Small Town Complex Included Apartments, Bus Station, Movie Theatre, Shoe Shine Parlor, and Shops in Middlesboro, Kentucky
In 1948 this small, but dynamic urban complex was built at 20th and Chester Streets in Middlesboro, Kentucky. The building housed myriad local establishments including apartments on the second floor; the Park Theatre (see far left of photo above); four shops along 20th Street (seen in the above photograph), including, for a time ”Shoe Shine John (John Harris)” of the New York Shoe Shine Parlor; and the Greyhound Bus Station (not see in the above photograph).
The Park Theatre opened in 1948 and operated off and on as movie theatre, as well as a place to see ”pretty girls”, until the 1980s. There are local hopes of revitalization of the theatre, but this is pending financial assistance and interest.
The first photograph shown faces 20th Street. Opposite the 20th Street facade, within the interior of the city block is an open space for the buses and a Greyhound Bus Station facade (see above photo). Other smaller business such as food vendors, etc. were located inside the bus station. While the bus business had been around since the late nineteenth and/or early twentieth century in Middlesboro, it established itself in this location at the time the building was constructed in 1948. This lasted until the mid-1960s when the automobile industry suffocated most mass transit operations in America. The death of mass transit occured in many major cities and almost always in these small urban centers…
Former bus station entrances with original doors.
More original features seen within the bus station facade. Perhaps this bump out addition was ticket sales, concessions, or who the hell knows…
Its too bad this complex came up right around the time that these small urban-county centers lost most of their luster, which was a trend that began in the 1960s with the loss of mass transit, the integration of schools, and the death of industrial pursuits in America. Only half of this complex is still used as both the bus station and the theatre have vanished along with several of the shops, leaving a few commercial tenants and the apartments to the defeated urban atmosphere.