An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Many members of the Mann-Simons family were involved in various business endeavors throughout their ownership and use of this property. Evidence of that entrepreneurial spirit was uncovered through archaeology performed at the northeast corner of Richland and Marion streets. Here, at 1401 Richland Street, Agnes Jackson’s son, John L. Simons (b. 1859), opened a small lunch counter in 1891.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company’s 1904 map (right) depicts the family’s property when it featured the buildings represented today through ghost structures. The area outlined in red remained in family ownership and use from 1843 until 1970.

His 14 x 14-foot structure burned eighteen years later in 1909. Its destruction left behind extensive archaeological evidence that tells a story of fast food, urbanization and consumerism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Thanks to the discovery of a large, very well preserved trash pit, the lunch counter’s day-to-day operations can be told in extraordinary detail. Through the things left behind we now have a better idea as to what 100-year-old fast food looked like and the material culture of the era, as well as a glimpse into the world of Jim Crow segregation in the American South.

For a more thorough exploration of this topic, click here.

Unless otherwise noted, all images are from the Historic Columbia Foundation Collection.