Old department store building in Alabama

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama
Date added: July 12, 2023 Categories: Alabama Retail Department Store
Front facade looking north (2005)

John Dodd built his two-story, brick commercial building on a prominent corner near the railroad line in downtown Haleyville in 1911. The building replaced a two-story, wood-frame structure that had burned down. The earlier building had been the location of the Shipman Brothers Store and the town post office. No doubt Dodd was capitalizing on the industrial growth and economic development which had come to Haleyville with the construction of the railroad. Moses and Fanny Feldman bought the building in 1914, operating their department store on the first floor and renting out the second-story offices. The Feldman family owned the building and operated the store until the late twentieth century when the building was sold to Dr. and Mrs. Joe Teal who converted it into a place for social events.

Winston County was blessed with vast timber and coal reserves but lacked a reliable transportation network to move these products to market. In 1885 work began on a section of the Northern Alabama Railroad that would connect Sheffield in Colbert County with Parrish in Walker County by passing through Winston. The line reached Haleyville in 1887 and was completed to Parrish by 1906 at the latest. Haleyville grew into an important shipping point on this route. Local industry included cotton ginneries and a cottonseed oil mill, a gristmill and sawmills, a fertilizer plant, an ice factory and a canning factory. There were railroad repair shops and a terminal plus five coal mines. This industrial expansion in turn led to a vital retail economy, making the town a regional trade center.

Only 100 people lived in Halyeville in 1880. Just 225 resided there twenty years later, but by 1910 Haleyville's population exploded to 1,111. The town was poised for expansion. John Dodd built what is believed to be the first brick commercial building in Haleyville the following year. Soon the town had a new city hall, paved streets and sidewalks, street lights and a waterworks system. There was also a volunteer fire department.

One of the town's most important deals in terms of commercial development occurred in 1914 when Moses Feldman and his wife Fanny Royal, both East European Jewish immigrants, bought Dodd's building to house their department store.

By the time their son Abe joined the family business in the 1930s, Feldman's Department Store was known as "an institution in this section of Alabama. . . ." Most people remember it as the place where they bought their first pair of overalls or jeans or shoes.

The store occupied only the first floor of this building. The second floor provided office space for Haleyville's professional and business classes. The O. P. Drake Cotton Gin Offices were housed here in the early 20th-century and its signs are still visible on the doors and a transom. The medical office of one of the first local doctors was also here.

Feldman's Department Store was closed and the building sold after the death of the younger Feldman son David in the late 1990s. It is believed to be the oldest mercantile building in Haleyville and one of the very few remaining from the early twentieth century. Most of the other commercial resources from this time period have been destroyed either by fires or a tornado that swept through the downtown several years ago.

Building Description

Feldman's Department Store is a two-part commercial block, brick building located in downtown Haleyville at the corner of 20th Street and Alabama Avenue. The railroad line that brought prosperity to the town runs down the middle of the latter street. By at least the 1930s, if not earlier, the block of 20th Street between Alabama Avenue and 9th Avenue comprised the heart of Haleyville's commercial center. Feldman's Department Store visually dominates this area. 20th Street widens significantly where it meets Alabama Avenue and the railroad tracks, creating a plaza-like public space in front of the store. This enhances the building's position as a downtown landmark. In the 1930s, Feldman's Department Store anchored the west corner of the north side of 20" Street near the railroad while the 2-story Winston Hotel did the same on the eastern end of the block. Between them stretched a row of narrow, 1 story commercial buildings. On the south side of this block were four 2 story buildings (of which two were banks) interspersed among a greater number of one-story structures.

This two-story building, constructed in 1911, still retains its original appearance, although some of the windows and interior walls have been replaced and the utilities have been upgraded. The exterior walls (front, sides and rear) are 3-4 bricks thick, of the original red brick, and still reflect the historic character of their time. The building has a rectangular form, 50 feet by 100 feet. The pitched roof slopes toward the back of the building. It has a base of wide wood planks, and is covered with metal and tar.

The front facade is symmetrical, and its tripartite configuration is based on the alignment of the second floor's three individual windows and the three separate entrances on the first floor. The two separate store bays each consist of large display windows flanking recessed, double-leaf doors with large lights. The central, first-story bay consists of a single-leaf door which allows access to the second story. This door is flanked by pilasters. A transom of large lights spans the facade above these entrances. On the facade's second story are three 1/1 double-hung sash windows. The wide, central one is crowned with a semicircle fanlight and has a round-arched header. The other two windows have segmental-arched headers. The headers are connected by a brick beltcourse. Above is a mildly decorative parapet, consisting of stepped corbelling, with a band of projecting brick crosses immediately below.

The front fixed flat canopy, with an overhead roof covering the sidewalk, is about 8 feet by 50 feet long. Ten cast iron lion heads, painted gold, with black chains, hold up the wood and metal canopy. Square metal posts which support the canopy are covered with square wooden pillars.

The canopy, storefront window and transom wrap around the southwest corner of the building. Towards the rear of this western (side) elevation is a new double-leaf door with large lights, a two-light transom and a segmental header. On either side of it is a cast iron lion head. The second story features four 1/1 double-hung sash windows with segmental headers and a paired 1/1 double-hung sash window with a straight header. A stepped parapet delineates the top of the building on this side.

The entire first floor of the building housed Feldman's Department Store. It is comprised of two large rooms, each 100 feet by 25 feet. The original pine floors are still intact except for a 30-foot by 25-foot area that was destroyed by termites and could not be saved. This area now has plywood and carpeting. The interior walls are plastered. The 12-foot high ceilings are clad in tongue-and-groove wood. At this time, both ballrooms are decorated with antiques and new furniture. The new lighting on this floor includes chandeliers, simpler light fixtures, and ceiling fans.

The second floor also retains its integrity. The staircase has been covered with carpet, but its railings are the original dark wood. The floors are all pine and, except for the hallway which was restored, are covered with carpet. The original tongue-and-groove wood ceilings are mostly still intact. On some walls the plaster remains, other walls have sheetrock and still others are exposed brick where the original plaster has fallen off. The window trims reflect the original design. All of the doors are original with their original glass and hardware. The additions to the second floor are 2 full baths. The lighting on the second floor is comprised of chandeliers, simpler light fixtures and ceiling fans. Wallpaper was added to the hallway and some of the rooms.

Minor landscaping and a paved parking lot for 8 cars were added behind the building.

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Front facade looking north (2005)
Front facade looking north (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Side elevation looking east (2005)
Side elevation looking east (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama First floor looking south (2005)
First floor looking south (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama First floor looking south (2005)
First floor looking south (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Second floor hall looking south (2005)
Second floor hall looking south (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Second floor ceiling and sign looking south (2005)
Second floor ceiling and sign looking south (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Second floor door with transom looking southwest (2005)
Second floor door with transom looking southwest (2005)

Feldman's Department Store, Haleyville Alabama Second floor door with transom looking west (2005)
Second floor door with transom looking west (2005)