The History of Kelly Square
Kelly Square consists of four buildings. Although each building is accessible to the other from within, each has it’s own history. Kelly Square is considered to be 115 South Travis Street now but technically it is 113, 115, 117, and 119 South Travis Street. The buildings are believed to have been built in the 1870’s, after the big fire and each had it’s own purpose.
The North building 113, now Grayson Hall, contained several small businesses at a time, such as realty offices and law firms for at least 20 years . In the late 1890’s it contained a pool hall, a small restaurant, and one real estate office. From about 1910 to 1925 it contained several businesses, including restaurants, barber shops, shoe shine parlors and business offices. In 1925 it became a Woolworth’s 5¢&10¢. Woolworth’s departed in 1941 at which time Linxwilers Clothing Store for Men and Boys occupied the building. Linxwilers continued until the early 1970’s after which the structure was vacant for extended periods, and occupied by small businesses for brief periods.
The North center building 115 also contained many small businesses during its history. For a period of about 30 years it was occupied by a small restaurant, law firms, a realtor, and physician offices. Around 1909 the first floor became the “Lyric Theater.” The upstairs, known as 115 1/2, continued to be occupied by small businesses. The theater remained at 115 for approximately 10 years.
The South center building 117 was a very active building. It began as a drug store downstairs and housed several doctors’ and dentists’ offices upstairs, known as 117 1/2. LeMoyne and Halley Druggists are believed to have been the initial proprietors eight times but it always included a drugstore. Some of the stores’ names included Tayman, Berry & Company, Lankford & Batsell, Glasscocks, Mitchell-Mason Drug Company, Higginbothams, and finally in 1925, Dryer and Jones.
The South building 119 is the most mysterious of all the buildings. Not much is know about it prior to the turn of the century. At that time it was a restaurant. Later it became a combination pool hall and restaurant. In 1921 the building was occupied by Settle & Settle Clothing. 119 1/2 upstairs continued to be occupied by doctors’ offices.
All four buildings were bought between 1916 and 1918 by a trunk salesman, Leo Kelly. Mr. Kelly had a common brick facade placed on the front of all four buildings. In addition, he had his name engraved in concrete and put at the top of the new brick facade. This is the source of Kelly in Kelly Square. Kelly himself located his office in the upstairs section of 117, with the drugstore immediately below.
In 1921 Kelly sold the North center building 115 to the JCPenny Department Store organization. Around 1928, Dyer & Jones Drugstore moved from 117 to 119 and the JCPenny Company bought the lower floor of 117, in which it expanded, leaving intact the upstairs offices. With its development, JCPenny’s was identified as occupying the Kelly Building, a forerunner to Kelly Square. In expanding into 117, Penny’s hired a Denison contractor to remove the center wall between 115 and 117. Installed as a replacement support was a most impressive 20 inch steel beam over 140 feet long.
Except for the closing of Woolworths and the opening of Linxwilers, the Kelly complex remained as described above until 1954 when once again Penny’s expanded, buying out Dyer & Jones Drugstore and the remaining Kelly Square building. In 1965, the street numbers were altered, and JCPenny’s in the Kelly Building became 115 South Travis. Later in 1971, Penny’s moved to another location, and for the first time in a century the building was vacant. For the ensuing decade, the building remained alternately vacant or the home for several small businesses.
In 1983, Honey and Robert Minshew purchased the Kelly property, extensively renovated the buildings, and organized and promoted Kelly Square as it is know today. One small concluding tidbit: Among the many small businesses once located in that which we now know as Kelly Square, in 1896-1897 there was a small ice cream manufacturing firm, the owner of which was R. Minshew. One wonders!