Late '60s photo shows changes in downtown Sumter


Reflections looks back at Main Street Sumter in the late '60s, showing the magnitude of the changes that have taken place in the last five decades of our city's history. Note that some buildings remain, while others are gone or drastically changed. Twenty sites are identified along with the businesses or facilities that occupy them, and some readers should be able to identify several others.

1. Beginning at the bottom of the page, the No. 1 locates the First Presbyterian Church before it was renovated and added 20 feet to its expanse.

2. No. 2 indicates residence Bill’s Esso, the scene of many pleasant childhood memories for the author; Tony’s Pizza occupies this busy corner.

3. Directly across from Tony’s sits The Church of the Holy Comforter.

4. The church faces the 4th site, then occupied by First Federal Savings and Loan; now this site is home of the BB&T Bank.

5. No. 5 represents The National Bank of South Carolina, which has since moved to the corner of Warren and Broad streets; the building has become a part of Holy Comforter.

6. Formally The Hurst Furniture Co., No. 6, occupied the building located on the corner of Canal and North Main streets and was later removed to make space for the Tuomey emergency room parking lot.

7. No. 7 indicates the remnants of Ray Fowler’s Pure Service Station, which opened in 1954.

8. No. 8 represents the Sumter County Courthouse, which opened in 1907.

9. No. 9 marks the location of the Mayflower Restaurant, which was owned and operated by Gus Cricos and Chris Coutras and opened in November of 1951.

10. No. 10 denotes the Agricultural Building, which was a Sumter and WPA project; it was extended in 1939 and demolished in 1978.

11. Continuing South on Main Street, we arrive at No. 11, a building on the corner of Law Range and North Main. This building was once occupied by The Manhattan Restaurant owned by Chris Chokas and later became the C&W Cafeteria. The building eventually became the property of Naomi and Warner until this enterprise moved to a new location.

12. No. 12 represents what was initially the site of Montgomery-Ward, followed by a number of businesses; currently the property of Thompson Industrial Services.

13. No. 13 was and remains the site of Alderman Drug Store.

14. No. 14 is one of the most recognizable sites in the city, the Sumter Opera House.

15. No. 15 represented Sumter’s first skyscraper commonly known as the Dixie-Life Building which was removed in 1973-74.

16. No. 16 represents another Sumter landmark, the McLellan’s 5-10 Store, which opened circa 1917 and remained on Main until it was occupied by Standard Music Co.

17. No. 17 denotes what was once referred to as Convenience Corner dedicated in 1949 by Mrs. W.E. Bynum, the wife of Mayor Bynum. The corner of West Liberty and South Sumter streets served an A&P grocery store and a Sno-White Cleaners.

18. No. 18 represents the three-story Allston Building, which once housed Efirds Department store and is currently occupied by Kimbrells Furniture Store.

19. No. 19 once housed the Western Auto Family Store; recently restored, the structure is now occupied by Central Carolina Technical College.

20. Finally, No. 20 rests at the foot of the John Bossard Britton Bridge, which connected South Main Street with Manning Avenue, eliminating the necessity for autos to cross several busy railroad tracks. The bridge opened in 1940 with a ceremony that included a parade and guest speakers.

The aerial photo and data for this article were taken from The Sumter Item archives. Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at or (803) 774-1294.