the father of the family of Hyatts that were the doctors and dentist Hyatts. He built the beautiful white two-story home at the corner of North Main and Oakland Streets we discussed earlier.
Locals remember a stairway that “hung” along the rear of the building. This led to Monticello’s first radio station. I still haven’t been able to learn anything more about that short-lived venture. Please contact me if you have any information.
The last building on the east side of the square now holds a signs and banners shop. However, the property has a long and fascinating history. Van-Atkins store preceded The Factory Connection outlet that anchored the southern corner of Main and Gaines for several years before recently moving out to U.S. 425 North.
However, even before Van-Atkins, that southeastern corner played a prominent role in Drew County history. In 1912, Commercial Loan and Trust Company was founded and occupied that corner building. The building was damaged by fire in 1960, but the bank stayed there until 1965 when the new building on West Gaines was built. Its name was then changed to Commercial Bank and Trust.
Incidentally, Commercial Loan and Trust was founded to handle bonds to bring the A.D.&N. Railroad to Monticello. When Commercial Bank left the property in 1965, Van-Atkins became the new tenant and stayed until their expansion at the opposite end of the block.
Before Commercial Bank was located on this corner, there was a hardware store here run by a Mr. Hardy and a Mr. Stuart. You may observe what resembles a closed opening for a side door on the building today. At one time sick folks entered here to visit the upstairs offices of Dr. Kimbro and Dr. A. S. J. Collins.
I understand that there was also a diner, Veasey’s Café, located back in this area known as the “Hole in the Wall” before WWII and a taxi service operated from this location. After WWII the barbers’ shops and a photography shop were some of the businesses located along the south side of the block.
I believe much of the area behind the stores on this block was also once used to park wagons and tie horses before automobiles came along.
All of the storefronts along this east side were given new facades in the 1990s by the Richard Akin enterprises.
I hope you have enjoyed this look along the east side of the square and its changes over the years. If I have erred or left something out, please forgive me. If you have additional information please write it down and send it to me at the museum. Next week we will look at businesses and commerce along the south side of the historic Monticello Square.