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Column: Remembering longtime Hall County businesses
Johnny Vardeman

Palmour Hardware, the venerable business that operated just off Gainesville’s downtown square for decades, came into being in November 1900.

It succeeded another longtime hardware business, S.W. Davidson and Co., and the store apparently had been operating since about 1885. At the time, the business was on the southeast corner of the square.

Hayne Palmour was the manager of the new store, and Dan Palmour worked as its traveling salesperson. In 1902, it was said to be on the west side of the square, the block in which Sweet Magnolias and the former Saul’s store resided.

In November 1911, Paulmour Hardware was destroyed by fire. First National Bank, which was in that block on Main Street on the square, also was heavily damaged, along with Charles Castleberry’s, located next door to Palmour’s and Jake Sacks. 

At the time, it was described as one of the worst fires in Gainesville’s history. Most of downtown Gainesville had been destroyed in a fire in 1851. In the 1911 fire, other businesses were damaged, and others were threatened, including the Arlington Hotel a block away.

Explosions apparently from gunpowder and cartridges in Palmour’s and Castleberry’s stores were said to have accelerated the fire’s rapid spread.

In the 1913-14 city directory, Palmour’s was listed on South Bradford Street, but apparently moved to the corner of Main and Broad where it remained until it went out of business. Mary Palmour with Warren Castle had operated the hardware store its last few years.

The eagles guarding the entrance to Eagle Ranch in Hall County were donated by the late Warren Castle, who with Mary Palmour, operated Palmour Hardware in Gainesville for many years. Castle was a collector of all things, and the columns he salvaged from the old First Baptist Church in downtown Gainesville stand in the North Georgia mountains. Photo courtesy Eagle Ranch

Iron Works

The familiar name, Gainesville Iron Works, still exists, but in Gainesville, Florida. Gainesville Iron Works in Gainesville, Georgia, was established around 1887. It was considered the oldest local business operating at its same location on South Main Street. 

The business provided 125 tons of steel for the construction of Gainesville Mill. The 1903 tornado heavily damaged the mill, but its building still stands on Moreno Street in the Gainesville Mill village. Gainesville Iron Works steel also remains in several downtown buildings.

R.I. Mealor founded the company, reorganizing it from a previous metals business. His son, W.G. Mealor, took it over in 1916, and W.T. Mealor succeeded him in the mid-1950s. W.G. Mealor served as Gainesville mayor for a time.

Mildred Mealor, granddaughter of the founder, presided over Gainesville Iron Works with her brother, W.T. Mealor, until 1961 when R.H. Thompson and V.C. Puckett purchased it. Thompson had been with the company for more than three decades.

Over the years, it has become the go-to industry for all kinds of metal work. The 1903 tornado that struck Gainesville Mill, the railroad depot and other businesses on the city’s southside, destroyed the Iron Works building. It was rebuilt in the same location. A fire in 1958 caused another rebuilding of the facility.

The company has changed hands several times over the last few years and now operates under Metals USA in Oakwood.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; email, or His column publishes weekly.

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