Prior to Cotton Restaurant, the building housed Monroe’s first mail-order liquor operations

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An iconic building along the Endom Bridge was once home to a major liquor retail and wholesale business during Prohibition.

The JS Bloch building, located at the corner of Grand and Desiard streets next to the Ouachita River levee in the old commercial section of Monroe, once served as the offices of what is believed to be the very first liquor company by correspondence in Monroe. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 30, 1980.

During the 19th century, into the early 20th century, the forces of prohibition led many cities and counties to vote themselves “dry” under local law options. In 1908, most states in the Deep South voted to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, however, the mail-order sale of liquor was still legal.

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The ban eventually became a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee on July 4, 1859, Jacob S. Bloch emigrated to Mississippi and eventually settled in Monroe. Bloch met and married Lena Kuhn, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Kuhn. The two had a child who died in infancy.

Early in 1892, Bloch seized the opportunity to sell liquor by mail.

Built before 1890, the building is constructed of common-bond brick and featured shallow arched fenestration, brick pilasters, a corner entrance, and a parapet formed of molded brick panels. Bloch’s store and adjoining saloon featured Corinthian cast-iron support columns and an elaborate cast-iron storefront with iron scroll lace.

The second-story facade featured die-cast pewter ornamentation with triangular pediments above the windows and triglyphs at each end of the parapet. The interior featured cast iron columns running the length of the first floor and an elaborate rear staircase.

In the early 1930s, Hemp's cafeteria occupied the JS Bloch building.

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In addition to his liquor business, Bloch was active in the public and private sector. Bloch served two terms on the Monroe City Commission under Mayors Alexander Jackson Herring and Dr. Andrew J. Forsythe. Bloch was also a director of the Ouachita National Bank, a financial institution founded in 1907. The bank was known to have issued more than $1.5 billion in national currency during its lifetime.

Bloch died on August 4, 1931, and is buried in Monroe Jewish Cemetery.

After Bloch closed his mail-order liquor business, the building was subsequently used as a general store, cafeteria, bookstore, and cotton exchange. The building currently houses cotton restaurant on the first floor and Planter’s Gastro Pub On the second floor.

Follow Ian Robinson on Twitter @_irobinson and on Facebook at https://bit.ly/3vln0w1.

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