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Pricey Vance: I’m restoring an aged setting up at 433 Madison and hoped you could convey to me one thing about its historical past. — F.T., Memphis.
Dear F.T.: For yrs I’ve admired the Pritchard Brothers Plumbing constructing, with its white terra-cotta façade, beautiful stained-glass signage, and matching pair of black wrought-iron doors. But maintain on — a closer glimpse reveals the doorways are not identical. The left-hand door carries the business identify in fancy ironwork and serveas as the entrance. The suitable-hand door, a bit much less ornate, holds a blue defend with the initial “P” and is in fact a gate, opening onto to a slim alley that runs alongside the constructing.
These confusion should really have been my initial clue that telling the heritage of this company would be extra demanding than I expected. I presumed it would be a straightforward issue of locating out who the Pritchard Brothers had been, and then I could share their record by seeking by previous town directories, newspapers, and the huge archives of the Lauderdale Library.
Effectively, you can visualize my dismay when I found out right away that two diverse companies in Memphis, working at the identical time, were referred to as Pritchard Brothers. What were being the possibilities of that? My hours, times, and months of analysis saved turning up references to the two providers, and I got so bewildered that I experienced to slump in my La-Z-Boy with a awesome towel on my forehead, resting my worn-out brain.
Functioning out of this sort of a smaller making, Pritchard Brothers landed the plumbing contracts for these kinds of local landmarks as the Municipal (later on Ellis) Auditorium, the Randolph Creating, Tech Superior School, Fairview Junior Large College, Very first Methodist Church, the Adler Lodge, the Farnsworth Making, and Memphis General Hospital.
I finally acquired it straight. It would seem brothers Lewis and John Pritchard owned a building firm all through the early 1900s and erected homes and even a few office structures during Memphis. That’s the very last time I’m heading to point out them, although, mainly because these two fellows weren’t relevant to the firm F.T. has inquired about.
Rather, I will commit this column to Pritchard Brothers Plumbing, and the two brothers who started that agency ended up J. Fred Pritchard and Albert L. Pritchard. Both of those gentlemen were born in the 1870s in Joliet, Illinois, and came to Memphis around 1890.
In accordance to the outdated city directories, in 1900 the brothers teamed up with a partner, James Evans, to open up a plumbing, steam, and fuel-fitting business. This was situated at 71 Union Avenue — not 433 Madison.
So this brings up extra confusion about the background of this enterprise: How old is the wonderful-wanting setting up on Madison? The Shelby County Assessor’s web site presents a building date of 1903, and this exact same day is recurring in other tales I’ve encountered about the Pritchards. But I never imagine that is proper, and allow me make clear why.
According to outdated town directories, from 1900 to 1915, the property at 433 Madison was a non-public home, owned by a sequence of five distinct family members more than the years. The owners involved a barkeeper for the Gaston Lodge, a clerk for the Southern Railway, and a barber. In 1906, in point, that barkeeper, a fellow named James Snell, ran a Industrial Attraction classifieds advertisement giving “For Lease — one 6-space flat with tub, gas heat, attic, and reception corridor.” This should have been a relatively significant home, if the rental space incorporated a “reception corridor.”
In the meantime, during this time, those identical city directories clearly show that the Pritchard Brothers experienced opened their plumbing corporation Downtown — at 71 Union Avenue. Around 1910, they moved to greater services a few blocks east at 167 Union.
In truth, individuals similar town directories really do not present the Pritchards moving to 433 Madison right up until 1916, when I presume the homes together that block were demolished to make way for companies. Just up coming door, to the east, Nelson Plumbing, Heating, and Mill Supplies offered “steam goods, belting, hose, packing, pipe, fittings, valves, enamelware, soil pipe, and brass merchandise.” That shorter block of Madison had turn into a just one-stop-store for anybody in Memphis in require of plumbers and plumbing provides.
