St. Paul’s Russell St. as the years roll on – Part One

© 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].  

turner building - BHC feb. 24, 1948

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.

St. Paul Motor Sales

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.

St. Paul Motor Sales Building Fire 2

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).

W. A. Turner Marker

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. 

Spring 1954 - Russell Street 1

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.  

Russell Street - Rescue Squad vehicles 1963

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.

Waterworks 1964





3 thoughts on “St. Paul’s Russell St. as the years roll on – Part One

  1. I have many happy memories of Russell Street because of course that is where my Grandmother lived, U can remember playing on the steps of the old Chevrolet building and also playing up and down the street at the fire department. As I got older, I spent many days walking down town and the Ben Franklin on the corner beside the Chevrolet building. Lots of memories.

  2. Many happy memories of St. Paul from years ago. Was born in Dante in 1930 – while in high school made many trips down to St. Paul – knew Gander Jesse and his family very well. Post any pics you have on hand.
    We oldsters enjoy them! I have a photo of my Dad, Lacy Griffith working underground at the mines , it is available to you . Let me know Thanks

  3. I remember my grandfather worked for this guy on his farm for 1.00 a day and l heard him say he was a mean man cursing all the time.

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