Families have rich memories of historic Taylor’s Spring site
by Special to the Banner
Jul 28, 2013 | 1863 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Taylor's Spring
Roto Rooter technician Heath Center uses a special camera with LED lights to locate the head of Taylor’s Spring.
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Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of on Taylor’s Spring.

New facts continue to surface about the land that houses the city of Cleveland’s most historic source of water.

In June, the City Council delayed a vote to sell the site located at 283 1st St. N.W., next to Superior Cleaners. The historical significance of the building is due to a spring that exists underneath the structure.

The spring — nicknamed “Taylor’s Spring” — was the deciding factor in where the city of Cleveland was established in 1837 and was originally owned by Cleveland’s first settler, Andrew Taylor.

Taylor eventually left Cleveland forever after becoming the subject of a lawsuit with the federal government, but memories of Taylor’s Spring continue to surface.

Maxine Gannaway Hyde, a teacher at Bradley Central High School for 30 years until her retirement, said the property that contains the spring was a vacant lot when her grandfather, W.C. Gannaway, and father, Jewel F. Gannaway (W.C.’s son), bought the property around 1930 and built the store that housed Gannaway & Son Hardware.

The Gannaway family moved to Cleveland from Dayton in 1910 after the closing of Coker Steel, a major employer at the time. Also making the move to Cleveland in 1910 was Raleigh Abel, who hoped he could find better opportunities in the city that had been named after war hero Benjamin Cleveland.

Raleigh Abel and W.C. Gannaway had been business partners in Dayton but decided to split up when they arrived in Cleveland for reasons that are unknown.

Abel started what would become a popular hardware and furniture business on the town square.

W.C., a harness maker and tanner who dealt in leather goods, opened his first Cleveland business at an unknown location uptown in 1910.

The business was destroyed by fire in 1916 and Gannaway moved to Inman Street in the location that is now Capital Mark Bank.

A move came around 1930, when the Gannaway family bought the Taylor property on 1st Street, according to Hyde’s brother, Bob Gannaway, who graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1963.

“I have no idea why my father and grandfather chose that site,” said Bob, now 68 years old. “I think it is fascinating that so much history occurred on a piece of land that my family owned, but I never heard anything about it back then.”

Hyde, now 80 years old, recalled that, “My father told stories about the spring once supplying water to the whole city and said that a man named Andrew Taylor was involved, but that was it.”

Hyde said that before her family began construction on the site, they installed a culvert around the spring and ran a pipe from it to carry off the water.

“The basement was dry at that time,” she said. “We stored tools, lumber, and other things down there.”

Gannaway said that in 1952, the family began using the Taylor spring to create air-conditioning in the store. W. C. got the idea after Miller’s department store became the first business in Cleveland to offer real air conditioning, which was very expensive at the time.

The family did not have the money for a real air conditioner, so W.C. pumped water up from the spring using a shallow well pump. The water was then pumped through two welded-together car radiators and drained back into the spring to get the radiators cold.

“My grandfather had a 30-inch fan that blew through the two radiators and sent cold air all through the store,” said Gannaway. “He thought it lowered the temperature by about 10 degrees.”

The air conditioning made the Gannaway store the second business in Cleveland to offer the chilled air, which the family thought would help them compete with other hardware stores like Stamper’s and Abel’s.

“The air conditioning was a big hit with the customers and it was all because of the Taylor’s Spring,” said Bob Gannaway. “We also used the coil of copper tubing that was attached to the city water supply in another way. The family put the coil in the spring and then the water was piped up to the store’s water fountain. This caused the water in the fountain to be the same temperature of the spring water!”

W.C. Gannaway died in 1961.

When Jewel Gannaway lost his leg in 1971, his son Bob moved from Massachusetts and ran the store for two years. The store also began using real air-conditioning in 1971.

Jewel Gannaway died in 1972.

The family eventually closed the store on Nov. 27, 1973, and sold part of the building to Superior Cleaners. Attorney Jim Webb purchased the other part.

The family has since moved on, but the Gannaway legacy is not forgotten. A special video featuring rare photographs of the Gannaway Hardware store in its heyday has been uploaded to YouTube and can be found by searching “Gannaway Hardware Cleveland Tennessee.”

Gannaway also has a 100-pound Champion harness stitcher that his grandfather purchased in 1910 from the Champion Shoe Machine Company in St. Louis.

Hyde said her family has remained close with Jim Webb, although Webb no longer owns the building and has retired from his legal practice.

Webb, who served as county attorney for 25 years, donated the building to the city in December 2011. He hoped the building would serve as a new office for the city attorney but the city never found a use for it.

“I bought the building in 1973 for practical reasons, but also because I had family ties to the property,” said Webb, now 81. “My great-great-grandfather Ira Webb lived near the land in 1835.”

Webb said that when acquired the building, the copper coils left behind by the Gannaway family were still in the spring.

Now in 2013, the Cleveland City Council must decide whether to sell the property or to use it for historical purposes. Webb said he would like to see the area made into a community park.

“We have a statue of Col. Benjamin Cleveland, the city’s namesake,” said Webb. “Since Col. Cleveland is important enough for a statue, then surely Andrew Taylor is also worthy of a park, so that people can see where history took place.”

Webb said he has not been back to the building since the day he moved out, but would gladly return for a community celebration.

“This is as good as history gets — we could have a great park there,” said Webb.