In October 1913, William Lawrence Hill began moving merchandise into his new three-story building, the Hill Mercantile.
“He sold a lot of stuff, including John Deere wagons and buggies on the third floor,” said John Carter, whose family owns the 100-year-old building.
The store sold almost everything imaginable for the time: plows, pot-bellied stoves, caskets, fertilizer, dynamite, hardware, shoes and suits and even groceries, Carter said. A bank was started there a few years later, in 1917.
“We call it the original Sharon mall,” said Carter.
Carter, who operates the Sharon Nursery there, and his parents, John and Maggie Carter, who own the building, will honor its century of history Saturday with a birthday celebration.
They are inviting the community to visit the site of the Hill Mercantile in downtown Sharon for tours, music, storytelling, a quilt display and more. Carter has collected information about the history of the building and its original owner.
Carter said Hill, a savvy businessman for the time, who did well with a sixth grade education, owned a cotton gin across the street. At the time the store opened, he said, a telegraph system was set up there.
Hill, whose father was killed in the Civil War, was mentored by his grandfather, who left him a country store about 6 miles south of Sharon, on the Chester County line.
In 1889, Carter said, Hill packed up a wagon and relocated from the site of the country store, in a now-defunct community called Sandersville, to Sharon. “He loaded a wagon and walked north to Sharon,” Carter said.
“Back then, he didn’t have near the money, the prestige he had by the time he built the store,” Carter said. “He was just one of many struggling merchants who were trying to hit it rich.”
Hill opened up a business in a long clapboard building in Sharon, Carter said. He built the Hill Mercantile more than 20 years later.
“At the time Mr. Hill built that store was when you started getting the retail store,” Carter said. “You would have a variety of goods to attract more customers.”
Hill died in 1954, and his son, James Hill, continued to operate the store until 1972, when it was closed all the contents were sold. Times were changing and retail was more specialized, Carter said. Most people had cars so they could travel a distance to shop.
Carter said the Hill Mercantile building was purchased by two men who leased it. One of the tenants ran a feed and seed store, he said.
The tenant also sold chickens and ducks, which were penned up on the second floor. Two large hogs, named Mike and Ike, lived in a display window at the front of the store.
Carter said his father, who purchased the building in 1986, owned a hardware store up the street and wanted the adjoining property. He and his father spent years working on the building to improve it, he said.
Today it’s home to the Sharon Nursery and Historic Hill Mercantile, which sells antiques, hardware, gardens supply items and gifts.