Bliss Block

  • <p>The intersection of Court and Tennessee Streets c.1900</p>
  • <p>Sons of Robert L. Bliss c.1890, from left to right, Arthur Weir Bliss, Revered John Collins Bliss, and Robert Lewis Bliss, Jr.</p>
  • <p>News article describing the new building, January 14, 1893</p>
  • <p>A lithograph of East Tennessee Street, showing the first Bliss building on the corner</p>
  • <p>Court Street looking south and the early Bliss building</p>
  • <p>A sketch of the First National Bank at this location in 1889</p>
  • <p>Looking east on Tennessee Street, c.1900</p>
  • <p>Reproduction of an advertisement from a Florence newspaper, February 23, 1889</p>
  • <p>Prior to the FDIC, it was common for banks to publish annual statements in local newspapers to garner public trust</p>
  • <p>Intersection of Court and Tennessee Streets, c.1915</p>
  • <p>Notice the cotton exchange on the far left</p>
  • <p>The intersection of Court and Tennessee Streets, c.1920s</p>

Bliss Block

101 South Court Street

The “Bliss Block” was constructed circa 1880 and received its nickname from the Bliss family who built and occupied the buildings at this location. Various businesses occupied this building at different points throughout its history. It is perhaps best known for its unique and decorative architectural elements.

The Bliss Family and Early Businesses

When the building was first completed, Robert Lewis Bliss opened The Florence Apothecary and Drug Store where he most likely worked as a druggist. In 1889, the First National Bank of Florence moved into the first floor. Robert's son, Robert L. Bliss Jr., was president. The bank remained at this location until it relocated to another site in downtown Florence and was replaced by a bakery sometime around 1920. The National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Downtown Florence Historic District mentions that at some point before 1928 “the building was cut up into four individual stores by means of frame partitions” and remained the same until “the partitions were removed and the interior was used as space for a single enterprise, It's My Party."

  • <p>The First National Bank of Florence at their first location on South Court Street</p>


The Bliss Block is designed in the Italianate style, a popular style for commercial buildings at the turn of the twentieth century. It features elaborate pedimented window crowns atop tall, narrow windows on the second story and a bracketed cornice topped by a heavy, ornamental pediment along the roofline, all elements identifiers of the Italianate style.

Prefabricated Storefronts

A unique architectural feature of the Bliss Block building is its Mesker Brothers storefront. Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, Missouri, and the George L. Mesker Company of Evansville, Indiana, specialized in prefabricated ornamental sheet-metal facades and cast iron storefront components, which were ordered through catalogs and shipped by rail ready to install. Of the more than four thousand identified Mesker Brothers storefronts in the nation, there are at least fifty-six in the state of Alabama.

Today, Neese Realty, who completed a major historic rehabilitation of this property in 2000 in part using historic tax credit programs, owns the building.

For more information about historic rehabilitation tax credit programs available in Alabama, visit the links below.