August 25, 2005 – The city of Bruce is enjoying something of a revival of sorts in the aesthetic arena. Hundreds of local citizens working through the Chamber of Commerce, with a grant from the state for historic preservation, have acquired the old E.L. Bruce Company commissary building on the town square.
Built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the large two-story building for years served various purposes in the community, even housing lumber company rival D. L. Fair’s commissary in one section in earlier days.
When we established the newspaper here in 1953, it was all Bruce Company on the first floor, with groceries in the left one third. Hardware was in the
center portion with the office up a flight of stairs in the spacious overhead of the first story.
A series of baskets on string pulleys carried money and checks to the office from the various departments.
On the right third was the dry goods section, with three separate doors for each.
Upstairs there were a couple of lawyer’s offices and the County Health Department, accessed by a flight of outside steps on the south side of the
Earlier photos indicate that Clarence Saunders, a Memphis grocery firm that later became Piggly Wiggly, was once on the left side, and Fair Company on the right.
Signage had E.L. Bruce Co. General Store dominant on the top with smaller signs for the three sections.
One early photo has Gem Theater in the center section, but the movie house was really on the top floor, where someone who grew up in the area said movies were shown on a 16-mm projector.
There is still one office door around indicating that Jesse Yancy, Jr., had his law offices there for a time. As I recall he moved to the courthouse where he maintained office as the County Attorney for a while.
Other old timers recall the first session of Bruce Schools convening on the second story for a while, and others recalled knowing of families who lived
there at one time or another. The building later was sold and converted to White’s Auto Store and then TWL Store, with sheet metal covering the signage.
When it was recently removed as the beginning stage of converting the old building for a county museum with an emphasis on forestry, the condition of the painted green front with white letters was in remarkably good condition.
Enough funds from the legislature and local contributors have been sufficient for the first phase of the project, which includes preserving the
old signage and preliminary work on the interior.
It is a work in progress, but it seems to be off to a good start.