Beautiful things can be created in an ugly building. Mr. Isaac Crouch, Sr. proved it in 1860 when he erected a rough, two-story, wooden structure at the northeast corner of Tennessee and Louisiana Streets on McKinney’s square. At the time, the Collin County courthouse was also a two-story wooden building. From its crude factory and woodshop, Crouch Furniture built a solid reputation for producing attractive, quality furniture. Over the next decade, even in an economy crippled by war, Mr. Crouch’s business continued to grow.
When the Civil War ended, soldiers returned home to start new families, while other families who had been displaced by the fighting moved west, looking for a new start. They turned McKinney into a thriving economic hub, and by the early 1870’s, Mr. Crouch needed more space. The business moved to a new, larger building on the south side of the square. In addition to the workshops upstairs, it included a showroom and retail space on the ground floor. That structure burned and was replaced in 1926 with the building that today houses Orisons Art and Framing.
Mr. Crouch kept the building on Tennessee Street as an investment property, but not much is known about the businesses operating there in the early 1870’s. By the 1880’s, the former furniture shop housed a saloon. An article in the Daily Courier Gazette indicates it was the Rambo Saloon. In all likelihood, it included a brothel operated in the upstairs rooms.
According to McKinney lore, Jesse James hosted a poker game every Saturday night at the saloon when he was in town. In order to avoid unwanted attention, he cut a hole in the ceiling and moved a table and chairs up to the attic. It’s hard to imagine anyone disturbing Jesse James’s poker game, but the privacy would have allowed the cards to be dealt as long as someone was there to play a hand.
By the early 1890’s, the Rambo had either closed or moved, and a local entrepreneur named Charley Battle had plans to open a grocery store in its place. Rough and unfinished when it was new, the old wooden building was unsuitable for a respectable business, especially one involving food. In 1892, Mr. Crouch had the structure dismantled and constructed the current brick-and-mortar building in its place.
According to The Celt’s staff, bricks from the original factory, probably the foundation and chimneys, were used in the new building. Those original bricks are still visible inside. The patterns are varied and uneven, possibly because of the differences between the new and recycled masonry.
Mr. Battle moved his grocery business from the sidewalk into the new building on Tennessee Street, and never looked back. He went on to become one of McKinney’s most successful citizens. According to a story in the McKinney Examiner quoted by Mr. Bill Haynes in the McKinney News, Mr. Battle began his career…
“…selling apples off a barrel head at ‘2 for a nickel’ in front of the building now (1930’s) occupied by the North Side Drug Store (Munzee Marketplace today). [He] bought the prettiest and best apples and would polish them until they shined like balls of fire. Everybody liked the energetic, wide awake boy and loved to buy his apples. But Charlie didn’t intend to sell apples off a barrel any longer than he could do better. In a few years he established himself in the most up-to-the-minute store (for those days) in our city. It was in the building where the Sanitary Grocery owned by Giles McKinney is now (1930’s). In a few years he was at the head of the Carter-Battle Wholesale Grocery business in Fort Worth, made a fortune and then move to Vancouver, B.C., entering the wholesale lumber and timber business. His firm ships lumber to all parts of the world. He gave us a big ad contract for our paper, when we issued its first edition in 1886.”
Within a year, according to the Weekly Democrat-Gazette, Mr. Battle had sold the business to Mr. A.J. Krause. It was then passed through a series of owners over the next three decades. The building finished its time as a food store at the end of 1931 when the Sanitary Grocery closed its doors for the last time. Coffey’s Drug opened for business in January of 1932, and it occupied the first floor of the building for more than thirty years. During that time, upstairs tenants included milliners, doctors, and attorneys.
Coffey’s Drug closed in the late 1960’s, and by 1970 the food business returned to 100 N. Tennessee Street with the opening of the Golden Ox. For most of the decade, it was a popular steakhouse. Kam’s Chinese Restaurant replaced it near the start of the 1980’s. Glady and John Rowan, a local couple who moved to McKinney at about the same time, considered Kam and her staff part of their family. They ate at the restaurant at least weekly until it closed soon after Kam’s death in the 1990’s. Both the Rowans, as well as countless others, still insist Kam consistently served the best Chinese food they’ve ever eaten.
The start of a new century – the building’s third – brought big changes. Kam’s Eastern fare was replaced with an English menu and drink selections when The Londoner moved in. It was a popular spot in McKinney and saw the beginning of the square’s rehabilitation. When the restaurant and bar became Churchill’s, few changes were made in the decor since the English theme was carried on. Stan Penn took over the business in May, 2014 and changed the pub’s nationality from English to Irish. He re-named the restaurant The Celt.
Today, The Celt is one of McKinney’s most popular spots, drawing crowds from around the Metroplex. In addition to a full menu (heavily Irish), they feature the largest selection of Irish whiskies in Texas, and possibly in the entire South, with more than fifty choices. Different bands, many of them Irish, provide live music each weekend. The atmosphere is lively and the crowds are happy.
For more than one hundred twenty years, the building at 100 N. Tennessee Street has quietly left its mark on McKinney’s history. Today, it’s learning to kick up its heels and have fun. If the old saying You’re only as old as you feel applies to buildings the same as people, Mr. Crouch’s place has a lot of history left to make.
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