Constructed in 1901, Frederick A. Allnutt built this gable-front, general store on Old River Road beside his newly acquired place of residence, the c. 1855 Darby House. This two-and-a-half story wood and frame store originally had counters on both sides of the first floor, and was heated by a pot-bellied stove.
By 1910, only three general stores were located in the 6th District, and Allnutt was the exclusive retail wholesaler in Seneca. His vendors included Armour and Company, Maryland Biscuit Company, American Drug Company, International Harvester, and Standard Oil Company. The store also functioned as the town post office and gas station.
Even with a relatively remote location, the Seneca Store was a known destination. Exactly 26 miles from our nation's capital, travelers would "turn right over the Seneca Creek to Seneca Store on right at (the) far end of (the) bridge." Upon approaching Seneca, tourists were cautioned, "Seneca in the eyes of the local motorists in the "jumping off" place, there being nothing to welcome the visitor but the general storekeeper at the cross roads." That welcoming face belonged to Frederick Allnutt.
The store remained in family hands until 1965, when employee Raymond E. Poole took over the reins of the business. Raymond and his wife, Billy, with their six children worked to make the store a thriving mercantile operation. As proprietor, Raymond was committed to his job, "You're here at the store 6 days a week, and working on the books the 7th. It takes patience and getting along with customers." Billy, in turn, loved what she did at the store, "it's fun working here. No way I could do it if I didn't like it." Because of their efforts, Poole Store became the oldest general store in continuous operation in Montgomery County before it closed in 2010.
At the turn of the last century, the Seneca Store was one of over a 100 general stores found throughout the county, but as this business celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2001, there were less than 25 of these local mercantile operations that remained.
(Inscriptions under the image in the lower center) The last proprietors of the store, Raymond and Billy Poole, were able to attract continued patronage despite the rise of big-box stores because local citizens and travelers alike could find everything they needed here—from hot dogs to soda to horse supplies and animal feed—and receive a warm reception from the shop owners who knew them on a first name basis. Courtesy: Mike Dwyer Collection.
(Inscription under the image in the upper center) From 1965 until 2010, this mercantile operation was known as Poole's Store. Courtesy:
Montgomery County Historical Society.
(Inscription under the image in the lower center) Artifacts unearthed beside the store for Montgomery Parks archaeologists suggest typical domestic activity in the mid-19th century. Carved bone handle, table utensil; Blue-edged Pearlware plate rim.
(Inscription under the image in the upper right) This 1900 public sale ad indicates when Allnutt purchased the property, it was quite extensive with several outbuildings no longer standing today, including a cooper shop and a tenant house. Courtesy: Collection of the Maryland State Archives.