Preservation Texas 2014 Most Endangered Places List
Sites in San Antonio, Port Isabel, El Paso, Houston and Abilene
Join Two Hill Country Sites and Five East Texas Sites on the 2014 List
AUSTIN, TEXAS…A culturally significant conjunto night club, a limestone house that is one of the most photographed sites in Texas, a historic African-American seminary, a restaurant that is a classic example of mid-century commercial architecture, and a tract of land on the Rio Grande that holds archaeological and architectural evidence of many layers of history dating back to 1598 are among the twelve sites that Preservation Texas, Inc. has named to its eleventh annual list of Texas’ Most Endangered Places.
Preservation Texas officials announced the selections outside the Texas State Capitol on May 20.
“The 2014 list is a diverse group of sites that reflect the range of preservation issues that historic places throughout the state are confronting,” said Evan Thompson, executive director of Preservation Texas. “The sites are cultural, architectural and historic icons that are at imminent risk of disappearing from the landscape. Local grassroots organizations have been working tirelessly in support of these sites. By including them on the 2014 list, we hope to rally Texans statewide to step up and save them by supporting job-creating investments in our state’s at-risk historic places.”
Historic preservation is a billion dollar industry in Texas. Historic sites named to the list of Texas’ Most Endangered Places represent some of the biggest opportunities to make a positive economic impact on local communities through preservation. Preservation Texas supports sites on its Most Endangered Places List providing technical assistance to identify preservation needs and set priorities, fund raising expertise, and assistance in fostering and building community partnerships.
Named to the list were:
633 S. Eleventh Street, Abilene, Taylor County
Brinkley Davis House
Located in a pasture between Groesbeck and Thornton on LCR 766, Limestone County
Camp Logan / Hogg Bird Sanctuary
1 & 100 Westcott to S. Picnic Loop (No Physical Address), Houston, Harris County
720 Bois d’ Arc, Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County
4554 N. US Highway 281, Marble Falls, Burnet County
Jefferson Ordnance Magazine
Big Cypress Bayou, south shoreline 500 ft. downstream of Jefferson boat launch. (No Physical Address) Jefferson, Marion County
Lerma’s Nite Club
1602-1612 N. Zarzamora St., San Antonio, Bexar County
Mary Allen Seminary
803 N. 4th Street, Crockett, Houston County
Oňate Crossing/Hart’s Mill/Old Fort Bliss
1720 West Paisano Dr., El Paso, El Paso County
Pig Stand No. 41
1955 Calder Ave., Beaumont, Jefferson County
Port Isabel Yacht Club Hotel
77 N. Yturria St., Port Isabel, Cameron County
400 Broad Street, Mason, Mason County
Thompson noted that the sites included on the 2014 list reflect increased awareness of the importance of historic preservation in supporting landmarks in small communities. “Passion and determination in these communities are strong, but badly managed land use planning, coupled with a lack of financial resources and professional guidance present serious challenges,” he said.
Preservation Texas, Inc. is the advocate for preserving the historic resources of Texas. Founded in 1985, the nonprofit organization named its first list of endangered sites in 2004. Its Most Endangered Places program is funded in part by grants and sponsorships from across the state.
For more information on Texas’ Most Endangered Places, visit www.preservationtexas.orgwww.preservationtexas.org, or phone Preservation Texas, Inc. at 512-472-0102. Detailed descriptions of each site follow.
ABILENE COURTS, Abilene, Taylor County (1930)
The Abilene Courts is a little-changed 1930s tourist accommodation built in 1930 and typical of many similar places that have been lost along the historic Bankhead Highway. Also known as Route 1 and later as Highway 80, the Bankhead Highway was the earliest paved cross-country highway in America. The Abilene Courts stands symbolically at its midpoint in Texas, and while not as old as other historic landmarks, the Abilene Courts represents an important era in automotive and architectural history in Texas and the United States.
Local ordinances provide no protection for this vacant one-story structure which is located in a neighborhood plagued by disinvestment. For a very low cost, Abilene Courts can be acquired and protected while plans are developed for its preservation and adaptive use. From small shops to artists’ studios, the potential for this roadside landmark is unlimited. And through nomination for state and federal historic designation, this site can be made eligible for a valuable economic stimulus, the new Texas state historic preservation tax credit. Saving Abilene Courts, an important architectural survivor, will preserve a piece of our early 20th century history and encourage the redevelopment of other vacant buildings along the Bankhead Highway.
BRINKLEY DAVIS HOUSE, near Thornton, Limestone County (mid-1800s)
When Brinkley Davis and his family left their home in Parke County, Indiana, they intended to forge a new future in Texas. Settling in Limestone County in 1834, they built a log dog-trot structure using local timber and parts of the barge that they used to sail down the Mississippi River through the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston. While his family thrived, their house has fallen into disrepair, victim to the elements since it was last occupied in the 1960s.