Running out of these kinds of a small building, Pritchard Brothers — still teamed with Evans — took on some of the ideal-acknowledged tasks in our city. They have been mainly included in large, professional enterprises, and around the yrs, they landed the plumbing contracts for these kinds of landmarks as the Municipal (afterwards Ellis) Auditorium, the Randolph Creating, Tech Superior Faculty, Fairview Junior Substantial University, Tennessee Ice and Coal Enterprise, Initial Methodist Church, and Memphis Standard Clinic.
Wait around — there’s more. Other assignments throughout the 1920s and 1930s integrated the Adler Resort, the DeSoto Garage, the Farnsworth Making (later referred to as the 3 Sisters Making), a big Studebaker dealership on Union, the Park Avenue Masonic Lodge — I imply, the record just goes on and on.
The Pritchards did really very well. Albert and his wife, Irma, lived in a good property at 195 S. Belvedere. Fred and his spouse, Mabel, verified my theory that, at some point, almost absolutely everyone I know or have prepared about has lived on Harbert. They and their son, Fred Jr., lived at 1800 Harbert.
Someday in the 1930s, Albert Pritchard still left the plumbing organization to just take an government situation with the Commerce Title Corporation, later on relocating to the Countrywide Bank of Commerce. He remained there till his retirement and handed absent in 1956. When Albert left, the remaining brother, Fred, brought his son aboard. This was a intelligent transfer. A graduate of Georgia Tech, Fred took around the business when his father retired, and held it in business till Pritchard Brothers Plumbing last but not least shut in the mid-1970s. Amid their previous major projects was the plumbing agreement for the new Goldsmith’s Section Store in Laurelwood, which opened in 1962. In point, I envision this was the past project that included the organization co-founder, Fred Pritchard, who handed absent the year prior to.
The son stored the company likely but finally shut the doors in the mid-1970s. When he died in 1983, his newspaper obituary mentioned that he experienced remained lively in numerous trade businesses in this place, this kind of as serving as extensive-time president of the Civitan Club, but the headline focused on an accomplishment from his Boy Scout days in Memphis: “Liberty Bond Hard work Happy Presidents.” It seems Pritchard had been a member of Troop 22 below, and throughout Planet War I, had sold extra than $450,000 in war bonds — an astonishing sum in these times.
The constructing on Madison transformed fingers in 1980. That yr, Charles and Connie Manus, who operated the national franchise of ASI Sign Systems, acquired 433 Madison. Charles also specialized in architectural renderings, and Connie owned the Connie Hendrix & Associates promoting agency. They also leased portions of the 3,800-square-foot building to neighborhood artists and photographers in need of studios.
I really should tell my other fifty percent-dozen viewers, F.T., that you are the president and founder of an investment decision company identified as Preserver Associates, who purchased the property various years back with programs to rehab it as business area. The two-tale constructing at 425 Madison (on the west facet of the Pritchard building) serves as the Preserver Associates places of work, so that block is viewing new existence.
The inside of the aged Pritchard Brothers creating has been gutted. The façade will continue being comparatively unchanged, but the exclusive glass windows will be moved within and made use of as a ornamental component, except the new tenants want to keep them in place. Regardless of what transpires, I hope they are shielded in some way. Home windows like that would be challenging to swap if broken, and they survived a close connect with a century back.
According to an outdated Industrial Appeal write-up, on the evening of August 25, 1921, “a crew of drunken men in a large vehicle ruined various big plate-glass home windows with bullets and bottles.” Amongst the targets that night, all in the identical place, ended up the 7-1-5 Tire Enterprise, the Madison Storage Garage, Paige Auto Showroom, Nelson Plumbing Supply, and — of course — Pritchard Brothers Plumbing. The police “fired various shots at the bash, which escaped, mainly because their car was the fastest.”
I know what you are pondering. Bullets, bottles, a quickly automobile, and a police chase usually necessarily mean one particular point: The Lauderdales — at it again!
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Mail: Vance Lauderdale, Memphis journal, P.O. Box 1738, Memphis, TN 38101
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