Since 2004, our list of Most Endangered Places has served as a reminder that there are some places that must not be lost because they are too important. It has served as a call to action to ensure that treasured sites will endure for generations to come. And through statewide collaboration, it has empowered those working to save them. In all, the Preservation Texas Most Endangered Places program has put a spotlight on over 150 imperiled historic places across Texas. Only 14, or 9%, have been lost.
“The work of saving these places is intensely local, but successful local efforts benefit immensely from regional and statewide partnerships and publicity,” said Preservation Texas executive director Evan Thompson.” The nine endangered places across Texas included on the 2021 list are of historic, architectural, and cultural value. “Each one of these sites is worthy of private and public preservation investment, and the overall list reflects a range of preservation challenges that will require dedicated efforts to overcome.”
EAST END NEIGHBORHOOD
Freeport (Brazoria County)
Established in 1930 as a segregated neighborhood, the African-American “East End” of Freeport has been almost entirely obliterated. The plight of the East End was most recently documented in Texas Monthly: “How to Erase a Neighborhood.” Decades of disinvestment and property sales in the face of an expansion of the economically valuable Port Freeport have left behind only a small fraction of the hundreds of buildings that formerly stood in the East End.
Community activists are working to protect surviving structures and are in need of a comprehensive architectural survey of the remaining buildings. Alternatives to demolition should be considered, including the potential for partnering with Port Freeport to consolidate surviving historic buildings into a cluster of structures in the East End that would ensure that some physical evidence of nearly a century of history will remain.
ETHIOPIAN STAR LODGE HALL
Dabney Hill (Burleson County)
Built before 1910, the two-story Ethiopian Star Lodge Hall is an important landmark in the Dabney Hill Freedom Colony and remains as its last surviving institutional structure. African-American fraternal groups such as that in Dabney Hill played a decisive role in shaping the political and economic life of their communities. State and national lodge administrators encouraged local lodges to construct buildings as a way to learn about real estate development and construction, to provide a secure meeting space for group meetings, and to generate a source of revenue for building maintenance through rental of ground floor spaces. The Dabney Hill lodge hall was no exception, and it also sheltered visiting pastors and Black travelers who were not permitted to stay in nearby hotels.
It is not known how many African-American lodge halls were constructed in rural Texas between 1865 and 1930 when Freedom Colonies were at their peak. Yet it is known that very few remain, and the rehabilitation of the Ethiopian Star Lodge Hall will allow it to once again serve as a useful community landmark and a reminder of the history of its people.
El Paso (El Paso County)
Built in 1916, the four-story Krupp Building at 117 W. Overland Avenue was designed by noted architect Henry Trost. It was constructed for Haymon Krupp, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who came to El Paso in 1890. Krupp manufactured clothing and sold dry goods in the building. It would contribute to a downtown National Register district.
Plans have been announced to demolish the structure to make room for a new five-story apartment complex. Countless examples across the state and country demonstrate that rehabilitation can be compatible with redevelopment. The developer is encouraged to retain the Krupp Building, making use of state and federal tax credits, and ensuring that a prominent architectural landmark in El Paso remains as part of the redeveloped site.
QUANAH CITY PARK
Quanah (Hardeman County)
Construction of the Quanah City Park began as a W.P.A. project in November 1936; the park was dedicated the following year. Historic park infrastructure included stone entrances, retaining walls, tables, picnic benches, and a bandstand.
As the park nears its 90th year, its historic infrastructure is in need of repair, including reconstruction of portions of the retaining walls that have been lost because of the impact of deferred maintenance and erosion. Restoration of the park’s historic features will ensure that its Depression-era cultural landscape remains intact for the people of Quanah and Hardeman County to enjoy in the decades to come.
