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By JENNIFER MILLER STROBEL
IT'S ONE OF those buildings passersby see--but don't see--on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg.
Commuters hurry past on the way to and from the train station across the street.
A stoplight slows traffic outside its front door just long enough for the light to turn green again.
It's a few blocks outside Fredericksburg's historic district and the beaten tourist path: two stories, brick painted beige, an "offices-for-lease" sign out front. Architecture best described as "early factory style."
Indeed it was just that, home to Kenmore Shoe Factory in the early 1900s when these photographs were taken.
Even Bill Garnett, an avid collector and dealer of Fredericksburg memorabilia, had never seen these images until one of his "antiques pickers" came across the photos at a sale.
"I had never heard of it," Garnett said of the factory at the south end of town. "I haven't found anybody who knows any kind of history, or who knows anything about it."
He shared the photos with the Flashback column before donating them to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
The front of the building at 315 Lafayette Boulevard is the most easily recognized (note the unpaved road).
The other photos show various other views. The year 1910 is written in pencil on the back of the photo showing the interior; the others show no dates.
The neighborhood and building have changed considerably over time. One major change took place in the 1920s, when the train tracks across the street were raised from street level, and Kenmore Avenue was built. A 1929 Free Lance-Star article reported on the first phase of construction of Kenmore Avenue at its juncture with "Boulevard," as Lafayette Boulevard was called. The article noted that the new street would open a section of the city "practically without means of access."
By then, the shoe factory at the intersection was referred to as the Virginia Shoe Company.
A 1954 article featured Abram Bean, retiring president of Virginia Shoe Company, who remarked that the company had originally started on "the boulevard," then operated in conjunction with a second plant a few blocks away near the Farmers Creamery, then, finally, on Ford Street at the north end of town. According to the article, Bean's father, Lafayette, founded the Virginia Shoe Company in 1923.
Garnett doesn't know what happened to the Kenmore Shoe Company, but he enjoys a few mysteries in his quest for Fredericksburg history. His daughter, Diana Garnett, shares his interest.
"The torch has passed along to her," he said. "She's following along in my footsteps." She is owner of Black Dog Furniture and Collectibles off Route 218 in south Stafford.
His daughter supplied the 'now' photo of the building.
The front part of the old factory houses office space, and the back is home to the Fredericksburg Sheriff's Department.