Big Four Company Building
112 South Main Street
By Robert Griffith, October 2008

P.H. Goodloe purchased lots 7, 8, 9 & 10 in block 3 from G.M. Dodge on 23 February 1883 stretching from Ellison Street north along Front Street (Main Street). Goodloe relocated his dry goods business from the Caddo Grove community at the western toe of Caddo Peak. He sold his lots on 29 January 1892 after relocating to his brother’s grocery store across the street. Historian Michael H. Beard writes, “The sale included a two-story wooden false-front business house, a stove house, a rail side granary, fixed cotton scales, and platform scales, also near the railroad tracks, to Sam and R.B. Armstrong.” Samuel and Robert B. Armstrong utilized the entire property with their business, Armstrong Brothers General Mercantile Store, even purchasing an additional lot, number six, to the north.

A tragic fire claimed “almost the entire business portion” of Burleson on 20 February 1895. In the Dallas Morning News on 21 February, the newspaper does not list the Armstrong’s store as a loss. Whether they shared in the sorrows of their neighbors, among them G.W. Dobson, W.P. Lace, and A.W. Overton is not clear, but the fire did not detour Burleson’s growth.

When fire again struck Burleson the evening of 21 January 1902, a report from the Dallas Morning News does not mention the Armstrongs, although W.P. Lace again lost his store.

In 1903, Charles C. Taylor and Robert L. Norwood — Burleson businessmen since 1899 — joined with Sam and R.B. Armstrong to become Armstrong, Norwood, and Taylor. As Jack Taylor, son of Charles Taylor remembers: “Someone would say, “I’ve got to go to Armstrong, Norwood and Taylor, and someone else would respond, “Oh, you mean the big four?” Well, before long Daddy and the others heard about it and decided that Big Four would be a pretty good name.” In 1908, Norwood departed for Abilene and the Armstrongs left the business, retaining their brick building on the corner of Front (Main) and Ellison Streets. Arthur W. Haskew and Charles Taylor’s brother Walter entered into “the Big Four” in 1913.

Burleson’s first hand-operated gas pump appeared at Big Four, and the first television sets were sold from Big Four prior to WBAP-TV’s first broadcast in 1948. Jack Taylor, writing in Burleson: The First One Hundred Years, states: “On the night the first television program was aired, a set was placed in the front window of the store where everyone could watch “The Scarlet Pimpernel” in black and white.”

Charles C. Taylor, founder of the business, died in July 1932. Arthur W. Haskew sold his interest in October 1932 to C.C. Taylor’s wife, Tollie, who inherited the business upon his death. C.C. Taylor’s son Winston managed the store from 1932 to 1949, stepping aside to serve in the military during World War II; during that period, his brother Jack became manager. When Winston moved to California in 1949, his brother Jack and Uncle Walter bought out his and Tollie Taylor’s interest. Walter Taylor died in 1957, and Jack bought out his widow’s interest in 1959.

Big Four Company Circa 1910s
Photo Courtesy Mary Ruth Arnold

The original brick façade of the building was replaced in 1959 with a modern aluminum and glass front. The 3 September 1959 Burleson Dispatcher commented: “The people of this area saw the complete transformation this year of the Big Four Store, into the very modern Big Four Furniture & Appliance, housed in a completely remodeled air-conditioned bldg. […] The new concern is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Taylor, he being the son of the man that started a store at this location in 1899, C. C. Taylor. […] Jack Taylor started remodeling the building in the early part of this year, and opened the new store about the middle of May.”

Jack Taylor expanded the store into the alley between Big Four and Jess Garner's Barber Shop. An entrance to the Ellison Street building which formerly housed Texoma Cash Store, Mercer Grocery, and Clampit & Bransom Grocery was added when Big Four expanded into that building sometime between 1968 and 1971.

Big Four Furniture & Appliance, 1967
Photographer Unknown

Big Four Furniture & Appliance, 1979
Ellison Street Storefront
Photo Copyright Michelle Griffith

Big Four Furniture & Appliance, 1979
Interior of Ellison Street Storefront
Photo Copyright Michelle Griffith

Big Four Furniture & Appliance, Circa 1999-2002
Ellison Street Storefront
Photo Copyright Robert Griffith

Big Four Furniture & Appliance, the oldest operating business in Burleson, announced its close in October 2005. After extensive interior and exterior renovations, the Main Street storefront reopened as Fresco’s Cocina Mexicana in 2007. The Ellison Street storefront, after further remodeling, reopened as Ellison Street Interiors in 2008.

Fresco's Cocina Mexicana, August 10, 2008
Photo Copyright Robert Griffith

Ellison Street Interiors, August 10, 2008
Photo Copyright Robert Griffith

Bibliography
Beard, Michael H. "Big Four Company Building." Comp. Michael H. Beard. Burleson.
“Big Four Store Full of Beautiful Furn.-Appliances.” Burleson Dispatcher 3 September 1959.
"Burleson and Her Business Men as appeared in The Burleson Banner." Burleson News 25 October 1945.
Burleson Historical Committee. Burleson - The First One Hundred Years. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1981.
"Conflagration at Burleson." Dallas Morning News 21 February 1895.
“Fires in Texas.” Dallas Morning News 22 January 1902.

Links