Madison 513

513 Madison

Bill Pearson and I were two chastened young men, when in 1956 we moved into this building at 513 Madison Avenue to make our second try at starting an architectural practice. We rented a single room at the very back of the neigh vacant upper floor and set out on a 50-year journey that became PH&J Architects. This structure had been built five years before by mogul Leroy Ussery as the headquarters of his Guarantee Savings Life Insurance Company. The company quickly outgrew the space and Ussery moved it to the Shepard Building on Montgomery Street (recently demolished). Poor 513 Madison was left semi-vacant and sad, but PH&J had its offices here for almost a decade.

Up on the second floor, besides PH&J, were the offices of Mid-South Life, a defunct subsidiary of Guarantee Savings, where a go-getter/dreamer type named Ray Scott was a salesman. Ray, Bill and I would often go for morning coffee next door at Danny’s Diner, during which I would scoff at Ray’s preposterous dreams of starting a fishing club. “Get real”, I would say. How was I to know that 15 years later he really would start one, and call it Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society? My friend Helen S knew.

The State Forestry Commission moved into the building circa 1975, subsequently bought the property, and covered the brick, aluminum and glass front with wood shingles, field stone and boards, so as to give it a forest glade look. The boards on the left end covered over the once glass front of Remington Rand Business Machines, the IBM of its day. The boards on the right end cover the former show windows of Dixie Home Supply, where in 1963 a tragic fire took the life of its seamstress. PH&J moved out soon after that, as fast as we could get our new building up on South Lawrence. But lots of memories live here despite the boards.

-Charles Humphries

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