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Last building in historic Sharp End District a reminder of its legacy

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COLUMBIA — On the corner of 5th and Walnut, an unassuming red brick structure stands, with a looming parking garage across the street and seemingly mismatched with everything else around it.

It’s more than a just another building for the current owner, Ed Tibbs.

Nearby, a historical marker placed on May 19, 2015, commemorates Sharp End, a business district that flourished from the 1900s to the 1960s in Columbia’s black community. Tibbs’ building was part of Sharp End.

“Eventually I want to have my own marker” like the Sharp End District Trail historic marker, said Tibbs. “This the last standing building of the Sharp End era, and it needs to be recognized.”

Ed Tibbs shows the spot where he plans to place the new historical property plaque

Ed Tibbs shows the spot where he plans to place the new historical property plaque outside Tony's Pizza Palace on Nov. 2 in Columbia. Tibbs' father bought the building Tony's Pizza Palace currently calls home in 1943 and Tibbs inherited it upon his father's death. The Sharp End District was a thriving area with many businesses between 1930 and 1960.

Tibbs inherited the building from his late father, Ed “Dick” Tibbs, who owned several properties and businesses in Sharp End. Among these was the Paradise Club, where he fronted entertainers Ike and Tina Turner, Dizzy Gillespie and many others. Dick Tibbs also owned Kingfish Smoke Shop and a pool hall and lounge called Dick’s Pool.

Ed Tibbs holds photos of his father

Ed Tibbs holds photos of his father, Ed "Dick" Tibbs, a businessman who worked in the Sharp End District from the 1940s to the 1960s, on Thursday in Columbia. In the photo on the left, Dick Tibbs  stands outside his home. In the photo on the right, Tibbs sits second from left at a prominent club in Columbia.

Ed remembers his father as a man who took care to consistently dress well, no matter the occasion. In the heyday of the Sharp End District, it was customary for social dress to be somewhat formal.

“He always wore a white shirt and tie,” Ed recalled.

The late Ed "Dick" Tibbs leaves one of the many houses that he owned

The late Ed “Dick” Tibbs leaves one of the many houses that he owned in Columbia. Tibbs was a self-made entrepreneur who owned a number of businesses in Columbia, including the Kingfish Smoke Shop, the Paradise Club and a lounge called Dick’s Pool.

To traverse the streets of Sharp End was to truly become an adult in the black community of the time. It was a privilege, a rite of passage when one turned 18, because children were generally not permitted to enter the district without a parent.

The marker that stands in the district’s place describes the area as “a destination for visitors and the place for black adults to work, dine and socialize.”

Ed Tibbs and his wife Fran sit on the steps of Tony's Pizza Palace

Ed Tibbs and his wife Fran sit on the steps of Tony's Pizza Palace on Thursday in Columbia. Tibbs and his wife have been married 23 years. "I have her back and she has mine. We are a good team," said Tibbs.

Slowly, things started to change. Public urban developments like parking lots and post offices began to replace the local business of the area. Tibbs explained that because of the doctrine of eminent domain, which allows the state to take ownership of private land for public use, many of the businesses were forced to sell their properties, and so the Sharp End District was no more.

Ed Tibbs compares a photo of his building, located at 5th and Walnut, to the building today

Ed Tibbs holds up a photo of a building on the corner of 5th and Walnut while standing in front of his own building, which sits across the street, on Thursday in Columbia. Tibbs' building has been home to Tony’s Pizza Palace for the last 30 years. During the 1960s, urban development replaced many of the locally-owned businesses in Sharp End. A parking garage went up in place of the Green Tea Tavern, and the Columbia Post Office replaced other businesses in the area.

  • Currently an Assistant Director of Photography // Education reporter, Spring 2016; Staff Photographer, Fall 2016; Photo Editor, Spring 2017 // Graduate stude studying photojournalism // Reach me at opaggiarino@live.com or in the newsroom at 882-5720 Twit

  • Pamela A. Houser is a staff photographer in the MU Photojournalism graduate program. She may be reached at 641-895-8279.

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