H. Kress & Co. better known as a “five and dime” retail department store was established by Samuel Henry Kress in 1896. Until 1981, the were hundreds of stores on “Main Street” in cities and towns across the United States, with their ornament architecture.
Opening first as a stationery and notions store in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania in 1887. In the 1920s and 1930s, Kress had a house label of phonograph records under the Romeo trademark. Mr. Kress passed away in 1955.
Known for its exclusion of African Americans from its lunch counters made the five and dime stores a target for civil rights protest, with counter sit-ins in 1960. Eventually, Kress agreed to integrate the downtown store in Nashville, Tennessee to end a consumer boycott.
The Tampa S. H. Kress and Co. Building was built in 1928 and was added to the U. S. National Register of Historical Places on April 7, 1983. Located at 811 N. Franklin Street with a second front on Florida Avenue. The architect, G. E. Mackey designed the four-story building in the Renaissance Revival architectural style. Mr. Kress envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape.
Consisting of bronze marquees, a coat of arms, extensive use of terra-cotta ornamentation on both facades is not only a pretty face. The building has a fire-proofed skeleton with concrete floors poured in place. During the Great Depression, it was one of the last major commercial structures built in Tampa.
Located between a Woolworth and a former J. J. Newberry, the buildings have been vacant for more than a decade. In 2006, the Doran Jason Group had plans to demolish two of the buildings and replace them with a “massive” condo development, which was ultimately held off. While they would have saved The Kress building using it as a lobby with office and retail space, both the Newberry and Woolworth stores would have been destroyed.
Like the “five and dime” Kress stores, both the Newberry and Woolworth stores have a place in Florida history. The Newberry store was founded in 1911, and like the Kress stores, was known for its architecture. In the 1960s, like the Kress stores, the Woolworth store also had lunch-counter sit-ins held by civil rights activists.
Out of his roughly 400 stores, the Tampa S. H. Kress stores remain one of the many with sheets of plywood now surrounding the ground floor. Only 25 buildings throughout the country have been restored and remain open today.