The Hart and Houston Store of Johnson City Was Once Described as a Palace
The Hart & Houston Store that once occupied 315-317 E. Main Street was advertised as “An Institution With An Ideal.” It was listed in several city directories under the classification of a dry goods store, defined as an establishment that sells retail products that do not require refrigeration or freezing to maintain. Many folks will remember this address as the second Woolworth’s site (first store was at 251 E. Main) and the current location of Hands-On Museum.
A 1915 Chamber of Commerce publication contained some glowing comments about the business, which opened just one year before on October 1, 1914: “Johnson City possesses many handsome stores in all lines of trade, but none which can compare in the most attractive and desirable features with that new palace known as The Hart & Houston Store.”
The owners of the firm, all prominent men of the city, were Edwin T. Hart, James P. Hart and Edward D. Houston. They employed 25 clerks. The experienced trio had previously been in business for a quarter of a century before opening the new store. The massive building, considered very modern for its day, consisted of three stories and a basement that measured 66 by 90 feet. It was furnished with “every modern convenience known to present day ideas of merchandising.”
The amenities included a tube cash carrier system, elevator and magnificent show windows, which were described as being “by far the handsomest in this part of the South.” The latter contained an impressive 16 feet by 66 feet long arcade. The layout of the store departments made it an easy place to shop bright lights and best-ventilated emporium in the city.
A July 25, 1927 Johnson City Staff-News displayed a large ad titled, “Summer Clearance, Sale of Remnants. Short lengths of Silks, Voiles, Linens, Broadcloth, Ginghams, Cretonnes, Drapery Materials, Remnants of Sheer White Goods, Crepes and Lingerie Cloths. Nothing taken on approval or returned during sale. Doors open Tuesday morning at 8:00 July 28th.”
Three tables of summer hats were specially marked down – children’s hats, $.89 and ladies’ hats $.89 and $1.00. The Infants & Children’s Department featured teething bands, $.59; boys’ wool Norfolk suits with 2 pair of pants, $9.95; boys long flannel trousers, $2.49; boys hats and caps including Jockey caps, half price; broadcloth suits and dresses, bright colors, Sizes 2 to 6 Years, one-third off; and handmade Voile (light weight woven fabric) dresses, one-half off.
Four ads under “Dresses” were listed as “Clearance Price Half Off” - printed georgettes [a sheer, strong silk or silk-like clothing fabric with a dull, creped surface], $23.50 to $43.50; plain and printed crepes, $18.75 to $47.50; ladies skirts in plain and fancies, $6.50 to $18.50. The store was discontinuing its Ladies Shoes Department and offered several discounts: choice of any slipper in the store, $5.00; one lot of various sizes, $2.98; and all standard footwear of good quality shown, nothing over $5.00.
Additional items included ladies sport hose, pineapple stitch, choice, $.89; children’s socks, $.17, $.23 and $.29; and a “special” of ladies gingham and Percale House dresses for $.75. An assortment of ruffled curtains described as plain and combination colors, Voile, Net and Marquisette, sold for $1.00, $1.69 and $1.98.
In 1928, the Hart and Houston Store became known as H.P. King – Hart Department Store. Soon afterwards, it relocated to 300 E. Main with a new name, H.P. King, Inc. Area residents will remember it as King’s Department Store.