Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Thursday morning, Mayor Toby Barker was joined by Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, Hattiesburg Convention Commission Executive Director Rick Taylor and Mobile-Bouie Neighborhood Association President Melvin Williams to announce the purchase and renovation plans for the Smith Drug Co. building located at 608 Mobile Street.
Owned and maintained by Belinda and Harvel Harris over the years, the Smith Drug Co. will be purchased by the City of Hattiesburg for $20,000 with approval from the Hattiesburg City Council on January 21. Additionally, it will enter into an agreement with the Hattiesburg Convention Commission for the management, operation and program development of the facility.
The Smith Drug Co. was a mainstay along Mobile Street in the 50s and 60s. Owned by Dr. Herman Smith, it was often a popular stop for school children to get an ice cream cone on their walks home from Eureka School.
“With lots of stories within its walls and a proud neighborhood as its backdrop, we believe that a building such as this with a rich history deserves an equally bright future,” said Barker. “Along with the Convention Commission, we are certain that this building has an opportunity to capitalize on the development of the E 6th Street Museum District as well as bring people and commercial activity back to Mobile Street.”
In addition to being a pharmacy, Smith Drug Co. was often regarded as a prominent role player in educating African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. It was also used as a place to fellowship with neighbors, get a cold drink from the soda fountain and much, much more.
Delgado added, “This Smith family was not only active in the medical field, but also in the area of education – educating many, many children [during their days of business]. Smith Drug Co. is still standing on Mobile Street, and it is going to stand in its original grandeur soon.”
The Hattiesburg Convention Commission plans to renovate the building for the purpose of preserving history as a museum site. As a focal feature, a soda fountain will be installed to allow the younger generations to be a part of the Smith Drug Co.’s storied history.
The building will also be used for events such as the Mobile Street Renaissance Festival and will be available to the community of Hattiesburg as an event space. Upon completion, the historic Smith Drug Co. will become part of the 6th Street Museum District.
Renovations are expected to be completed by Fall 2020.