THOMASVILLE — EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of a celebration of the Times-Enterprise’s 125th year, this is the third in a year-long series of Sunday stories about important people, places and things in the area. The next one will be published on Feb. 23.
It’s a common phrase around the small community of Metcalfe that “to be a success, you must be from Metcalfe” — and it seems that many of Thomasville’s successful people and businesses have roots in Metcalfe.
For nearly 100 hundred years, Commercial Bank in Thomasville has served the community. However, it did not get its start here.
The bank began as Commercial Bank of Metcalfe in 1916 and, according to Thomas County Historical Society documents, the building it was housed in was built for the Bank of Metcalfe, which folded in 1915. The bank reopened in 1916 as Commercial Bank of Metcalfe and has been known as Commercial Bank ever since.
The bank was originally housed in a brick building that stands today at 1042 Reynolds St. in Metcalfe. The building has housed many different types of businesses, including two banks, a grocery store and a fabric shop.
The day the bank opened, July 22, 1916, was described in archive papers as hot, humid and quiet. The bank did not have the typical grand opening. It was opened by its founders, J. Truman Holland, H.C. Copeland and J.W. Horne’s brothers — Elmer, Edwin and Olin Horne.
J.W. Horne was the bank’s first president. The financial institution opened with $15,000. A farmer in Metcalfe, John Zeigler, received the first loan and was one of its first account holders.
There has been some confusion about the two banks that were in Metcalfe during the early 1900s. On May 29, 1922, a story was printed by the Thomasville Times-Enterprise to clear up the matter.
It stated, “A legal advertisement which has been running in the Times-Enterprise for the last month in connection with the winding up of the affairs of the Old BANK OF METCALFE of which W. O. Carter was cashier and which closed its doors and went out of business in the first part of 1915, seems to have been misunderstood by some parties of the Metcalfe District, who on account of the similarities of names have confused the old bank which was closed over seven years ago with the Commercial Bank of Metcalfe which is now an active business and a sound, solvent and conservatively managed bank.”
The two banks were always two entirely separate businesses.
When Commercial Bank of Metcalfe decided to move to Thomasville in 1924 because of its rapid growth, it left the brick building in Metcalfe vacant until the early 1960s when Cynthia Harvell purchased the structure and opened Harvell’s General Store.
In a Monday, July 9, 1979, Times-Enterprise story, Harvell is quoted as saying, “It’s a good life. You see all kinds of people. If I can make ends meet, I’m better off down here at the store than at home.”
According to the newspaper article, Harvell loved tending to the general store, which had most everything — including headache powders, sardines, fresh souse meat, cases of soft drinks and cans of cane syrup.
She and her family also liked to brag about how the store used to be Commercial Bank. They showed people the vault and where the teller once stood.
While the old bank building was thriving as a general store, Commercial Bank in Thomasville was doing quite well, too. As it made its way into Thomasville, the bank bought the Mize building at 128 S. Broad St., adjacent to Louis H. Jerger’s jewelry store.
In a July 25, 1924, Times-Enterprise story, J.W. Horne said, “The building will be thoroughly overhauled and remodeled preparatory to the installation of the office fixtures for the new bank, work on which will be started very shortly.”
The new Commercial Bank opened on a November Monday in 1924. It had new fixtures installed and the building was completely remodeled with a white stone and marble front. In 1934, the bank moved for a second time because of growth. This time it moved down the street to 101 S. Broad St., where it remained until 1980.
In 1980, the bank moved to its present location at 101 S. Crawford St., where it has flourished.
The original bank building in Metcalfe was abandoned after the closing of Harvell’s General Store in the 1980s. Tom and Holly Harrison purchased the building from John and Lea Harvell in 2005 in hopes of keeping it intact and preserved.
For several years, they used the building for storage.
Tom Harrison said, “The ‘bones’ of the building were good, but it was in rough shape. It had no working electricity or plumbing.”
Lois and Bruzz Mason approached the Harrisons and inquired about having it renovated and leased to them for their shop, Decorative Fabrics.
After some consideration, the couple participated in the State of Georgia, State Historic Preservation Office Tax Program with the help of Thomasville Landmarks. They were able to restore the building to its original design.
“We used anecdotal evidence from (Mr.) Olin Horne that he remembered riding his bicycle through the arches as a child and a drawing done by Bob Dixon for Commercial Bank in Thomasville to prove that the arches were originally open and there was a glass wall behind them,” said Harrison, describing restoring the structure back to its original architecture.
The state preservation office was skeptical of the arches because they had been closed in for so long no one was entirely sure. It was through research by Brent Runyon, past executive director of Thomasville Landmarks, that an image was found of a similar bank building in another south Georgia town with the arches. The State Office of Historic Preservation acknowledged a “new category” of bank buildings in their records.
After restoration, the building still retains its original vault and steel door, tin ceiling and tin crown molding. The plaster, opened arches and missing glass wall were all repaired.
Today, the Harrisons are proud to own a piece of history.
Harrison said, “My wife and I have restored several houses, but this was our first commercial building. It was a true joy to see a building come back to life and be put to productive use after so many years. We are pleased that someone like Louis and Bruzz Mason would move their business back to their childhood home and embrace the history of the building and Metcalfe.”
Today, Mason’s Decorative Fabrics is housed in the old bank building in Metcalfe. Lois Lanier Mason grew up in Metcalfe and is a granddaughter of Olin Horne Sr.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.