© Jerry F. Couch
In late 1947, St. Paul businessman William Andrew Turner relocated his Chevrolet dealership from the western corner of Russell St. and Fifth Ave. to a new building on the eastern corner of Russell Street and Fifth Ave. Turner had paid in excess of $60,000 to construct this building – a lot of money in post-WWII dollars. However, it was a bargain because $60,000 when adjusted for inflation is only about $660,000 in today’s money.
Here’s what W. A. Turner’s building looked like when it was new [Photo from the April 27, 1948 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier].
Pictured below, the old St. Paul Motor Sales building at left and the new Chevrolet dealership on the right. At the time this picture was taken, the old building was the headquarters of S. W. Johnson’s chain of Johnson’s 5 & 10¢ stores in SWVA.
Several years ago, the old St. Paul Motor Sales building was destroyed by fire. This photo was taken while the ruins were still smoldering. Hard work by the St. Paul Volunteer Fire Department and other local fire departments prevented the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings.
W. A. Turner died in March of 1954 and was buried in Temple Hill Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest individuals in St. Paul. In addition to the Chevrolet dealership, he owned a considerable amount of property, including the Lyric Theatre, as well as what was then referred to as “The Turner Building” (Sugar Hill Brewing Company in 2020).
After W. A Turner’s death, the building that housed the Chevrolet dealership passed by will to his daughter, Pauline Miller. She also inherited the small building on the other side of Russell Street that was used as an automotive body repair shop. After her father’s estate was settled, Mrs. Miller donated the body shop building to the Town of St. Paul to be used by the town’s fire department or rescue squad.
The body shop can be seen at left in the 1954 photo below, along with some battered Hudson and Chevrolet automobiles awaiting repair or being used for parts. The unidentified people in the photo are in front of what was Old Dominion Power Company’s office at that time (the Fraley Building in 2020). Do you recognize these folks? —– UPDATE —– A CVT reader told us the man facing the camera is the late Bill Bryson. He was employed by Clinchfield Coal Corporation in the sales department.
The land upon which the body shop stood was under long-term lease from the N & W Railway Company. N & W subsequently gave this land to the town and the body shop building was renovated in 1961 for use by the St. Paul Rescue Squad. In the 1963 photo below, the rescue squad building can be seen at left.
In 1964, the St. Paul Waterworks was constructed alongside the rescue squad building on the former N & W property. In those days, federal and state money was neither plentiful nor easily obtained for projects like this one. Because the Town of St. Paul had made other large financial commitments around that time, money was tight. The new waterworks was a fine achievement, representing a great deal of cooperation. The result was solid progress.
END OF PART ONE