BOLIVAR POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Port Bolivar (Galveston County)
419 Everett Road
Built in 1872, the Bolivar Point lighthouse was commissioned by the United States Congress to guide ships through Galveston Bay, remaining in operation until 1933. The lighthouse facilitated maritime commerce, impacting the growth of cities such as Galveston, Texas City and Houston. During the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Bolivar Point Lighthouse served as a shelter for 125 people who survived the storm by huddling inside the tower.
The Bolivar Point Lighthouse is one of the few 19th-century lighthouses remaining on the Gulf Coast, and one of only two remaining iron lighthouses in Texas. Additionally, Bolivar Point is the tallest historic lighthouse in Texas, and its third-order Fresnel lens is on display at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. In 2015, the Bolivar Point Lighthouse Foundation was established to oversee fundraising and management of the privately-owned Lighthouse’s restoration.
The Bolivar Point Lighthouse is currently in a state of deterioration. After decades of hurricanes and storms, the structure’s lantern and iron shell has become a hazard. Severe weather conditions have eroded masonry and steel elements of the lighthouse, which has rusted to a dark brown. The lighthouse has several missing members which have continually fallen off over the years.
The Bolivar Point Lighthouse is individually listed on the National Register. Greater awareness of the restoration project will build fundraising momentum and enthusiasm for the site’s future preservation and interpretation. Public access planned for the site will ensure that the maritime history associated with one of our state’s most important coastal landmarks will be understood and appreciated by all who visit.
For more information visit https://www.bolivarpointlighthouse.org/
BOWIE-WATSON HOUSE aka “WATSON CHATEAU”
Austin (Travis County)
500 E. 18th Street
Originally built in 1853 by Margaret Neville Bowie, widow of Rezin Bowie (inventor of the Bowie Knife), the Bowie-Watson House is a rare surviving antebellum residence in central Austin. It has been owned by several prominent Austinites over the decades, including its last private owner, interior designer Arthur Pope Watson Jr., who purchased the property in 1959 and shared the home with his partner Robert Wayne Garrett. Watson and Garrett hosted legendary parties and gatherings in the home, providing a much-needed respite for members of Austin’s LGBTQ community to gather safely.
Although The University of Texas acquired the property through eminent domain in the late 1960s, Watson and Garret were allowed to remain in their home. After Watson’s death 1993, Garret continued living there until 2009. Over the years, the house has been dwarfed and hidden from public view by surrounding new construction. Today the house is physically deteriorating and quickly slipping from local collective memory. Lying within the footprint of the future UT Austin Medical District, which contains the university’s new Dell Medical School, continued redevelopment of the area will permanently alter its setting.
Preservation of the oldest structure on UT’s campus would protect a very rare historic resource while ensuring that an important 20th century cultural landmark survives. The house is suffering from demolition by neglect because the University has not invested any time or resources to protect it. We join local advocates in raising awareness of the significance of this property, and in urging the Board of Regents and other stakeholders to ensure its long-term protection.
For more information visit www.watsonchateau.com
CINDY WALKER HOUSE
Mexia (Limestone County)
114 S. Brooks Street
A country music landmark with national significance has been neglected for years in rural Mexia. In 1954, Texas-born Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Cindy Walker moved back home from Hollywood to this house. Here, in her studio Walker, wrote nationally loved songs such “You Don’t Know Me”, which has been recorded by over 200 artists including Elvis, Ray Charles and Eddy Arnold, and “Dream Baby” for Roy Orbison. Many music celebrities are known to have visited the home over the years where Walker lived until her passing in 2006.
The Cindy Walker home is significant not only to local and state history, but also to the history of country music and the legacy of female songwriters. The recently formed Cindy Walker Foundation purchased the home in 2022 and is currently seeking funding for the property’s rehabilitation. Its roof and foundation are in need of repair, and other issues such as mold, rot, broken windows and a falling chimney need to be addressed.
The Foundation plans to restore the house and adapt it for use as a songwriter-in-residence program and museum recognizing Cindy Walker’s legacy. Research and documentation about the house will lead to a National Register of Historic Places nomination, qualifying the property for the state historic tax credit, offsetting the cost of rehabilitation. Additionally, a preservation plan is needed for the house to guide its long-term stewardship as a heritage tourism asset for Limestone County and Central Texas.
