Partial view of Lloyd Delany's Model of Downtown
Gleason, Circa 1945 - 1953
Table model is shown against wallpaper background with
the old Gleason School being rotated 180 degrees so the front of the
school can be seen in photo.
The Man who "Built"
Gleason: Mr. Lloyd Delaney
James H. Johnson
most citizens of Gleason know, the town has an illustrious history. It
is well known for its involvement in the sweet potato industry
and the role played by Gleason businesses such as the Margrave Plant Company and
the Steel Plant Company and such well remembered individuals such as J.
D. Bradberry, Frank Margrave, Claude Steele and Dudley "Butch" Sanders.
It is equally well known for its involvement in the clay mining
industry, being considered the Ball Clay Capital of the Nation. The
"golden years" of Gleason were also days when trains came through town
multiple times a day, with passengers often stopping over go to the
Opera House, then located above the old Ammon's Drug Store, and staying in
Gleason's elegant Whitworth hotel, complete with Grand Ballroom for
dancing and other types of entertainment - which could be had for only
two dollars a night.
days past, the City of Gleason was able to support multiple eating
establishments, on occasion, as many as two banks, multiple grocery
stores and a wide range of other thriving businesses, that have
sometimes been situated in various locations, that have come and gone over the years.
These changes have been well documented in a wonderful, now out-of-print, book Oakwood - Gleason: A Look Back.
This book was compiled by Joyce Wray and her committee on the occasion of
"Homecoming '86" and has for almost 30 years served as a useful
history of the Gleason, Tennessee community.
While this history of Gleason (which can now be accessed on the history
GleasonOnline.com) provides a detailed verbal description of
the history of Gleason up until 1986, it does not fully capture the ways
in which the Gleason landscape or the Gleason "Skyline" has changed over
the years in terms of businesses and buildings that have come and gone,
or have been modified over time.
As I accidentally learned from a phone call that I had made to someone,
in an unsuccessful attempt to find a picture of the old Gleason movie
theater (previously located on Cedar street in the Margrave building),
there is someone in Gleason who has quietly and without much fanfare been
laboring over the years to develop a visual representation of the City
of Gleason from the past.
The man's name is Mr. Lloyd Delaney, who has lived in Gleason most of
his life and has been in a position to observe the multitude of changes
that have taken place in downtown Gleason over the decades.
Upon contacting Mr. Delaney, and arranging a interview with him and his
wife Robbie, I learned that he had, indeed, created a model of Gleason
depicting the downtown area as it appeared during the mid 1940's to the
early to mid 1950's. He was kind enough to provide a showing of
what he had built over the years, allowed me to take pictures, and
provide me with detailed information regarding many of the buildings.
Comparing Mr. Delaney's model of the downtown Gleason of this era with
the present day downtown Gleason, the magnitude of the change over time
is striking - although the basic layout of the town has
In speaking with Mr. Delaney, it became obvious that creating this old
time model of downtown Gleason had been carefully undertaken with
attention to detail and insistence on authenticity (at the level of
insuring that even the shape of windows included in some building were
When asked what prompted him to pursue this project, how he initially
got started, and what motivated him over the years to complete such a
task he provided the following information, noting that he would need to
provide a little history to put it all in perspective. His
responses to these questions are provided below:
While I had lived in Gleason all my early life, in 1953 my dad, mother,
and I had to move to Lansing, Michigan for my dad to work. We lived
there until the fall of 1966, at which time we moved back to Gleason.
I married a home town girl, and we had two boys.
While the town was all intact when we moved from Gleason, during the
time we were gone a fire had burned two or three buildings on Main
Soon after we moved back, the third floor of the old Whitworth hotel
was removed, resulting in it looking as it does today. Somewhere around
1970 the old train depot was torn down. Within a few years the old Bank
of Gleason was torn down. Then in the Spring of 1982, after school was
out, they tore down the old school, where both of my sons graduated,
and built the new school that can be seen today.
In the late 1990's, the old Richee Grocery and Hardware store, which
was actually owned by a number of Gleason businessmen over time, was
torn down and in about 2005 the old City Hall and pool hall were
demolished. The old City Garage (also known as Horn's garage) was also
torn down as well.
As you can see, in span of 50 years or so the landscape of the City of
Gleason has changed a great deal from what it looked like in the mid to
late 40's and 50's.
I began to develop the idea of building a model of the City of Gleason
sometime around 2005. This idea related in an interesting way
to my lifetime love of trains - which was enhanced by my aunt and uncle buying
me my first train for Christmas back in 1949.
As I began to think more and more seriously about this idea of building a model of
downtown Gleason, I found some kits that were designed for making model
buildings at a small train store in Paris. I bought some of these kits
to get started but they didn't really look like what I wanted to build.
The man in the train store suggested that I make my own and showed me
how to go about making buildings from scratch.
In 2006, I first made a model of the old Gleason depot. Next, I built
the old Whitworth Hotel, one of Gleason's
most historical landmarks. It was all made by hand; no kits or
parts of kits were used. Again, It took a year to make. If
you don't enjoy working with your hands and if you are unable to
remember exactly what you are doing, you do not need to start a job like
From there I continued building the town of Gleason, working mainly
during the winter months (November through March),
as keeping the lawn mowed and tending to the
garden took up most of my time during the other months. All told,
working on this project spanned the years from 2006 through 2012.
Making a model of the old Gleason School was one of the last tasks
and took over 150 hours to complete; making
that model was special as both of my sons had graduated from this old
The last thing I made was a model of the old Wards Chapel school house;
I went there for six years, until it closed down and then went to
school in Gleason until we moved to Michigan, where I finished high
school in 1956.
Regarding what motivated him to continue working so long and so hard to complete this
task, Mr. Delaney again put things in perspective. Here, he noted:
Given all of many changes that I have observed over the last 50+
years, that have so drastically changed the look of downtown Gleason, I
wanted to help people know how it looked back then - at a much earlier
I hope this will help others learn more about the history of the
City of Gleason.
As noted earlier, Joyce Wray's book Oakwood - Gleason: A Look Back,
provided an excellent detailed verbal presentation of the
pre 1986 history of the City of Gleason.
Mr. Lloyd Delaney's visual depiction of downtown
Gleason, as it looked during the mid 1940's to the mid 1950's, is another
significant contribution to the City of Gleason.
Mr. Delaney's painstaking efforts over a period of six or more
years has clearly shown his love for the City of Gleason and his strong desire
that the citizens of Gleason learn about and remember the history of their community.
Selected Examples of Gleason Downtown Buildings
Circa 1945 - Mid 1950's
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