The building at 125 South Laurel St. that is currently empty has a long and colorful history. It was built about 1904 by Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Hodges as a store. His family operated it for years.
The Princess Theatre, Springfield’s first movie theatre, occupied this building about 1938. On June 28, 1940, according to Springfield Herald, the movies for the July 4th weekend were “Too Busy to Work” featuring the Jones family and “Cowboy From Sunday” with Tex Ritter. It had a two-day run of “Gone With the Wind” in July 1940 with unusual reserved seats on the two days of the 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. presentations.
Usually a movie was presented Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a different feature for Friday and Saturday. A cartoon, a serial (a short movie presented in 10 or so chapters) and a late newsreel were included. The theatre had a small balcony. Talmadge Shearouse operated the theatre, and Paul Dutton ran the projector. The theatre projection room caught fire during a movie and damaged the building.
The Springfield Theatre opened in the same building after being refurbished after the fire. An advertisement in the Springfield Herald in October 1941 for the theatre advertises, “Now air cooled for your comfort.” Admission price was 11 cents for children under 12 and 22 cents for adults including tax. Some movies shown included: “Men of Boys Town” starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney; “Phantom Cowboy” with Don “Red” Berry and Virginia Carroll; “Make Your Own Bed” with Jack Carson and Jane Wyman; “A Guy Named Joe” with Spencer Tracey and Irene Dunne; and “Prairie Thunder” with Dick Foran and Ellen Clancy. “Junior G-Men” and “Dead End Kids” were among the preview features.
The Morgan brothers, Lester and Glenn, operated a furniture store in the building. Felix Scott worked for them and kept books.
In the early 1950s, William O. and Ruth Lee purchased the building and operated the Springfield Herald in the building. They sold the paper business to Julie Harrelson (Weddle), who operated the Herald after them. She sold the building in 1970 and moved the Herald into the next building just to the north.
The building has served as an office building. In 2000, Mr. and Mrs. James Brogdon purchased and restored the building as an attorney’s office for his practice. Historic Effingham presented the Brogdons with the 2001 Historic Preservation Award for their restoration and reuse of the old historic building.
There have been many tenants of 125 South Laurel St. Savannah Mortgage Company operated for a time and lastly it housed a sign business that was operated there by the Fulchers.
Metro Mania LLC hopes that someone new will want to occupy the space they own and add to the history. If only the walls could talk, it would tell us of the people who worked and enjoyed the movies for 110 years in this old building.
This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Exley at 754-6681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.