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Renovating Hannibal, one building at a time

This sword-like emblem adorns a cast-iron structural beam recently uncovered at 2201 Broadway. Photo contributed by Brad Walden.


At the intersection of Hope and Market, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Edwin Shackelford Brown, born in 1904, Pike County, Mo., operated Brownie’s Service Station at 2000 Market.

It was a proud business and residential neighborhood. Virginia’s Beauty Shop, operated by Virginia Schuessler, was across the street at 1919 Market; Cornelius Pharmacy was nearby at 1928 Market; and the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church wasn’t far away, at 2119 Market.

Market Street, in the 1950s, served as the route for Business Highway 36 through Hannibal, and the gas station location was strategically situated for optimal service availability.

As traffic was re-routed toward Illinois along the new U.S. 36 pre-1960, Edwin S. Brown’s service station primarily catered to local customers.

And upon Brown’s death in 1979, the business climate of Market Street was forever altered.

Hannibal roots

Brad Walden, whose family has had business ties to Market Street since the 1940s, understands what small businesses mean to a neighborhood. That’s when his grandfather, Art Walden, opened Hannibal Paint and Body Shop, 2623 Market, and the company is still family-operated.

That’s why when the former Brownie’s Service Station property on Market Street became available for sale, Walden jumped at the investment opportunity.

In conjunction with his business, Walden Properties LLC, he purchased the old filling station property, and a few other abandoned houses in the neighborhood. Before he started on renovation, he had the houses torn down, added green space, and cleaned up the area.

 “It was a forgotten old building,” Walden said, and there “was a bunch of residual houses nearby.”

Abandoned property attracts rodents, he said, “and undesirables doing undesirable things. I took it back to grass. Cleaning up properties such as this “gets rid of a lot of activities. It doesn’t prevent, but it gets rid of the problems in the immediate area. It pushes that element back into hiding.”

Once he completes a project, he rents it out to ongoing businesses. The building at 2000 Market is now a U-Haul dealership.

He renovated this building as he does all the buildings he purchases.

“Usually with old buildings, I will completely gut them and save any architectural stuff. Completely down to studs. I replace roofs 100 percent.” Often people just patch the roofs over the years, he said, and that can cause a lot of structural damage. “I replumb, wiring, heating and cooling, like new construction.

“A lot of these places have structural issues. We do a lot of structure work; once we get done with remodel it will be good for another 100 years, easily.”

He contracts with local businesses to complete the work. His main contractor is J and D Construction, Dana Foiles and Delbert Humphrey.

Other contractors include:

Eric Wilson, main electrician;

John Hampton, main plumber;

Royal Fix, owner Aaron Fix;

Williams Concrete Construction, Doug Williams;

Lampton Electric, now owned by Travis Ferreira; and

Midwest Railroad, owned by Brian Boleach.

“I contract exclusively with these guys; they know how I want things, and we work very well together.”

Brad Walden’s business office is now located at 696 Grand Ave., the historic location of Gooch’s Food Market.

When he purchased that building, “the roof was collapsing, it was full of water. The renovation of this building has been received very well by the neighborhood. It made an excellent mark in the city.”

The first project he undertook was the old Market Street Fire Station at 1634 Market.

An early project was the former Oakwood Bank building at 3500 Market.

He contacted Ray Harvey about painting a flag mural on the side of this building. “I’m the first one who brought him to town; for a lot of my older historic buildings, murals bring out their history.”

In all, Walden has commissioned four full-size murals on his buildings: The fire station, the old bank in Oakwood; a car mural on the side of the building at 2000 Market, and mural of Gooch’s Market on the interior of 696 Grand.

200 N. Third

He encountered a unique situation when he purchased 200 N. Third St., the former home of the Hannibal Courier-Post. While the newspaper was purchased by the owners of the Quincy Herald Whig, the building was still owned by an out-of-town investor.

“It was a freaky situation,” he said. “It looked like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Pens were still on notepads; it was eerie to walk in the that place.

“They left a lot of stuff there; a lot personnel information, loads of financial information on a lot of companies. I had to properly dispose of all of that. It looked like they locked the door behind them and did not care what they left behind. It was too far out of their scope of interest. They didn’t care about the history.”

Historical documents, including photos, were donated to the Hannibal Free Public Library.

While he has made significant improvements on the building, it is still a “work in progress.” The building is now rented out as office space, Walden said.

Another interesting project with a rich history is 3522 Palmyra Road, or Route W. “My mom and dad remembered it as the Checkered Flag. I purchased it from Ronnie Parsons. It was in a lot of disrepair, and the location was not suitable for today’s businesses. It was not historic, because it had been added to over the years. We took the property and renovated it; now is three office fronts, used by an entrepreneur and small businesses.”

Walden is the son of Kenny and Emily Walden.

Route W “was the main highway coming in to Hannibal,” he said, the former route of U.S. 61.

A project that is now in development is Dr. Mear’s old Veterinary clinic building at 1921 Market. And Walden recently purchased the former Ava Goldworks building at 209 and 211 Center.

“People share all their memories of these old places,” Walden said. “An older generation comes up and says, ‘I remember coming here with my mom and dad,’ a lot of these places have great memories.

“They remember like it was yesterday, ‘I was there with my cousin or my brother,’ it brings out all these great memories for all these people. It just brings a smile (to my face) when they tell the stories. It really gives me a good feeling.”

The project that is currently gaining attention is the location of the former Huse Satellite store at 2201 Broadway. In 1911, Joseph Velie was the contractor for C.F. Armstrong’s new grocery store under construction, or being remodeled, at this location.

Baby boomers and beyond will remember the Lucke Maytag coin-operated laundry located on this busy corner, just a block to the east from the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Hannibal roots

Walden has always lived in Hannibal. “When I was born we lived on D street, then moved to Magnolia till I was 5. The rest of my life I lived on Janapas Trail, across from Wright’s Furniture.

As a Hannibal businessman, he said, “My philosophy is one building at a time. If I see a building basically forgotten, or abandoned by its owners, it meets my requirements. I ask the owners if they would like me to purchase the property.”

The vault, original to the Bank of Oakwood, 3500 Market, remains integral to the the building renovated by Walden Properties LLC. Photo contributed by Brad Walden.

The former home of Gooch’s Market, 696 Grand Ave., now serves as office space for businesses owned and operated by Brad Walden. Photo contributed by Brad Walden.

This is the building at 696 Grand Avenue, prior to renovation. Photo contributed by Brad Walden.

2000 Market Street, prior to renovation. Google maps photo.

2000 Market Street, after renovation. Photo contributed by Brad Walden.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014.


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