Post Office Row to Panther Row
Bonham Daily Favorite, March 14, 1993
One of the more curious aspects of the development of the business section of Bonham was the appeal for the block just south of the square on Main Street. Although initially it would seem that business houses were scattered around the courthouse, the largest concentration was in this block. Even though this area is closest in proximity to the railroad tracks, this could not have been the original reason for the fact is that this area was densely built years before the railroad arrived in 1873.
In the last two columns we have seen that by 1885 both the north and west sides of the square were completely occupied, where the south and east sides were more sparsely so. Businesses that one would consider most likely to be housed on the public square were instead on Main Street.
This block also had the unusual mix of business establishments as well as residences according to early descriptions of the town. The moving of the post office from the north side of the square in the mid 1850's to this block also helped provide the most often used description, "Post Office Row." In later years, generally between 1895 and 1905, because of the more unsavory reputation acquired by the area the name became "Panther Row."
Resuming our 1885 stroll around town we'll now move south of the square along this block of Main . On the west side of the street, beginning at the corner of Main and State Streets, we find a building only two years old, the recently constructed First National Bank with its angled front door and ornate decorative tin cornice along the top of the building. Some vestiges of its former architectural detail remain today. The Sanborn map also notes that the building contains a dentist's office and a loan office.
The first building south of the bank is indicated as containing drugs and jewelry, on the ground floor, with printing and law offices on the second floor. This structure was the beginning of one of Bonham's venerable business establishments, Saunder's Drug Store. The printing office identified on the map was actually the location of The Bonham News offices. The lawyer is unknown. Incidentally, the building designated on the map burned in 1910.
Next to Saunder's was a dry goods, and clothing store. We have two possibilities for the occupant of this building. Both Cohen and Goldman's and M. Rosenbaum's World Store were in this building in the 1880's but which was first is in doubt.
Adjacent, and the only original building, excluding the bank, still standing in today housed a saloon and billards parlor on the ground floor. The second floor contained sleeping rooms and what was designated as a "gambling hall." Evidently state and local laws of that era did not prohibit such establishments.
J.W. Peeler's Drugs and Books occupied the next building. Peeler, who had been on the first train into Bonham in 1873, had established his business in this building in the same year and remained there until a few years later when he moved to the middle of the west side of the square.
A grocery store is next with Will Thompson's Photo Gallery on the second floor. By the late 1880's Thompson had moved to the ground floor.
From this point to the corner were other saloons, groceries, a furniture store and a restaurant. Sleeping rooms were indicated for many of the second floors. Just past the middle of the block was a building that housed a sewing machine store featuring the White Machine. In the same building was the Bonham Postoffice.
The Postoffice had been in this location for approximately thirty years, but when the map was drawn, its days at this location were numbered. By late summer a new building on the northeast corner of the square, at the present site of the Bonham State Bank, was completed and the post office was moved to its new location. Evidently the move created some opposition. The Bonham News reported that there had been a great deal of opposition to the move since it was felt that the old location was more central to the business section and the railroad. The second floor of the new building also contained rooms for the postmaster J.A. Duncan and his family.
On the east side of this block of Main Street were a number of business although the block was not completely built. Immediately behind the W.A. Nunnelee building, which faced onto State Street, was a building housing agricultural implements. This may have been an extension of Nunnelee's operations. Next was Ardinger's Department Store. An 1880 newspaper ad for this store uses the words department store rather than dry goods or general store and seems to be the first time for this terminology among the Bonham business establishments The rest of the block housed hardware and dry goods and was open to the corner where one dwelling was set back somewhat from the street.
Continuing south on Main Street the east side of the street contains only a small dwelling and a livery stable. The west side of the block however, was very busy. The corner lot where Smith Moore Williams is presently located was vacant, but the next six lots were occupied by a series of buildings housing the Crockett Hotel. This complex fronting on the street and behind had sections of sleeping rooms, sample rooms (for the Drummers or traveling salesmen), 2 dining rooms and a kitchen. The remainder of the block housed groceries, a lunch room, a cigar store, a confectionary, and a furniture store on the corner.
The next block south, across Elk Street, shows a small building under construction on the corner. This structure was to house Anderson's Marble Works. A vacant lot was next with the T.&P. Dining Hall adjacent. Following was a saloon and the Bonham House Hotel. On the corner was a grocery and immediately behind the grocery was Walker and Terry's wagon yard
Diagonally across from the wagon yard was the Texas and Pacific Depot, a small wooden structure erected in 1873. The building contained only two rooms, the waiting area with a small ticket counter and immediately behind the baggage room. A large open freight warehouse covered by a roof extended to the east of the depot.
Center Street south of the square contained only a few small dwellings. Across the street from the present postoffice was a small business for the manufacture of doors, and sashes. A carpenter's shop was next door.
North of the square on Center Street was mostly vacant. A building, listed as vacant, was on the corner and is evidently the building that was to be used for the postoffice. A few steps to the north was the Dye Hotel and Wilson's Livery Stable. Across the street was the Burney House Hotel.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas