CTWP Copy Center restored to original glory

By Deanna Kirk – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

When you walk in the door at CTWP Copy Center at 117 S. Beaton St., you may notice the look has changed dramatically.

The ground floor has been opened up, where you can see the entire expanse of the building. If you venture on into the store past the antique carousel horses, and ascend the newly-designed and created staircase, it’s as if you’ve entered 1920s Corsicana.

Formerly owned and operated by Ric and Phyllis Pallanich as City Office Supply, the business changed hands to David Willie in September 2018. Willie, who founded CTWP in Waco, immediately began searching for 1920s-era treasures.

“The building has been there since 1914,” said Chuck Miller, store manager. “Two cotton buyers, a petroleum company, two doctors, and an attorney rented the top floor for office space in about 1920. Mr. Leverman had a paint store at 114 S. Beaton, and next door was a wallpaper and framing shop.”

The current CTWP Copy Center was at that time considered two addresses with two separate businesses on the ground floor. A wall went down the center of the room dividing the two halves.

“In 1914, the upstairs of the CTWP building was a teacher’s college, called Central Texas Commercial College,” he said.
The first order of business after the purchase was to clean out years’ worth of stored items. Employees began going through inventory, furnishings, shelving, and over 6,000 photographs.

“City Office Supply used to be the Fox Photo Supply for Corsicana,” Miller said. “There were photos from 1948 to 1962, all kinds of photos from everyone – every socio-economic background – of parties, graduations, weddings, babies, holidays … and the people never picked them up.”

Miller said out of the 6,000-plus packets (complete with negatives and prints) he only recognized one name, and it was a former mayor of Corsicana, Gus Gappelberg. Another packet that stuck out in his mind was of a little girl on Christmas morning in about 1954, about 10 years old, opening her gifts. She would be roughly 85 years old now.

“It’s a totally cool collection,” he said. “But that’s a whole other story in itself.”

Gerardo Gonzalez, owner of GZL Remodeling and Construction, had experience with renovating historical buildings, after doing the Halbert House, Across the Street Diner and Bistro, the Downtown Salon and Spa, and the VOICE/Merle Norman building, among others.

“Gerardo has done all the work,” Miller said. “He removed the mezzanine that had been added at some point, then took out the dropped ceiling and revealed the original pressed tin ceiling. Then he began renovating the lower level, floors, walls, electrical, plumbing and installed all new windows throughout.”

The upstairs had never been air conditioned, so that was installed. In fact, Miller said the upper floor had not been used for anything other than storage since World War II, when it was an induction center for soldiers. The wooden shiplap and floors had to be restored, as well as the plumbing and electrical systems.

Thanks to the superior craftsmanship of Gonzalez, he was able to chip into the original mortar on the ground floor to reveal the original brick underneath. He created a wall mural of the state of Texas, one giant Lone Star, and one containing the CTWP logo. The ceilings upstairs were done in reproduction pressed tin ceiling tile, which is in homage to the time period as well.

Willie was delighted to find that one upstairs office once belonged to an ancestor of his, A.H. Willie, a former judge and attorney. That office has been outfitted with a beautiful roll top desk, a telephone from the 1920s, and other furnishings and décor from the time period. There’s even an old Victrola with the records stored underneath.

“David Willie researched all the old buildings and was very influenced by the staircase from Miles Furniture building,” Miller said. “It was original from the 1890s.”

A new staircase was constructed with that inspiration, and Willie actively attended furniture auctions and sales in order to furnish the building with pieces from 1895 through 1920. The pair of antique Carousel Horses were handcarved by German POWs from World War I in Leavenworth, Kansas. They were part of a group of four horses on the first traveling carousel in the United States, then in 1940 were purchased by Playland in San Antonio. There they were incorporated into a larger carousel until 1983, and numerous articles may be found about the carousel horses by googling Playland in San Antonio.

“Prisoners at Leavenworth had their choice of hard labor, just sitting in a cell, or utilizing their wood carving skills learned in Germany,” Miller said. “They were sold upwards of six figures per horse, and have a signature style of having all four hooves off the ground.”

In a business where copies have been made for decades of generations and generations of residents, it became customary to request an extra copy from clients bringing in old photographs. A binder of old photographs is a cherished collection at CTWP Copy Center, and is available on the front desk for customers to view.

“Photos of things in Texas and Corsicana in its heyday at the turn of the century, such as old theatres, buildings, businesses, people from the last 100-plus years are in the book,” he said. “The old fountain at Oakwood Cemetery when it was new and had a cherub on top is included. There are photos from businesses that had gas lights because it was before electricity. There are original photos of Tuckertown during the oil boom.”

One fun legend is about Mr. Leverman, who owned the paint store located inside the building. Behind the CTWP building was once a residence, where a Madame Dora resided and also operated one of her several local houses of ill repute. It was rumored Madame Dora was the wealthiest woman in town. Since Leverman’s paint store was “brothel adjacent” according to Miller, the two became acquainted and eventually married. It is rumored that Leverman’s office at the back of the paint store had a painting of Madame Dora prominently displayed.

Another story about the building recalls an incident which took place most likely due to paint-soaked rags located near a refrigerator. Supposedly, the fridge shorted out, ignited the rags, and nearly blew the entire front off the building. Therefore, all the glass on the front of the building was replaced by necessity in the 1950s.

CTWP Copy Center sells office supplies, sells and leases commercial copy machines (Konica-Minolta), does commercial printing, banners, business cards, brochures, and engineering plans.

“We also do large-scale lamination, large scale color output and passport photos,” Miller said.

Stop by soon and take a look at the building, and if you’re lucky someone will take a minute and show off the beautifully restored grande dame.

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