Backstory and Context
The Penny-Savings Bank, founded in the early 1900s, was Columbus’ first African-American bank. W.I. Mitchell served as the president of the bank from 1907 to 1913. In addition to the Penny-Savings Bank, there are several other significant historical facts about this location.
According to an 1873 Business Directory of downtown, the site was the location of Robert Gleed’s grocery store. Gleed was the originator of the “Eight of May” Emancipation Celebration in Columbus, the first African-American City Councilman, and the first African-American state senator from Lowndes County. At this site, on the eve of the 1875 state/county elections, local white Democrats shot and killed four African-Americans and wounded three others in an attempt to terrorize and intimidate the African-American majority, hoping they would not show up to vote at the next day’s election.
According to the 1873 Business Directory, Jack Rabb operated a grocery store and saloon next door to Gleed on this site.
From the late 19th century through today, this has been the meeting spot of several African-American Masonic and fraternal lodges. In 1914, there were eight African-American “secret societies” listed in the Polk City Directory and each of them met at 129 1/2 Market Street, presumably upstairs. Included in this number were four lodges of the Grand United Order Odd Fellows [Lodge nos. 2667 (met 1st & 3rd Mon.), 3850 (1st & 3rd Thurs.), 4162 (2nd & 4th Tues.), and 6098 (1st & 3rd Tues.) each met twice monthly], one lodge of the Knights of Pythias [no. 61, which met the 4th Thurs. of each month], and three Masonic lodges [Joppa lodge no. 15 (2nd Wed.), Joshua lodge no. 41 (2nd Fri.), and Evening Star lodge no. 10 (1st Fri.)]. The cornerstone of the current building indicates this historic aspect.
At one time this location also housed the New Light Printing Office. The New Light is believed to have been the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in Columbus (by Richard Denthrift Littlejohn).
Around the late 19th or early 20th century, this was also the location of Dr. Theodoric James’ first downtown office. Educated at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Dr. James is believed to have been the first African-American doctor in Columbus.
Corner of 2nd Avenue North and 5th Street North