Building History – 553 Prince Avenue

The building at 553 Prince Avenue was built in 1888.
Deed Dated January 2, 1913 – Henry C. Dolittle purchased the building from Sidury Boley.
Description: of our certain lot or parcel of land with brick store in Athens Georgia situated as follows on the North side of Prince Avenue Known as the James A Harbin Store 29 feet wide and now occupied by Wheterly and Bernard. Said H.c, is to pay all of the taxes and insurance.

Deed Dated April 1, 1915 between Sidney Boley and J.C Bloomfield for 2.625.00.

Description: All that lot of land with improvements theron, situate, lying and being in said State and County and fronting for 29 feet on Prince Avenue in the City of Athens. This lot beginning at a point being the Northeast corner of the lot of Mrs. H.C. Conway on Prince Avenue and running along the pavement in an easterly direction 29 feet more or less to the property of Jas. A. Harbin; thence at right angles in a westerly direction along the lot of the said Harbin 29 feet to line of Mrs. H.C Conway

In 1968 when I was 16, I worked after school at Capital TV for 1.25-1.50 an hour (whatever the minimum wage was).Mom and Dad went to a store on Highway 41 (now Cobb Parkway) called “The House of 10,000 Picture Frames”.I don’t remember if they bought anything but my Dad, being a salesman for Lockheed, chatted up the owner, Mr. Ewing. Mr. Ewing said he was hiring and would pay me 2.00 an hour to start and 2.50 an hour when I could cut a mat. I quit my job and went to work for Ewing, I quickly got a raise to 2.50 an hour.

I graduated High School at 17 in Dec. of 1969. I then Joined the Air Force Reserves, We were still fighting in Vietnam and I did not want to get drafted. In February of 1970 I went to basic training in San Antonio (my first plane ride). I returned in March.

Soon after I returned Dad got laid off from Lockheed, no more war planes needed. He was quiet upset and did not know what to do. He found a hardware store for sale in Cumming, but that was a lot of money. I suggested starting a Frame shop, I knew how to do it. Ewing was selling franchises for $5000, it included territory, 1 month of training and a truck full of frames. Dad sold our boat, talked me into buying his cool MGB and then with whatever else he had, bought a franchise. Ewing hand wrote a Contract listing Clarke and surrounding counties as dads.

We found an old abandoned Dry cleaners building at 553 Prince Ave. It probably had not been used since the fifties. The building was covered in ivy, the roof leaked, there were huge holes in the floor, and still had some old equipment inside. It would have been condemned by today’s standards. The flooring was wood with areas cut out for machinery.

The walls where brick covered in plaster, we had to use think concrete nails to hang pictures, and often times chunks of plaster would fall out. The ceiling was tall 12 to 14 feet with fixtures hanging down by chains. There was a huge sink in the back, I can’t remember if there was a bathroom at first we at least had to replace the toilet and ad a door.

There were no interior walls, and small windows around the top, with ivy coming through them. We raked out the leaves and trash, I think the owner hauled off the machines, we patched the floor with plywood, built tables out of 2×4’s, a glass rack , and a rack for mat paper. Painted the front of the building and the inside and scrapped years of crap off of the plate glass windows.

Back then we cut glass by laying it in the frame and hand cutting the two sides that hung over. In the early days mats were just heavy paper we cut by hand using a ruler, I did not know what a real mat was. We soon learned that the Athens client did not accept paper mats. At first I would make a “thick mat” by covering a piece of chipboard with double sided tape (we had 24″ wide rolls) and then sticking colored paper on it. Then using a brand new razor blade, hand cut to size, usually several passes in the same groove.

The frames were stacked on the floor about waist high, in standard sizes, Kmart type frames. We did not have moldings, in fact we barely had a hand saw with a miter box that we could use to crudely “cut down” a frame to fit. We soon found that was also unacceptable in Athens. We just kept changing to become a real frame shop.

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