Historical building destroyed by fire - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Historical building destroyed by fire

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JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) -

An East Texas city is preparing to say goodbye to a place that provided jobs and opportunities for a century.

This weekend, a historical building in downtown Jacksonville was destroyed by fire. A catering business as well as some apartments inside the building were destroyed, and the building has been deemed too unstable to stay up.

But before the catering business moved in, the building was home to a business that kept Jacksonville families going, even when many of their men went off to war.

"It's sad. These buildings have been here forever and what's so sad is they all seem to be going away. They're all going away and our history is leaving," Jacksonville resident Janie Barber said.

Since 1913 this building has been a grocery store, a piano shop, a restaurant, but it's best known for being Marja's Brassiere Company from 1939-1969.

"In the warehouses would be machines and the women working making bras, girdles and undergarments," Cherokee County Historical Commission representative, Deborah Burkett, said.

Janie Barber and her mother both worked at Marja's.

"Mother worked here when Marja's first opened. She actually worked with Marja herself. They started in a small room upstairs," Barber said.

Marja Childs Hamlin, a Jacksonville native, started the shop in 1939, offering jobs and a stable income for many women in the town while their husbands were off at war.

"That's all the women could do back then. There were very few options. There was Marja's, Nichols and the CoCa-Cola company, and that's it. That's where most widows went to work to get started and that's where mother went," Barber said.

The company took off, distributing to big name clothing companies across the nation, employing 350 women at its peak and even gracing the pages of Life magazine.

"She would have all these big companies, like Nieman Marcus, Fredrick's of Hollywood, would come to Jacksonville. It really was a big deal for Jacksonville," Burkett said. 

Janie says she'll always remember Marja's one of a kind personality.

"Marja would say, 'Toot your own horn Viola, 'cause if you don't, nobody will,'" Barber said.

Janie says she wishes this building could have stayed here for future generations to learn the rich history housed here.

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