Through the careful documentation and analysis of the Brinkley Davis House, plans for its restoration and relocation to a site with greater public access will be possible. As perhaps the oldest house in Limestone County, the study of this vernacular structure will give clues to the early architectural practices of the region. Reconstruction of collapsed front and rear porches, stabilization of its stone chimneys and preservation of salvageable wooden floors, walls and ceilings will require the dedication of preservationists committed to saving the legacy of one of Texas’ pioneer families.
CAMP LOGAN / HOGG BIRD SANCTUARY, Houston, Harris County (1917; 1958)
In 1917, Camp Logan was established in Harris County, and though only its foundations remain, its archaeological remnants are thought to be the most important from a World War I era training camp in the United States. It is designated as a Texas State Archaeological Landmark. Later, Houston’s Memorial Park was established to honor the veterans who served there, and the acquisition of undeveloped land by the Hogg family led to the formal establishment of the Hogg
Bird Sanctuary in 1958.
Proposed changes along nearly 6,000 feet of Buffalo Bayou by the Harris County Flood Control District threaten archaeological resources from prehistory through the 20th century, while removing vegetation and putting at risk a riparian environment that is a vital part of the natural history of Houston. Every effort should be made to restore Buffalo Bayou’s water system without irreparably damaging natural features and archaeological sites at Camp Logan and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary.
CLAY HOUSE, Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County (c. 1905)
Considered to be the finest house in the Zion Hill Historic District in Nacogdoches, the Clay House, constructed circa 1905, is thought to have been designed by noted local architect Diedrich Rulfs. Built for Charlie Clay and his family, this structure is an important example of vernacular architecture in one of the most intact early 20th century African-American working class neighborhoods in Texas.
Although the Clay House’s original porch has been lost, this threatened building retains important architectural detail. Yet having stood unoccupied for many years, the historic structure requires significant repair before it can be converted into a museum celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to the history of the Zion Hill neighborhood. A temporary roof is in place, and the site’s advocates seek to raise the funds necessary to rebuild its foundation, repair failing structural systems, install a permanent roof and replace missing architectural elements. This small house that tells a big story that neighborhoods like Zion Hill are worth preserving.
DORBANDT HOUSE, near Marble Falls, Burnet County (c. 1855)
Built for Danish pioneer Christian Dorbandt, this two-story limestone vernacular house is one of the most photographed houses in Texas. Fields of bluebonnets surround this important early Texas house which is suffering from the ravages of time. The historic context of this house is also being lost as surrounding fields are developed for commercial and industrial purposes.
Documentation and development of a preservation plan for the Dorbandt House, studied in context with other limestone structures in the region, will provide a direction for the future of this landmark on Highway 281. Through the hard work of preservationists in Texas, the Dorband House will one day bloom again as proudly as the bluebonnets that surround it.
JEFFERSON ORDNANCE MAGAZINE, Jefferson, Marion County (c. 1863)
Constructed as part of a network of sites for the transportation of ammunition for the Confederate war effort, the Jefferson Ordnance Magazine is perhaps the only remaining example of a Civil War-era powder magazine in Texas. Strategically constructed on Big Cypress Bayou circa 1863, what was a transportation advantage has become a liability as the erosion of the banks of the bayou has rapidly advanced to within seventeen feet of this modest structure. Owned by Historic Jefferson Foundation, this site is in need of protection from the changing landscape which threatens to cause the collapse of this important site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ten feet square and nearly fifteen feet tall, this brick building was constructed with walls one foot thick at its lower level. The walls include air spaces that formed a ventilation system to keep the interior brick dry and inside temperature stable. More than 90% of the structure is original, with careful repairs undertaken in 1992. Serving a supply network linking Shreveport, Marshall and Tyler, the ordnance magazine in Jefferson was once part of a complex of buildings on the edge of town that have all but vanished. Both architecturally and archaeologically significant, the preservation of this site will teach lessons about how to best address changing landscape conditions at an environmentally vulnerable historic place.
LERMA’S NITE CLUB, San Antonio, Bexar County (c. 1948)
Lerma’s Nite Club was one of the longest-running live conjunto music venues in Central and South Texas, hosting musicians who are now part of the Conjunto Hall of Fame and the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame. The building, located at 1602-1612 North Zarzamora, stands as both a landmark in Texas music history and a cultural icon in San Antonio. Completed by 1948 in the late Art Moderne style, the building contains five storefronts which have housed numerous local businesses over the years, including Lerma’s at 1612. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
Saving Lerma’s will empower communities to preserve sites that are of cultural significance, not just the best examples of period architecture. Unanimously designated a landmark by San Antonio’s City Council, the building requires bracing of its walls, reinforcement of its foundation, and construction of a new roof to replace one that is leaking and failing. Once stabilized, through the implementation of a community vision for adaptive use, Lerma’s can provide inspiration for the preservation of other historically significant sites and structures in San Antonio’s Westside.
