Stafford Block/ East Mobile Street

  • <p>1894 adverstisement for a business on the Stafford Block</p>
  • <p>Looking down East Mobile from Seminary Street in the 1930s</p>
  • <p>Sterchi Brothers Furniture storefront display showcasing WWII servicemen, c.1940s</p>
  • <p>Florence Shoe Shop advertisement, 1954</p>
  • <p>1959 advertisement for Grogan and Son Jewelers, located at the corner of East Mobile and North Court Streets</p>
  • <p>Corner Hat Shop advertisement, 1959</p>
  • <p>Newspaper advertisement for Halter's Shoe Shop, 1961</p>
  • <p>Inside Grogan and Son Jewelers, 1962</p>
  • <p>Inside the Florence Shoe Shop, 1966</p>

Stafford Block

106-114 East Mobile Street

Known around the turn of the 20th century as the “Stafford Block,” this collection of red brick buildings has changed hands many times over its history. Most notably, the Stafford Block was once home to a number of African American owned businesses in the downtown commercial core.

An Early African American Business District

In 1890, formerly enslaved George Washington Seawright (1848-1931) operated a boot and shoe shop in this block, and Abraham Streiter (1840-1893) owned and operated a restaurant for African Americans next door. A fire in December 1891 destroyed these buildings and forced the relocation of Seawright and Streiter’s businesses. Seawright relocated to the other side of Court Street on West Mobile Street.

After the fire, a row of red brick buildings were again constructed at this location, and most were similarly occupied by African American owned businesses until the 1920s. Jacob Wytch (1848-1927), a native of North Carolina, ran a grocery store on the western end of this block. Wytch was a trustee of St. Paul’s AME Church and the Colored Free School in Florence. He also served as Worshipful Master at Centennial Lodge No. 19, Colored Masons. Albert Pierson ran a barber shop and William Poe a restaurant for African Americans.

By 1920, as legalized racial segregation took hold throughout the Southeast in the form of Jim Crow, most African American businesses moved outside the downtown commercial core, and by 1926, Halter’s Shoe Shop, operated by William J. Halter, was at 108 E. Mobile Street. The City Directory from 1935 lists the Florence Shoe Shop, Halter’s Shoe Shop, a real estate office, Grogan and Sons Jewelers, Holley and Roden Barbers, and the Anderson News Company in the Stafford Block at this time.

Today, several businesses make up the Stafford Block, including popular restaurant and local watering hole The Chicago Cafe and Wildwood Tavern.