20th Century

The Krise Building’s position as Lynchburg’s tallest building was short-lived.

The Krise Building’s position as Lynchburg’s tallest building was short-lived. In 1913, the eleven-story Peoples National Bank building at 801 Main Street was erected. Apparently feeling pressure to keep his building in full occupancy, P.A. Krise placed a full-page ad in the 1913 City Directory that boasted the building’s amenities, including “Steam heat, Automatic Sweeper, Mail Chutes, Electrical Hydraulic Elevators, and every convenience of the modern office building.” He then added that it was the “Cleanest and most sanitary building” in southwest Virginia.31

bowensBy 1913, the banking space on the building’s first floor was occupied by the United Bank & Trust Company. The United Bank & Trust Company was liquidated in 1921, and the Krise Building’s former banking space fronting Main Street was converted to retail.

In the meantime, one of Lynchburg’s wealthiest citizens, Philip A. Krise, died in February of 1917 at the age of 83, and left his entire estate to his second wife, 40-year-old Minnie Evelyn Johnson. By 1920, Minnie married Floyd L. Knight, a stock broker from New Jersey.32

In 1925, 827 Main was vacant, and the United Hat Cleaning and Shoe Shine Company occupied 829 Main. The three storefronts along Ninth contained offices, and a fourth storefront, numbered 201 Ninth Street, contained the United Barber Shop, carved out of the former banking space towards the front of the building. The upper floors hosted more than sixty tenants, including attorneys, insurance agencies, lumber companies, steel companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.33 Five years later, in 1930,the building’s Main Street stores were occupied by the Virginia Dare Shops (women’s clothing), United Cigar Stores, and Whelan Drug Company (this became Walgreen’s Drug Company by 1935).34

In 1945, Minnie E. Knight and Floyd L. Knight sold the Krise Building to the investment firm of Scott, Horner, & Mason, Inc. In 1946, Bowen Jewelry Company, founded by Charles W. Bowen in 1933, moved from its location at 813 Main Street to the Krise Building, taking the address of 829 Main Street. Next to Bowen, at 827 Main Street, was the Lynchburg location of National Optical Stores and Dr. Walter Richardson.35

In 1949, Scott, Horner, & Mason sold the Krise Building to Shormas Realty, Inc., which was likely an allied business, as it later shared space with Scott, Horner, & Mason on the second floor of the Krise Building. Edwin B. Horner, President of Scott, Horner & Mason, founded the First Colony Life Insurance Company in 1955 and the name of the Krise Building was changed to the First Colony Life Building. The company was initially funded with capital assets of $2.2 million and Horner expressed his desire to see the company eventually expand into several states and grow to 700 employees.36

The next year, in 1956, Bowen Jewelry Company created excitement by hosting the famous Hope Diamond for a one-day exhibition. Hundreds of area residents lined up to view (and even touch) the 45.52-carat blue diamond, which is now housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.37

Professional Building of Lynchburg, Inc., purchased the building in December of 1960, and immediately began a renovation of the facility. A room2newspaper article written in the summer of 1961 described the scope of the renovations, which included steam cleaning the exterior of the building, updating the rest rooms, and painting. In true 1960s style, the corridor walls were “repapered in cocoa brown and light modern patterns.” Camilla Brightwell (1881-1968) was interviewed as perhaps the oldest surviving employee who was still working in the building. She began working in the building in 1906 for the law firm of Sackett & Sackett (later Williams, Robertson & Sackett) and was still working for the firm in 1961. Pleased that the new owners of the building were restoring the edifice’s original name, she stated that it should “remain a monument to Mr. Krise.”38

By 1968, First Colony occupied offices on the second and third floors of the Krise Building, and had grown to 70 employees and $16 million in assets. Two years later, the business had outgrown the Krise Building and purchased the former Guggenheimer’s Department Store in the 700 block of Main Street. First Colony eventually expanded its facilities and now occupies the entire northeast side of the 700 block of Main Street. At its 40th anniversary in 1995, the company boasted over 1,000 employees and $10 billion in assets. The next year, the company was purchased by GE Capital, and had more than 1,500 employees by 1999. In 2007, First Colony Life became part of General Electric’s new GE Financial Assurance, which in turn later became Genworth Financial.39

By 1975, Bowen Jewelry Company expanded into the neighboring store space at 827 Main Street, creating the larger retail space that exists today. The business remains as one of the longest-running occupants of the Krise Building, having conducted business at the prominent location at the corner of Ninth and Main Streets for more than 65 years.