Local history was unveiled during First Friday tour

Judy Jones and Robert Howard Jones, daughter and grandson of Margaret Howard, Darke County’s only female sheriff, point out some of the unique aspects of the former Darke County Jail, now the Commissioners Building.

GREENVILLE – Margaret Howard was the only female to serve as Sheriff in Darke County history. She lived above the former jail, now the Darke County Commissioners Building. She became the Jail Matron when her husband, Bob, was elected Sheriff in 1964. He served as Sheriff from 1965 until his unexpected death in March 1966. Margaret was sworn in as Sheriff in April and served until Jim Irwin was elected in 1968.

“My mother the sheriff,” said Judy Jones, smiling. She and her son, Robert Howard Jones, were on hand to talk to visitors to the Commissioners Building during Main Street Greenville’s First Friday Upper Floor Tour on May 2. Daughter and grandson said she was a special lady who had an impact on the life of many of the jail’s ‘residents.’

“There was one in particular who had been paid to drive a horse trailer. The job unknowingly involved him in a misdemeanor offense. He’d never been in trouble; he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Judy said. “Mrs. Howard saw the fright in his eyes and was good to him. He never forgot that. He came back for her funeral six years ago.”

Greenville Library Director John Vehre holds the shovel used for the groundbreaking of the library expansion project completed in 2007.

The Commissioners Building was one of five official stops on the First Friday tour, planned to celebrate Historic Preservation Month. “There are lots of people here,” said Amber Garrett, Executive Director of Main Street Greenville. “I’m very excited!” Each location had stories of its history which were handed out to visitors on arrival. Volunteers were running out of their history sheets before the evening was over.

Above Countryside Bike Shop, at 301 S. Broadway on the Circle, is the fabled ‘Masonic Building.” Originally built in 1855, the building only had two floors. Kipp Drug Store occupied the ground floor while the Home Telephone Office and Exchange was on the second. In 1907 third and fourth floors were added to be used by the Masonic Lodge. The Lodge was there until sometime in the 1960s.

According to a volunteer the Masonic Building is always the biggest visitor request with its tall vaulted ceilings, hanging chandeliers and wall sconces.

The building in which Studio One Hair Design is located, 620 S. Broadway, was built in 1891 and is listed on the U.S. Historic Registry. Prior to 1964 the building was a seed store. Hannah’s purchased the store in 1955 and stayed in that location before moving to 5411 S.R. 36 in 1964. Youman’s Company was a successful printing, labeling and signage company for many years.

The earliest information available on 438 S. Broadway, above Sweet Annie’s Cabin, was a harness shop in 1857. Over ensuing decades the building was the home of a number of grocery stores, including Vance’s Grocery. The second floor is occupied by Handshoe Photography and a collaboration of businesses by Gary Handshoe and his daughters. The third floor has not been renovated but may have been in use for a while by the Darke County Drama Society. Its walls are covered by graffiti, including the names of prominent judges and attorneys from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The building currently occupied by The Bistro Off Broadway at 117 E. 5th St., Ted Abney, proprietor, was built in 1905. It was used as Greenville’s first National Guard Armory and at one point housed Hobart Corporation and Whirlpool. According to Bill Booker, it was used as a ‘Rag Factory’ during WWI. It has been a furniture store, chicken hatchery, bowling alley, tractor dealership, opera house and prior to the Bistro it was Bumpers Bar, owned by Kenny Bolin.

The second floor apartment is impressive, a spacious area with four bedrooms, kitchen and a balcony mural painting by Amy Walls.

An unofficial tour of the Greenville Library was offered by Director John Vehre and Asst. Director Susi Halley. The library was built in 1903, then expanded and renovated in 2007 to occupy 20,500 sq. ft. When first built, the bottom floor housed the museum, which then moved to its current Garst location in 1947.

A spacious 4-bedroom apartment sits above the Bistro Off Broadway. This view shows the sitting area and a mural painted by Amy Walls.

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