Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gray & Dudley Hardware Company

222-224 3rd Avenue North

 

Gray & Dudley Hardware Company,  and 221 2nd Avenue North.  Image on the left, of the west store front, at 222 3rd Avenue North, from the Confederate Veteran Magazine, Vol. 8.    Image on the right, of the east store front, at 221 2nd Avenue North, from the 21c Museum Hotels website.



Last week Jimmy and I were downtown on 3nd Avenue North, near the public square.  We passed a  building, that I know as the 222 building, that once housed Metro Nashville government offices.  Currently the building is undergoing renovation with lots of activity, inside and out. Curiosity about what is going on there, led me to google.  I found that the building had been sold by Metro to 21c Museum Hotels and will soon be the company's first Nashville location. 21c Museum Hotels is a company that is passionate about historic preservation. The company repurposes historic buildings, changing the building into a combined boutique hotel and art gallery space, usually with an upscale restaurant.  The company has hotels in several states and continues to expand.

From the 21c website I got the following information,
"With its sights on Music City, 21c is reimagining downtown’s historic Gray & Dudley Building, located at 221 2nd Avenue North, into a public contemporary art museum, hotel, restaurant and bar. The 1900s era building served as a wholesale hardware warehouse and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places." 
Through a search of Metro property records, I found the address, in the tax records, for the building has been changed, from 222 3rd Avenue North to 221 2nd Avenue North. The building has storefronts on both 3rd and 2nd  Avenues, going along the old Bank Alley from one street to the other. The 221 address does fit better with the 21c brand.  Though similar, there are some distinct differences in the opposite fronts of the building, as shown in the illustrations used in this blog.

I searched for the building on the National Register and did not find it listed.  The seven story building is located in the Second Avenue Historic Preservation District.  It is near the public square which would have been a center of commerce at the turn of the 20th century.  As always, I want to know more and so I began researching the building.   

The building was built by Gray & Dudley Hardware Company. Construction started in 1899 and it was opened for business in October of 1900.  Gray & Dudley purchased the land, in 1899, in four parcels.  All were a part of the original town lot, number 25.

 
View of the Market Street entrance, The Nashville American, October 7, 1900


It sits on the boundary of Bank Alley, and fronted on both Market Street, now 2nd Avenue North, and College Street, now 3rd Avenue North.  Gray & Dudley had been incorporated for just five years when their new building opened.  The original owners, listed in the 1895 charter, were J. M Gray, Sr. and J. M Gray, Jr. and brothers R. H. Dudley and R. M. Dudley and J. W. Black.  It is believed that R. H. Dudley, who was Mayor of Nashville, was not actively involved in the new store.

Charter of Incorporation, Gray & Dudley Hardware Company, June 1895 Charter book 120, page 329


Both the Gray and Dudley men had been in the hardware business, before forming a partnership.  Mr. Gray was connected to the hardware firm known as Gray, Fall & Company, beginning in 1862. The Dudley brothers, R. M. and R. H. entered the hardware business in 1887. Their company was Dudley Brothers & Lipscomb. In 1895, the men merged their two companies into one.  


View of the College Street entrance. Confederate Veteran, Vol. 8.

The retail store was located on the first floor, at the College Street entrance and the shipping department on the first floor at the Market Street entrance.  The second floor would hold the sample and packing departments.  The other floors would be for storage of the inventory belonging to the company.  

The showroom windows on College Street were used for display of the many items sold in the retail department.  The sales force traveled about the country selling wholesale goods to other retailers.  The merchandise carried by the store was surprisingly varied.  They sold the usual building materials and supplies.  Every sort of tool was sold. Guns and ammunition and outdoor wear and athletic wear was advertised.  Also pocket knives and razors. 



 
The Nashville American, Sept. 23, 1900


The store carried a large selection of lamps, of many styles and prices.  They sold clocks, flat ware and sterling silver novelties.  There was a large assortment of cut glass, including bowls, pitchers, stands and goblets.  The store had many items that would please a child at Christmas. Wagons, tricycles, doll carriages, Ice skates and roller skates were some of the gift items available.

The Nashville American, Dec. 15, 1900



In 1903 stockholders increased the Board of Directors to 16 members: John M. Gray, R. H. Dudley, John M. Gray, Jr., R. M. Dudley, R. H. Dudley, Jr., J. T. Jenkins. John A. Pitts, B. F. Wilson. Will C. Pollard, W. F. Stephenson. H. H. Mayberry, W. A. Chenoweth, W. H. Haesenger, N. B. Lipe, Thomas J. Watson, Louis Minor. It was reported that Gray & Dudley was the largest hardware company in the south.

An ad from 1906 shows the variety of merchandise sold in the store. Wedding gifts of silver, cutlery and pottery, household items, sewing machines, and equipment for summer entertainment, baseball, croquet, golf, tennis and fishing. In its decade, the business became more of a general merchandise store.

The Nashville American, May 20, 1906



In 1910 the company advertised owning four factories and said they manufactured over half of the merchandise they sold and employed 750 people.



The Tennessean, June 26, 1910


In 1918, the company was featured in the Southern Hardware and Implement Journal. Many of the officers and board members, from the earliest days,  had continued with company. 


Southern Hardware and Implement Journal, Oct. 1918







This view of the busy main office, gives an idea of the volume of sales, and service that the company had a regular basis.

Southern Hardware and Implement Journal, Oct. 1918


In 1942, Gray & Dudley moved from their downtown building out to the factory property at 2300 Clifton Road. Gray & Dudley remained in business on Clifton road until 1986. The beautiful building the company constructed in 1900, remains as a testament to a fine and successful Nashville business from the past. 

Gray & Dudley, west and east street front facades of building.

A composite showing the 3rd Ave./College Street and the 2nd Ave./Market Street building facades. The image on the left is from 1900 and shows the west side of the building as it fronts on 3rd Avenue North.  The image on the right, an artists rendering from the 21c Museum Hotel website, shows the east side of the building as it fronts on 2nd Avenue North.

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