The 1890s brought a boom in the number of African American businesses and professional offices in downtown Waco. In that decade, black enterprises began to take long-lasting root on Bridge Street.
The classified business section of the 1892-1893 city directory listed African American businesses stretching westward from River and First Streets to Eighth Street, along Jackson, Mary, Franklin, Bridge, and Austin, and on the east and south sides of the town square. They included nine barbers, three boarding houses, four boot and shoemakers, six grocers, three physicians, three restaurants, and two wood dealers. Also listed is one each of the following: bath house, blacksmith, hack line, house mover, laundry, and tailor. Dr. Vandavell’s office was on South Eighth Street at that time, and other black physicians in town were Dr. L. B. Bluitt, on South Third, and Dr. Monroe A. Majors, on South Second.
On Bridge Street in 1892-1893 were the following black businesses at the addresses indicated:
109: Johnson Bros., boarding house
113: George Harris and Crawford Keesee, barbers
115: Asbury B. Wesley, boot and shoe maker
118: Japhet T. Williamson, grocer
120: Anderson King, barber
It is interesting to note that by 1892, seven Chinese laundries had opened in downtown Waco, and Augustin Espinosa, born in Mexico, was operating a grocery, fruit stand, and lunch room at 125 Bridge Street. (1)
By 1896, businesses owned and operated by African Americans clustered in the middle of the block on both sides of West Bridge Street.
On the north side of the street at the listed addresses were:
113 1/2: George Cummings, boarding house; Katie Cummings, dressmaker
115: Asbury B. Wesley, boot and shoemaker
119: Japhet T. Williamson, groceries
On the south side of the street:
118: Edward D. Bradley, grocer; John Jefferson, restaurant
120: Robert Sedberry, restaurant
George and Katie Cummings, Japhet T. Williamson, Edward D. Bradley, and Robert Sedberry not only made their livings on Bridge Street, but also their homes. Living in rooms behind or above one’s shop was common practice in those days. (2)
By 1898, the businesses listed above were still in place on Bridge Street, with the exception of Robert Sedberry, who had moved his restaurant from Bridge Street to West River Street, where he specialized in barbecue. New to the block were Jesse Flournoy, a boot and shoemaker at 109 1/2 Bridge, and J. H. Mixon, a watchmaker, at 110 Bridge. Also newly listed in the city directory that year were black physicians George S. Conner, with offices at 303 1/2 Franklin, and J. T. M. Lindsay, with offices over 109 South Third Street. Adding variety to the occupations of Waco's African Americans were listings for a medicine manufacturer, a music teacher, and a saloon keeper.(3)
Over the following years, Bridge Street became increasingly important to the black citizens of Waco.
(1) Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of Waco for 1892-93 (Galveston: Morrison & Fourmy, 1892).
(2) Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of Waco for 1896-97 (Galveston: Morrison & Fourmy, 1896).
(3) Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of Waco for 1898-99 (Galveston: Morrison & Fourmy, 1898).