Baldwin's Pharmacy

Known Name(s)

Baldwin's Pharmacy


141 Fayette Street Martinsville, VA

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status



Now the site of the New College Institute. Period photos courtesy of FAHI/VFH

Detailed History

According to Virginia Historic Marker A107, Fayette Street served as the gateway to the business, social, and cultural life of African Americans in Martinsville since the late 19th century. Institutions such as the Mt. Zion AME Church (founded 1870), St. Mary's Hospital (1926-1952), Piedmont Christian Institute (1900-1934), and Imperial Savings and Loan (founded 1929) were pillars of the community. This particular block where Baldwin's Pharmacy stood was known as Baldwin's Block from the 1920s through the 1960s. Dr. Dana O. Baldwin and his brothers founded the June German Ball, which was held at a number of venues in town. This annual musical and dance festival hosted world-renowned African American musicians. 

From Elizabeth Moore, State Archaeologist, VDHR: Baldwin’s Pharmacy, also known as Baldwin’s Drugs or the Baldwin Business Center, was built by Dana O. Baldwin, a medical doctor, in the 1920s. It was home to a variety of businesses, including a pharmacy, offices for a doctor and dentist on the first floor, a small hospital on the second floor, and a pool hall in the basement. Located at 141 Fayette Street, Baldwin’s Pharmacy was an important part of a vibrant African American neighborhood. Baldwin moved to Martinsville in 1910 and became the first African American physician in the city. Born in Chatham County, N.C., in 1881, Baldwin enrolled at Shaw University in Raleigh at age 13. He graduated from the Leonard Medical College of Shaw University in 1910 and moved to Martinsville to assist Dr. J. M. Shackelford as an anesthesiologist. Baldwin was the first doctor from Martinsville to join the service during WWI in 1917. He returned after the war in 1919 and, within a year, purchased most of a city block of land on Fayette Street, between Moss and North Barton Streets, that would become known as the Baldwin Block. He also bought a field where he opened a wood yard and began producing cement blocks, which he used to construct his buildings.

The Baldwin Theatre and Drugstore opened in 1922. Baldwin often partnered with his brothers to expand their businesses, which included a wide range of services, from housing developments, manufacturing companies, and amusement parks, to baseball grounds, restaurants and the Rex Theater, among a plethora of other venues. The Baldwins’ Sandy Beach Resort, located on the Smith River, offered swimming, boating, guest rooms, concessions, and stage concerts.

Baldwin began operating his business in 1922 in a building located on the corner of Fayette and North Barton Streets. The building also housed his medical offices. It burned in 1929, but was rebuilt and expanded as a two-story brick building to include St. Mary’s Hospital, the first hospital for African Americans in Martinsville, on the second floor. The building featured a full basement that functioned as the Green Dragon, a pool hall and bar.

Baldwin and his brothers were catalysts in the growth of a prosperous African American community along Fayette Street that centered on the Baldwin Block. When Baldwin died in 1972, his brother Sam inherited several of his businesses. Sam Baldwin died only four months later, and many of the Baldwin businesses lasted for only a short time after. Once the businesses closed, the buildings along the Baldwin Block degraded quickly and were removed by the City of Martinsville in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal initiative. The lots on the Baldwin Block remained empty until the construction of the New College Institute building in 2014, a non-contributing structure in the Fayette Street Historic District. The Fayette Street Historic District includes 16 blocks of commercial, religious, educational, and residential buildings. This area, along with 100 blocks on Fayette Street (now demolished), developed as the commercial and institutional center of the African American community in Martinsville during the first half of the 20th century and in the Jim Crow era of segregation.

See her full article with associated photographs here: 




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