We have all seen the scaffolding around Franklin for the past several years as lovely old buildings in the town’s center are restored and enriched. These buildings have wonderful stories attached to them.
One building on Monroe Street holds the story of a Franklin family, the Alexanders. Jarvis “Jarve” Alexander opened a livery stable downtown in 1907, which later was transformed into a Studebaker agency. The Alexanders also owned Alexander Ice and Coal Plant on East Monroe St. That building is still in use.
Now, the Alexander Livery Stables and Buggy Shop is being restored and transformed into a state of the art biotech laboratory.
Would Jarve Alexander pull at his suspenders and scratch his jaw in wonder at the current changes coming to his 1907 building at 97 East Monroe Street? He certainly would approve of the attention to detail and the care that is being taken to restore his building. Jarvis was not a man to say no to progress. Alexander’s is being readied for a new tenant, making the transition from horse and buggy to biotech.
In 1906, Jarve Alexander purchased two corner lots at Monroe and Water Streets in Franklin. The following year, he built a three-story livery stable, which had a four-room apartment upstairs and a ramp leading down to horse stables in the basement. A livery stable provided vital transportation and was a necessary institution in every American town. Today, we park our cars in a long-term parking lot when leaving on a trip. Livery stables provided a service where a horse and buggy would be cared for when the owner left out of town. The Alexander Livery owned a nine passenger seated wagon, which was used to pick up interurban car or train passengers. The passenger wagon would bring people back to the livery stable, where their horse and buggies would be hitched for the trip back home.
In addition to providing for horse and buggies, Alexander’s offered buggies to be lent out. The livery stable kept a white and black horse drawn hearse for use by the local undertakers. A large part of the livery was to rent out horses and buggies, carriages and surreys. Franklin College students were good customers of the buggies, which were used for moonlight rides with their girls. Around 1916, the livery business began to fade.
When the automobile replaced the need for a livery stable, Jarve started a Studebaker agency in the livery building after WWI. A decision was made in 1923, to change to a Chevrolet dealership. Alexander Chevrolet continued on Monroe Street until 1965, when it moved to US31. The dealership is now known as Bradley Chevrolet.
Franklin Printing Company used the building successfully for many years, but recently the building has been vacant. The City of Franklin is now partnering with B2S Labs and Franklin College to bring a biotechnology accelerator to this space. The company tailors pharmaceutical drugs to meet the needs of individual patients or illnesses. Franklin College students will benefit from this local learning opportunity and these mentors in biochemistry. The renovations to the livery building are being made with the help of grants and low interest loans to update the building and facade.
A heartwarming tale of this Franklin family is found in “Early Memories of Downtown Franklin” written by Jarve’s grandson, Jarvis Alexander. Many more stories just like this one can be found in the Historical Room of the Johnson County Public Library.
Pam is the assistant to both the Historical Room and Marketing and Communications Department. She believes history connects the past and the present to give us a feeling of being at home. There are places and activities right here in Johnson County that help us to step back in time for relaxed, off the grid adventures.
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