For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/CindyWalkerFoundation/
CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF LUCKENBACH
Luckenbach (Gillespie County)
In the late 1840s, a small community in southeastern Gillespie County was settled by German farmers along Grape Creek. By the late 1800s, the settlement was anchored by a post office, general store, saloon, dance hall, cotton gin, and blacksmith shop. Churches and cemeteries were established, and a school served area students. In 1886, the town was named Luckenbach.
At its height in 1904, Luckenbach reached a population of around 500, but declined dramatically during the 20th century. In 1971, Hondo Crouch and Guich Koock purchased nine acres in the community, including the dance hall and general store, and transformed them into a country music venue. In 1973, Jerry Jeff Walker recorded his best-selling album “Viva Terlingua” in Luckenbach, and in 1977, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson wrote their hit “Luckenbach Texas, Back to the Basics”, cementing Luckenbach’s reputation as a country music destination. Today, numerous events and festivals attract thousands of visitors to the area annually.
The encroachment of development in the fast-growing Hill Country of Texas is placing unsustainable demands on local infrastructure and will pollute Grape Creek, alter existing viewsheds, and alter the authentic character of this small, rural community. The development of a comprehensive cultural landscape inventory for the historic community of Luckenbach, extending north and south of FM 1376, is needed. The development of long-term treatment recommendations will identify critically important features and characteristics of the community that should be saved, and guide future development in a way that is compatible with its historic character. Property owners should also consider seeking a rural historic district listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Bowie and Cass Counties
In 1834, Mark Epperson moved his family from Tennessee to sparsely settled northeast Mexican Texas, settling on the Sulphur Fork of Red River. Epperson built the first ferry between Arkansas Territory and Big Cypress, at the crossing of Trammel’s Trace and the Sulphur Fork. Nearby, Epperson also built necessary outbuildings and a log home for his family. In 1836, the Republic of Texas established its first mail route, making Epperson’s Ferry a regional hub for bi-weekly postal delivery and a distribution point for the Telegraph & Texas Register. Epperson operated the ferry for four decades until it was eventually replaced by a bridge. Epperson died in 1869, and was likely buried near the historic ferry. Today, roads to the ferry site are no longer maintained, but the depression in the land that defines the old Trammel’s Trace endures through what is now U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) property.
The site is a short distance upriver from Wright Patman Lake. USACE has approved a plan to reallocate Wright Patman Lake and raise the water level by 6 to 7 feet in order to meet water demands in the DFW Metroplex region. The water level increase will result in potentially significant flooding of the Epperson’s ferry site. The archeology work to date is superficial and has not properly identified the Epperson house site or family graves.
Preservation Texas will engage with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a consulting party to ensure that the threat to the Epperson’s Ferry site is mitigated. Additionally, all parties must recognize and mitigate the long-term impact to sites of archaeological value, not just at Epperson’s Ferry but at hundreds of sites that surround the lake. This listing also spotlights the importance of continuing to document and interpret historic resources associated with the historic Trammel’s Trace.
For more information visit For more information visit the Texas Historical Foundation’s blog.
FARRINGTON FIELD AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS GYMNASIUM HISTORIC DISTRICT
Fort Worth (Tarrant County)
1501 University Drive and 1400 Foch Street
In 1939, Works Progress Administration laborers began construction of Fort Worth Independent School District’s Farrington Field, a monumental Art Moderne style stadium. The field quickly became a popular venue for entertainment and recreation. Building on the success of Farrington Field, the Billingsley Field House and Gymnasium was constructed at the southeast corner of the property in 1953. Today these facilities remain in use, and are beloved by students and sports fans alike. The complex is a National Register Historic District and has been used as a setting for important community events and celebrations for nearly a century.
Fort Worth ISD is considering selling the Farrington Field and Billingsley Field House property for redevelopment. The school district asserts that the field house needs $10 million in repairs and the stadium is too large for current needs and requires $20 million in repairs. The sale could lead to the redevelopment of the site and demolition of the historic structures, which if owned by private investors would qualify for 45% state and federal historic tax credits worth nearly $15 million, using the district’s cost estimates.