MARY ALLEN SEMINARY, Crockett, Houston County (1887)
Standing on the crest of a hill one mile north of the town square in Crockett stands Mary Allen Hall, the 1887 administration building of the former Mary Allen Seminary. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the four-story Second Empire-style brick building is all that remains of this school for African-American women built during the post-Reconstruction period. The Seminary was founded by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later became Mary Allen College. It closed in 1972.
The Mary Allen Museum of African-American Art and History is seeking to restore Mary Allen Hall by reigniting the same spirit of cooperation and goodwill that led to the school’s founding. Having suffered from fire, neglect and natural disasters, the brick walls remain standing while the interior is in a state of collapse. Through careful preservation planning and support for an ongoing capital campaign, it is hoped that Texans will rally to save this architectural and educational landmark.
OŇATE CROSSING / HART’S MILL / OLD FORT BLISS, El Paso, El Paso County
A tract of land on the Rio Grande in El Paso holds archaeological and architectural evidence of many layers of history. From the 1598 crossing of Juan de Oňate along El Camino Real de Tierra
Adentro (a World Heritage Site in Mexico), to the development of Simeon Hart’s mill in the 1850s, to the construction of adobe officers quarters at Old Fort Bliss between 1878 and 1893, the story of colonial settlement and subsequent development in Texas can be told here.
Modern intrusions obscure this history, including elevated highway ramps, roads, parking lots, river channelization, modifications to the Hart’s Mill building, and the construction of a pedestrian fence by the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, plans for highway improvements will impact this site as well. Partnerships at the local, state, regional and national levels can ensure that historic resources here can be protected and stewarded while minimizing impacts from new construction.
PIG STAND NO. 41, Beaumont, Jefferson County (1941)
Built on a prominent Calder Avenue location in Beaumont, Pig Stand No. 41 opened its doors in 1941 at the height of the Dallas-based fast food chain’s popularity. Now shuttered, this classic example of mid-century roadside architecture retains a remarkable degree of integrity. The saucer-shaped roof, wavy carhop canopy and neon lights would, if restored, bring a local landmark back to life.
The Pig Stand remains unprotected by city ordinances, and development pressure on this highly visible site threatens the long-term survival of this iconic structure. By finding solutions to its preservation, including the application of state and federal historic preservation tax credits, an economically feasible adaptive use of this building would reinforce the importance of preserving and using places of strong and unique architectural character from our recent past, while demonstrating the power of preservation incentives.
PORT ISABEL YACHT CLUB, Port Isabel, Cameron County (1926)
Built in 1926 as the Point Isabel Yacht Club, its early years were associated with famed citrus grower John Shary. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, the club was soon expanded to include numerous rooms for visitors. Noted guests ranged from Warren Harding to Al Capone to Amelia Earhart. The Spanish Colonial Renaissance building stands as a vivid reminder of Gulf Coast development during the roaring 20s.
Today, the building is in need of restoration. Having the club condemned in recent years, The City of Port Isabel is working to acquire the building and seeks to adapt it for use office, educational and cultural uses. This early 20th century landmark on the Texas coast can serve as a model for the creative repurposing of an old building while inspiring preservation of other important architectural and cultural sites in Cameron County.
REYNOLDS-SEAQUIST HOUSE, Mason, Mason County (1891)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Reynolds-Seaquist House is a remarkable Victorian residence that is one of the best examples of Italianate architecture in the Texas Hill Country. Monumental in scale with 22 rooms, 15 fireplaces, a third-floor ballroom, wine cellar, and a water tower with shower room, it is an architectural landmark. Vacant and vulnerable, water, vagrants and mother nature threaten the long-term stability of this important Texas house.
Built in 1891 for E. M. Reynolds, a banker from New York, the house is evidence of the craftsmanship of local builder Richard Grosse. The asymmetrical sandstone mansion was further improved by its next owner, Oscar Seaquist, a Swedish bootmaker who came to Texas and eventually acquired the property in 1919. Featuring wrap-around porches, gables, turrets, alcoves, scroll-work, stained glass and towers, the house is pure architectural fantasy. Mason County is rallying to save the Reynolds-Seaquist House in hopes of restoring it to its former grandeur and opening it to the public for all to enjoy.