Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Home with History

The house on 715 S. Commerce wasn’t always a brick, single-family home.  In the 1880’s, when it’s approximated that the home was built, it was a wooden house, the gingerbread-type complete with a wrap-around porch and a row of dormitory rooms in the back.  It was on a much larger lot in a much smaller and still developing Russellville.

R.L. Harkey was the original owner of the house and he had a tannery in the back for the saddle shop he owned downtown.  His wife, Kate, was the daughter of R.L. Smith, one of the founders of Russellville who started the town’s hospital and fire department.

Russellville in the late 1800’s was a booming little town.  Main Street was always busy with the comings-and-goings of local farmers and businessmen and housewives with their children after flour or cloth or miscellaneous sundry for that day.  Henry Ford’s Model A had yet to make it’s way into the mainstream of rural America and with the horse being the most common mode of transportation R.L. Harkey’s saddle shop did very well. 

In 1906 a fire swept through the downtown area, claiming Harkey’s saddle shop as one of the casualties.  The day after the fire the local newspaper reported that Harkey would not be rebuilding.

In the years that followed Harkey mortgaged his property a number of times.  By 1930 R.L. had died and Kate was living in the house by herself.  The dormitory rooms out back which were once full of R.L.’s tannery workers were now filled with boarders.  On May 28, 1935 the bank foreclosed on the house.

Nearly ten years later, on December 19, 1944, John and Eula Holbrook bought the house from the bank and moved in with their five children.  The dormitory out back was eventually removed and replaced with a garage and driveway.  The house was bricked in the late 1950’s and the kitchen remodeled in the 1960’s. 

John opened John’s Cleaners and Laundry in 1940 and Eula started planting flowers, she was a rose and iris judge and her yard, filled with over 100 rose bushes and countless irises, was the standard by which all others were to be measured.  Her daughter Linda said that she was quite the gardener.  She was forever providing flowers for people’s weddings and parties, and would often “take them more than they needed,” Linda said.

Linda and Ann, John and Eula’s other daughter, remember having chickens and horses out back.  As the city closed in around 715 S. Commerce the Holbrooks sold off some of the lots and, I assume, the horse if not the chickens.

Today the two story home, built in the 1880’s, owned by a prominent Russellville family, then bought by the bank during a nation of hard times, sold then to a couple who raised five children, a horse and some chickens on the property, and now sits on a corner lot of the historical district of Russellville, full of well over a century of history, a with an auction sign out front, ready for it’s fourth owner and next chapter.