DUNBAR HISTORIC DISTRICT
San Marcos (Hays County)
After the Civil War, formerly enslaved men and women in Hays and Caldwell counties gravitated to San Marcos, particularly after the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s. Most African-Americans settled south and west of the courthouse square in an area close to the railroad that was often flooded by Purgatory Creek. Later known as the “Dunbar Neighborhood,” it was here that modest frame houses and an early Freedmen’s Bureau school were constructed. Later, the imposing 1908 First Baptist Church towered over the neighborhood, populated by some of San Marcos’s leading Black families, including the blacksmith Ulysses Cephas.
Repeated catastrophic flooding, changing demographics, and well-intentioned but physically destructive “redevelopment” efforts throughout the 20th century have resulted in a significant loss of historic resources. Last surveyed in the 1990s, local residents and preservationists have set a goal of resurveying the neighborhood, applying for National Register designation, restoring landmark public buildings, and ensuring that the Dunbar Neighborhood’s important history survives.
SCOBEE ADOBE and FORT DAVIS MASONIC LODGE HALL
Fort Davis (Jeff Davis County)
In the heart of Fort Davis, the 1884 Scobee adobe house and the adjoining 1906 store with a 1928 masonic lodge meeting room built above it are important historic and architectural landmarks. From 1945 to 1977, the writer Barry Scobee, known as the “Bard of the Big Bend,” owned the property; later, the buildings were donated to Jeff Davis County. Together, these structures tell a long story of Fort Davis’s important role as a county seat, its location on important trade and transportation routes, and its architectural evolution.
Jeff Davis County seeks to find a new buyer to rehabilitate the structures, utilizing funds from the sale of the property to support its local library. However, the County would like to ensure that a preservation-minded owner will agree to restore them, possibly through a permanent historic preservation easement.
OLD FORT PARKER
near Groesbeck (Limestone County)
In 1836, the frontier settlement known as “Fort Parker” in present-day Limestone County was attacked, resulting in the death and kidnapping of numerous settlers. Cynthia Ann Parker was among the kidnapped and her son, Quanah Parker, became a renowned Comanche leader. During the Texas Centennial year of 1936, Fort Parker was reconstructed based on plans drawn by architect Raiford Stripling in consultation with the National Park Service. In the 1960s, inferior building materials were replaced as part of a campaign to ensure that the reconstructed Fort would endure.
Old Fort Parker is an important historic site that represents a significant chapter of the state’s frontier history. Archaeological research, the development of an interpretive master plan, and greater awareness to increase visitation will support needed investments to address deferred maintenance and enhance the protection of the Fort’s cultural landscape.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Wharton (Wharton County)
Stephen F. Austin Elementary School, also known as the Abell School, is located at 500 Abell Street and served as a public elementary school from 1930 to 2009. It played a significant role in Texas public school integration, including early enrollment of Mexican-American students starting in 1946. The school was one of the nine original sites for the 1958 LULAC-funded “Little School of the 400” program, which taught four hundred basic English words to Spanish-dominant preschoolers, a program that inspired the nationally known “Head Start” program.
In 2018, the Wharton Independent School District applied for an $8.75 million federal grant to use Hurricane Harvey relief funds to construct 34 new housing units on the site of the school. Local advocates recognized the historic value of the school and received approval of a National Register nomination from the State Board of Review in September 2021. While plans were amended to retain the school building, impacts from construction around the school and its use remain a concern. Advocates have proposed alternative sites for the new construction, which would ensure that the site and its grounds remain intact, and that the school building can be used for much-needed nonprofit educational purposes.
1921 YOUNG COUNTY JAIL
Graham (Young County)
The former Young County Jail was constructed in 1921 and designed by Dallas-based architect C. H. Leinbach. The three-story brick structure was used as a jail until 1977 and is currently vacant. A recent proposal has called for ownership of the building to be transferred to the City of Graham so that it can be demolished and replaced with a pavilion that will celebrate Graham’s 150th anniversary.
The Young County Historical Commission is rallying support to preserve the three-story jail which has stood as a landmark in Graham, the county seat, for 100 years. Advocates are calling for a one-year demolition delay to allow a committee of local stakeholders the time needed to study the building’s challenges and develop a plan for a new use, while encouraging the construction of the pavilion on an alternative site.