Jeff Harvey

The virtual tour of Athens homes circa 1969 via the notes by Ella Holroyd which were printed in the 1987 edition of the Mercer County Historical Society’s “History of Mercer County” finds us back on South State Street across from Athens School.

The first building we come to is the brick store building built by Jim Pennington. It also has living quarters on the second floor. Residents and/or owners of the building after him in included Mr. and Mrs. Charles Short, Frank Alvis, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Rogers, who later traded homes with Carl and Cleo Noble, who converted the entire building into apartments.

Jim Pennington also had the next home built for him by Jimmy Miller. It served as the post office for awhile. It later served as a home for his sister Edna Johnson who had the home raised to street level, then for Virginia Butler.

The next home was home to Dr. Thornton. It was and is built below street level. Captain Ford, the third principal of Concord Normal School, lived there with his family. Levi and Lou Martin with their family, then A.T. “Thump” and Gladys Coburn with their family later lived there.

Across from the Baptist Church is the Martin home built by Charles Martin for his family. He ran a taxi service to Princeton. His son, Dorsey, had a long career as a teacher, primarily at Athens Elementary School.

The current Athens Masonic Lodge was, according to Ella’s recollections, the third such building to house the Masons. The first building, which housed a subscription school she attended, is now part of the Clowny Hight home. The second was a frame building on the present site above a store. The current building is divided into a ground floor arranged for social functions and an upper floor for Masonic rites.

The original Athens Town Hall was next door. It housed the town’s fire wagon. It was torn down and is now a parking lot.

The current Athens Town Hall is the former White’s Store, built by Jesse Lee White. He combined the two-story frame home already there with the cinderblock building he built.

The frame building was reportedly built by R. Ed Thornton, who had a furniture store there. It later housed other businesses including the Bank of Athens before it moved across Unity Road. Brown Scott also had a grocery store there.

The upstairs of the building once housed the Athens telephone exchange. Notable operators included Mr. Reed, mother and daughter Lydia and Helen Caperton, Nannie Mastin and Peggy Kahle McGraw.

Mrs. Mastin served the longest tenure as an operator. During the period where the Army Air Corps trained at Concord, she was busy sending messages from the cadets to their families the first day they arrived.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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