Dave Chatterton, General Manager of St Augustine’s Oldest Store Museum Experience, operated by Historic Tours of America, invited Historic City News along to visit a past era of retailing in America’s Oldest City, at its current location on San Marco Avenue.
Historic City News editor Michael Gold, who remembers trips to Artillery Lane to tour the authentic collection of paraphernalia from the E. F. Hamblen dry goods store, built in 1875, spent the next hour, camera in hand, reliving the entertainment of a boy growing up in St Augustine.
The museum, curated by Fred Green, was located in a building that served as one of Hamblen’s warehouses. His brother, Bill, continued to operate Hamblen Hardware Store on King Street, which under its last owners, closed a year ago.
Historic Tours of America acquired the Hamblen collection after Fred closed the museum, but, Chatterton explained, the company really didn’t have a location suitable to display all of the items — in fact, there are still many items in storage that are rotated into the existing exhibition.
An extensive collection of tack, from the livery and blacksmith shop of the original store, adorns the walls — gone is the blacksmith who once made each visitor a ring out of a horseshoe nail. He would fire the nail, hammer it into shape, stamp your initial into the head with a mallet, and then drop it into a barrel of cold water before presenting it to its new owner.
During Hamblen’s day, his store supplied the large needs of developers, like Henry Flagler, as well as the day-to-day needs of residents like Dr. Andrew Anderson, Jr. The dry goods business, America’s first general stores, carried everything from penny candy to men’s collars, high-top shoes to turn-of-the-century appliances, like egg beaters, coffee bean grinders or a goat powered washing machine.
Guided and self-guided tours are conducted daily. They feature a snake oil salesman, butcher, and a storekeeper who tends to over 100,000 items from the original store.
Visit http://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine/rates-and-reservations.asp for all the details.
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News staff photographer