The block between Second and Third streets facing Laurel Street now houses the Windstream Telephone Company service headquarters on the south side and a three-story former bank building and parking lot. The bank was built for C&S Bank. It operated later as Nations Bank, Bank of America and lastly as First Effingham Bank.
This real estate is currently on the market. Although no bank occupies the building, some of the office suites upstairs are rented and in use.
The Hodge House was a boarding house, dating at least as far back as 1910, occupying the area where the current telephone company sits and extended into the southern part of the former bank building.
The Hodge House was owned by Judge James Harry Hodge (born in 1860 in Manning, S.C., and died in 1914) and operated by his wife Mariah Shearouse Hodge (born in 1866 in Effingham County and died in 1954). “Mrs. Ria,” as she was known, was the daughter of Christina Elizabeth Fryermuth Shearouse and James Jonathan Shearouse. Florence lived there and helped her sister “Ria” with the business.
Many travelers rested at the Hodge House. It was a large, two-story, eight-room frame house, with a wide front porch on each floor. Businessmen boarded there often. Many vines grew on the porch over the wooden trim work.
The original Hodge home was a small cypress timber home that was moved away from the street to become the kitchen and dining facility. There was a gap between the kitchen and the house. Meals were served for guests on a schedule.
The Hodge daughters, Ethel and Marie, continued to operate the boarding house into the 1950s. Ethel and husband Felix Scott lived there. Marie (Mary Elizabeth Hodge) married John William Hawk and she ran the Hawk Dairy. Ethel and Felix had no children.
In the early 1960s, L.D. “Sam” Sowell and his wife Virginia built a brick home on the north corner of the block at Second and Laurel streets. Part of the house was built for a business. It housed Sowell Florist which operated for a few years. Sometime later, Sowell came to own the adjacent former Hodge boarding house and property, giving a life estate to Felix and Ethel.
The Springfield United Methodist Church occupied the empty Hodge House, opening a place for young people from the church and other congregations in the community to gather, around the mid- 1960s. It was called “The Scene” and operated under direction of the Methodist minister, Rev. Lamar Ball, and his wife. Couples chaperoned the hangout during operating hours. There was a soda fountain with coke on tap on the porch, a pool table and lots of things to do. The young people painted the walls with bright colors and flowers, making it their own space. This did not operate for very long. Many who remember this include: Cathy Rahn Berryhill, Carey Rountree, Kelly Dickey, Susan Dickey Lindsey and Karen Edwards Seckinger.
After the florist closed, sometime later Albert and Venita Grovenstein lived there, and he operated a parts store in the former florist shop end of the house.
In 1967, the Hodge House was torn down. The former Sowell home was moved by Barbara and Ron Clary to Old Tusculum Road and is still used today as a residence. I remember watching them move the house north on Laurel Street.
The two properties were sold to C&S Bank and the three-story bank building was built. The new modern bank was completed in 1978 and stands tall in the city today.
If only we had a guest book to know who spent nights in that old boarding house in the early days of Springfield, we would have a page of our history.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. Some information came from the 50th anniversary edition of The Springfield Herald and “River to River: The History of Effingham County.” If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.