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A stroll through downtown history
Liberty lore
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If you were eating in the Rosenhof German Restaurant Tuesday evening and saw a group of 20 people gazing toward the building, we weren't spying on you.
Liberty County Historical Society members were walking around the Courthouse Square and talking about the history of the buildings.
Our meeting was hosted by Vicki Davis, director of the Downtown Development Association, whose office is in the historic Old Jail, built in 1892. She showed us around the inside of the jail and pointed out the fireplace where prisoners took out bricks to escape.
The society saved the Old Jail from demolition when it was auctioned in 1970. We paid $4,500 for it and later sold it to the city for $1.
Outside the jail to the left, a vacant lot was once the home of the Liberty Ice Plant. Fred L. Ginter built the first steam-powered ice plant there for Henry Lowe in 1929. The ice plant operated until just a few years ago.
Across the street from the jail is the Coca-Cola building, established in 1919. The location was chosen because of the natural springs that flowed near it. The plant closed in 1991 and now The Heritage Bank's operations center is there.
We looked toward and MLK Jr. Drive and recalled several of the businesses that used to be where the new justice center will be built. A service station on the corner behind it was Frasier's Shoe Shop. The one that almost everyone recalls is Jack Keel's barbershop, where all locals’ problems were solved.
The corner where the bank's parking lot is now, used to be home of the Magnolia Hotel and later the Greenberg Furniture Store that my husband managed, LeRoy's Store for Men, an antique store and finally, a weightlifting center.
We crossed the street and looked across at the two-story brick building which was one of the six brick buildings constructed on South Main Street in 1940, and is now unoccupied and owned by Liberty County. It was once used for a bank, post office, labor department building and other offices. Many recalled the stores down the street, such as a package shop, Elsie's Dress Shop, Shave's Variety and Polk's Jewelry.
Saunders Hardware, my favorite store, was at the end. Whenever my husband had to repair plumbing, I went to explain to Mr. Saunders or Mr. Johnny Riles Sr. what was needed. Either of them listened intently as I described the part that would remedy the situation.
We stopped in front of Arnold, Stafford, Randolph and Shaefer's Law Office and discussed the S&S Soda Shop that was hopping around 1950.
KC Flowers and JC Penney Catalog Store used to be Elam's Photography. Mr. Earl took my senior photos at Ludowici High in 1965. He and his son had a booming business for many years.
Bradley's Frame and Gift Shop was once a thriving drugstore built by E. Peyton Way in 1940 and referred to as the "Way Building" where one could get a fountain drink or thick milkshake while waiting on a prescription. The second floor became Liberty County's first hospital.
The back of the Liberty County Courthouse built in 1927 faces Main Street. The front is where the Confederate soldier statue stands that was placed there Jan. 19, 1928. B.A. Way, a Hinesville attorney, lived just off Courthouse Square and kept a small herd of goats that slept in the old 1837-courthouse courtroom. Sam Hargrove, the courthouse janitor, shoveled out goat leavings at least twice a year and on special occasions, and got the place ready for Superior Court or civic or social functions.
The benches in Bradwell Park provided places for us to sit a spell. Vicki told us about the plans to renovate the park. Lately, every month there has been some kind of lunchtime free entertainment with vendors selling food. The lot of land that is the park now was set aside when the city was first laid out. The Hinesville Methodist Church and Bradwell Institute School were on this lot. There is a very old majestic live oak in the park.
The fire department and city hall were located where the Pirkle law office is now. The present city hall was built in 1978.

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