This is a single-story brick building, standing at a historically major street corner in Powhatan. It has a simple three-bay front with segmented-arch openings for windows and a central door. It was built in the 1880s, and is the only surviving commercial building of historic Powhatan. It first served as home to the city's first telephone exchange; later uses included a doctor's office, general store, post office, and private residence.
From Settlement of Lawrence County by Ken Story, Mary Ann Anderson
First Street, which is now paved and runs parallel to the Black River, begins at Lindsay Street near Ficklin Ferry and curves back to the riverbank at Matthews Street where it terminates. It was the earliest site of commerce in Powhatan. Main Street, which runs perpendicular to First Street, linked the commercial
district to the civic district (courthouse and jail).
The Telephone Exchange Building, located on the corner of First and Main Streets, is the oldest extant commercial building in the town. This Victorian Panel Brick structure, which mimics the courthouse on a smaller scale, sits distinctively in the bottoms. The earliest home of record, the Andrew Balfour house (not extant), stood at the corner of First and Main Streets, where the Telephone Exchange Building has stood since 1887. Andrew Balfour, original owner of the land on which the Telephone Exchange Building now sits, was among the first recruits of the Confederate Army in the spring of 1861 and became an officer
(Goodspeed, p. 767). Following the war, he was a prominent physician in Powhatan, and it was at the site of his home that the 1887 session of the county court was conducted following the 1885 burning of the original Powhatan Courthouse, which was built in 1873. Balfour owned the site as late as 1880. Tax records reveal that the site had a value of $75 that year. In 1885, the property was deeded by the Balfour Estate to C.H. and Max Coffin and had a value of $50. The tax records in Walnut Ridge prove that in 1887, taxes on Lot 6, Block 3 jumped to $400 (Lawrence Co. Real Estate Tax Book, p. 160), probably because this new building was constructed in the middle of the Powhatan commercial district. It was constructed of the same materials and during the same period of time as the new courthouse was built. This building had multiple uses over time. It was used as an apothecary by Charles A. Bellsnyder, who dispensed medications for the ailing. He was followed by Joseph Martin of the same profession. It was owned in later years by an F.G. Martin, who
sold it to his sons, I.W. and I.A. Martin, who used it to house the offices of their prosperous wagon factory.
Walter McLeod claimed the building was used for the central office of the first telephone line in Lawrence County, which established communication between Walnut Ridge, Powhatan, and Smithville. The telephone system and the building were purchased by a George W. Anderson, who extended services to most of the towns in Lawrence County. In 1900 he sold the system and the building to E.J. Mason, William DeArmon, and F.W. Tucker. The building was damaged by hail in 1902, and its use as a telephone exchange building ended.
In later years it was used as the office of an attorney, L.B. Poindexter. When Mr. Poindexter sold the building to Sanders J. Zimmerman, it became a general merchandise building. In 1920, it was purchased by Luther and Ida Belle Flippo, who retained the general merchandise business in the front of the building and opened a federal post office in the back. When the post office was relocated to a metal building on the grounds of the courthouse in 1930, the Telephone Exchange Building became a private residence until 1977.
Timeline of Ownership
The block and lot that this building was constructed on changed hands many times from 1847 until the buildings construction. It is thought the building was constructed around 1887. If so, the lot was part of Andrew Balfour's Estate.
- 1886, May 3: Andrew Balfour's Estate sells the land to Robert Mack
- 1886, June 14: Robert and Mollie Mack sell to Maxwell Coffin
- 1896, April 29: Maxwell Coffin sells to James Harmon Poe.
- 1896, November 16: James and Mildred Poe sell to William T. McCarroll
- 1897, March 29: William and Susan McCarroll sell to Frank C. Stuart
- 1900, March 26: Frank C. Stuart sells to L.B. Poindexter
- 1912, February 7: L.B. Poindexter sells to H.S. Williams
- 1918, December 21: Estate of H.S. Williams sells to S.J. Zimmerman
- 1920, January 29: Zimmerman sells toe R.L. and Ida Bell Flippo
- 1945, November 27: Flippos sell to Croom. Building becomes private residence.