Preservation Texas joins with local advocates in raising awareness of the significance of this community landmark and what is one of the most recognized WPA projects in the city. In addition, we aim to raise awareness that being listed on the National Register does not ensure a site’s protection.
HISTORIC RESOURCES OF TEHUACANA
Tehuacana (Limestone County)
The small community of Tehuacana has a rich history, with its rolling hills and the presence of an important natural spring serving as an anchor for the native Tawakoni tribe that inhabited the area until the late 1840s. By the mid-19th century, Anglo settlement began to transform the area, with a post office in operation as early as 1847. In 1869, Trinity University was founded here by Cumberland Presbyterians, later moving to Waxahachie in 1902. The campus was later used by Westminster College until 1972.
While many historic resources have been lost, important buildings and features remain from the site’s use by both Trinity University and Westminster College. The massive Texas Hall, which is individually listed on the National Register, was built in stages from 1871-1892 and is currently at imminent risk of loss as a result of a roof collapse in 2021. Other historic resources are in need of preservation, including 1930s Gymnasium.
The immediate priority is to secure funding for the stabilization of Texas Hall. This can be undertaken in conjunction with a cultural landscape inventory encompassing the entirety of the former Trinity University/Westminster College campus. As part of this project, the development of a comprehensive site history, pulling together information about the campus from its origins in 1869 through the present day, will underpin the plan. This information will guide long-term plans for rehabilitation of other campus structures, including the Gymnasium, while identifying locations of former buildings for potential future archaeological work as well as the overall interpretation of the site.
Palacios (Matagorda County)
408 S Bay Blvd
The Luther Hotel is one of the few surviving Gulf Coast hotels built as part of extensive land development schemes throughout Texas in the early 20th century. The original, central portion of the hotel was designed by noted regional architect Jules C. Leffland, and constructed in 1903. The building was cut into three sections and moved half-a-mile to the oceanfront in 1905, and the existing east and west wings were added shortly thereafter. The hotel has been remodeled several times over the years, most notably between 1939 and 1941, when it received a 2-story pedimented portico supported by monumental classical columns. An 11-unit motor court motel was also added to the site to accommodate automobile tourists. This hotel is both individually listed on the National Register and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The Luther is currently under contract to be sold, and the agreement states that the property must be demolished. If an alternative solution is not reached before the expiration of a demolition delay on December 19th, the contract can be closed and the historic hotel will be demolished. The prospective owners plan to rebuild a new hotel on the property.
Complete documentation of the historic Luther Hotel is needed prior to its demolition. The central 1903 portion of the hotel, originally constructed elsewhere as a stand-alone resource, should be saved, relocated, and restored to its original condition as a place to interpret the early history of Palacios. Relocated on site, it can preserve its waterfront orientation and serve as a venue for special events as well.
WEST TEXAS UTILITIES POWER PLANT
Abilene (Taylor County)
E Hwy 80 and 100 Block N 2nd Street
The West Texas Utilities (WTU) Power Plant, completed in 1922, was designed by Dallas architect Wyatt C. Hedrick. The innovative design of the industrial space incorporated plentiful natural light, as well as a smokestack which remains a dominant feature of Abilene’s skyline. The plant was one of about six of its kind built in Texas in the early 20th century. The WTU plant served as a regional electricity provider until the 1960s, and helped shape the energy industry and economy of West Texas.
The facility is individually listed on the National Register but has sat vacant for decades and is threatened by neglect. The current owner is considering demolishing the structure if a buyer cannot be found.
A feasibility study for the adaptive use of the WTU building is an essential step in finding a new owner who can bring life to this important site in central Abilene. The donation of a conservation easement will also provide important tax benefits for the property owner.
Preservation Texas has included the following thematic listings on its 2022 Most Endangered Places list to encourage Texans to identify potentially threatened structures in their own communities that relate to the theme.
