W.L. Folkes Building serves up quite the history

Keeping History Alive
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 10:34 PM CDT
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Fred Scott is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the history of Panama City. He’s especially familiar with a 94-year-old building in downtown.

"It's one of the oldest buildings here," said Scott. "It was built in 1926."

Scott bought the building at 318 Harrison Avenue from its original owner W.L. Folkes who was a local Justice of the Peace.

“I knew Mr. Folkes and he gave me all of this material that I have with regards to the history of the building,” said Scott.

The building has served the community in a number of capacities.

“In 1931 it was the Jitney Jungle and in 1943 during World War II it was the Little Hotel where workers at the shipyard could stay for as little as $3 a night,” said Scott. “Over the years it’s been the Rex Drug Store, Crawford’s Beauty Shop a dentist office, a bridal shop and a flower shop. That’s when I purchased the building.”

And that’s when the building was actually the color green.

“We decided to restore the building as it was originally,” said Scott.

The city manager at the time gave Scott the go-ahead to get rid of the green to reveal the original brick underneath.

“We discovered it was two-toned brick,” said Scott. Yellow at the top for a decorative touch and red everywhere else.

“It’s indented between the cement but if you look at it very closely you can see that it was done by hand and it was done in sort of an artistic way,” said Scott.

Through the restoration and the information handed down through Mr. Folkes, Scott learned more about its history.

“During the Second World War there were no places for anybody to stay and the first and second floor were turned into places where you could rent by the day or by the shift you were on. One of the books I have happens to be the registration of the people that came and went,” said Scott.

These days the first floor is used for offices. The second floor is now renovated into a 2100 square foot apartment for Scott.

“The floors up there (the top floor) were tile,” said Scott. “We found out we could take that tile up and there are little narrow wooden floors up there, just beautiful. And there were only one or two loads of that lumber come to town and he got one.”

According to Scott, the sort of pie-shaped building was the first in the city to be wired for electricity.

"It runs the whole block. It travels from Harrison Avenue all the way back to Park Street," said Scott.

“That means during the time it was a hotel if you’re at the front of the building and you have to go to the bathroom you’ve got to walk a block to get to it,” said Scott.

There are now two bathrooms. And speaking of bathrooms.

“This old toilet is still there,” said Scott. “This is the original one. Can you imagine a toilet that old? That toilet is older than we are.”

Other than the toilet there have been a few upgrades. Walking through the apartment you can see the balance between modern and antique.

“In each corner, there used to be a lavatory where they could shave. But then they would go down to the central place to shower,” said Scott.

And they needed those showers because we all know those Panama City summers can sizzle.

The builders had that in mind too.

“There are 33 windows up here. The purpose of the windows was to serve as air Conditioning because there was none in the early days,” said Scott. “It was heated by pot-bellied stoves.”

There is a lot more we could tell you about this old building and Scott wants the history lesson to continue for generations.

“It’s the story of a building that we need to tell people that are growing up in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades,” said Scott.

Not too long ago Scott sold the building but still lives in the apartment. The stories of his life are just as interesting as the ones he tells about the building. Hopefully, we’ll get him to share those in the future.

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