Tuesday, January 3, 2012

James Albert "Al" Jackson, feed merchant, developer

One fascinating Columbus businessman was James Albert “Al” Jackson, a successful feed merchant in the day when Columbus citizens kept small flocks of chickens in their backyards. He and his business partner, James E. Williams, built and opened the Empress Theater at 768 East Long Street in the 1920s. The building contained other businesses; a soda grill, a dance hall called the Crystal Slipper and a barber shop.

Mr. Williams passed away in 1921, with his wife, Ruby, taking over his business interests and becoming the active partner to Mr. Jackson. When a theater owner on Mount Vernon insisted on keeping Black customers out, Mr. Jackson said that he’d fix them, “I’ll build a theater better than any one in the United States.”

When the Ogden (Lincoln) Theater opened in 1928, there was none like it in the country. The whole interior took you back to Egypt with marble pillars carved and painted to look like Egyptian antiques. The two inch scarlet carpeting was plush and enveloped your feet when you walked on it. The stage curtains were made of golf velvet.

The Club Lincoln was where Sammy Stewart’s Orchestra opened, Thansgiving, 1928 and little Sammy Davis, Junior was four years old when he made his first impromptu appearance onstage. Another building was soon built for professional people and named for Jackson’s wife, Teresa.

Between Garfield and Hamilton were constructed apartments know as the Jackson-Logan Apartments, with his new partner, John Logan. He opened the Ritz Poolroom, where you could buy Erlenbusch Ice Cream.

There was great success that happened to the feedstore owner because he gave a part of himself back to the Columbus community.

Anna Bishop

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