CARPENTER GOTHIC CHURCHES
First popularized on the east coast in the mid-19th century, the carpenter gothic architectural style is best represented in Texas by numerous timber-framed churches. Distinguished by their wood siding, pointed-arched windows, and often elaborate detailing around doorways, gables and steeples, they are commonly found in communities with dwindling populations and shrinking congregations.
Carpenter gothic churches require regular maintenance to ensure that their characteristic features are preserved. Deferred maintenance often leads to leaking roofs, deteriorating windows, and even structural failure, while insensitive “restoration” using vinyl siding, plastic windows, and non-historic roofing materials obscure original detail and diminish their historic character.
Congregations need preservation stewardship training that will allow them to develop cyclical maintenance plans and long-term goals for preservation. National Register listings will qualify churches to make use of the state historic tax credit. Greater education about the unique character of carpenter gothic architecture will increase public support for their preservation. Programs to support congregations and shared uses for historic sanctuaries long-term will help provide needed revenue to keep these structures in sound condition so that they can continue to serve as community anchors.
HISTORICALLY SEGREGATED MEXICAN-AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The segregation of Mexican-American students in Texas schools persisted into the 1950s. As many as 122 school districts maintained segregated schools in the 1940s until the practice was ruled illegal in 1948 in the landmark case, Delgado v. Bastrop I.S.D. The buildings used as Mexican schools were poorly maintained, with minimal space for recreation. After 1948, many schools closed and were repurposed as segregated Black schools or as storage facilities. Some communities defied the ruling and still maintained segregation until the 1957 case, Hernandez v. Driscoll C.I.S.D.
Since the 1950s, a great many of these Mexican schools have long since been demolished. Those that survive have been neglected, and may not even be remembered in their communities for what they were. These historic landmarks are in need of documentation and preservation.
Inspired by the recent designation of Marfa’s Blackwell School as a National Historic Site, Preservation Texas will work statewide with local preservation commissions, certified local governments, and other stakeholders such as Latinos in Heritage Conservation to identify extant historic Mexican-American public school buildings and prioritize their preservation. In support of this effort, the development of a comprehensive web-based information resource about these schools will be created.
PAINTED ADVERTISING SIGNS aka “GHOST SIGNS”
Between the 1880s-1950s, advertisements were commonly painted on the sides and corners of downtown commercial buildings throughout the country. “Ghost signs” are the apparitions of these old wall signs, heralding long-forgotten products or businesses. These signs were commissioned by private companies and hand painted by groups of sign painters known as “wall dogs”. These tradesmen represented a variety of skills, including draftsmen, chemists, artists, and even acrobats. In the 1950s, the sign painting industry began to decline due to the advent of the Interstate Highway System, and the growing availability and affordability of billboards.
If a ghost sign is not maintained or restored it will disappear over time, but ghost sign restoration is a topic that causes much debate. Repainting a historic sign can destroy the patina that is associated with its authenticity. However, the case has been made that repainting ghost signs can support downtown revitalization efforts, such as Main Street programs, supporting heritage tourism and reinforcing a unique sense of place that is rooted in the community’s history.
Preservation Texas will work with Main Street communities, art conservators, and other key stakeholders to share best practices, identify and catalog surviving ghost signs, and start a dialogue about how they might be preserved and interpreted.
RURAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE SITES
In the years following Emancipation, hundreds of Freedom Colonies were founded by Black men and women. Most families engaged in farming, and soon each community organized churches, schools, and fraternal lodges. The buildings they constructed to house these institutions are important landmarks and are often the only remaining vestiges of these largely vanishing communities.
Demographic changes caused by migration to urban areas throughout the 20th century led to the collapse of most rural Freedom Colonies. Integration and consolidation of rural schools and shrinking congregations left many schools, churches, and lodge halls without a purpose and remaining residents lacked the resources to maintain them. Many of these structures are in serious decline.
Preservation Texas has secured funds from the National Park Service to provide grants to eleven sites through its Texas Rural African-American Heritage Grants Program. With the addition of an Endangered Properties Manager to the staff, Preservation Texas will work with the stewards of these eleven structures to ensure their preservation projects are a success. They will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected with preservation easements. PT will also work with these sites on a larger, long-term heritage tourism and interpretation strategy to build awareness of and increase access to these long-neglected historic resources.