December 1963 Fire

On a late Monday afternoon, December 2, 1963, a fire broke out in the Barbecue Hut, owned by Richelieu Cobb on 1207 Washington St. The fire spread rapidly north and engulfed another established business, Sparks' Gift & Hardware owned by Merlin Sparks, just north. Firefighters from Commerce and neighboring towns arrived on time to contain the fire to these two buildings. By 6:20 pm, the fire had spread onto the roof which caused one firefighter to be overwhelmed with the smoke. He was given artificial respiration and rushed to the hospital. The fire destroyed the two business and damaged the JC Penney store located south of the Barbecue Hut. The estimated damage was at least $60,000. This fire was not the only fire that Commerce faced in 1963. Earlier in the year, in mid-April, a fire destroyed five businesses and three buildings on Main Street. A total of nine businesses went up in smoke in the town in one year.

Three months later Gene and C. M. Sparks began rebuilding the storefront. The new building was L-shaped, with a frontage on both Washington and Bonham streets. Ward’s Pharmacy moved into the building in 1964 and remained open for decades. Dr. Eric G. Russell opened Beacon Chiropractic in 2003 and continues to operate out of the storefront.

In the years before the fire, this was the location of Dodd Hardware Co. (1940-1953). When they moved to Greenville, the neighboring Sparks Grocery took over the operation, incorporating into Sparks Hardware and Grocery (1953-1963). Earlier uses include Sheely Funeral Home, P.W. Maloney Motor Co. (1926), and the Rutland-Maloney Co. store, which was established in 1891. They carried dry goods, groceries, hardware, and farm implements.

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1205 Washington St. Commerce, Texas 75428