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Preservation Texas Announces Ninth Annual List of Texas' Most Endangered Places
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com -
Contributed By: Preservation Texas
Email The Author: info@preservationtexas.org
Website: http://www.preservationtexas.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49%3A2012-most-endangered-places&catid=1&Itemid=37

Sites in Bandera, Carson, Guadalupe, Hays, Kaufman, Marion, Nueces,San Augustine and Travis Counties Named to 2012 List. 

A rare moveable jail cell, a poor farm that provided food for indigent Texans, two historic homesteads that capture the state’s ranching heritage and early settlement, three historic structures poised to play key roles in community revitalization, and two landmarks of our state’s African American heritage are the nine sites that Preservation Texas, Inc. has named to its ninth annual list of Texas’ Most Endangered Historic Places. Click [here] for the press release.  

Preservation Texas officials announced the selections on the steps of the Texas State Capitol on March 22.“The 2012 list highlights historic places that were once commonly found around Texas and that are almost gone or that represent rare construction types.  In each instance these places are integral to the communities where are they located, yet they are in immediate danger of disappearing from the landscape,” said Jim Ray, president of Preservation Texas, Inc., a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.“By calling attention to theses sites now, we want to encourage local action while there’s still time.” said Ray.  “It is our hope that inclusion on our list will provide those who care for these sites with the support, expertise and momentum to take their preservation efforts to the next level.”

Kaufman County Poor Farm:
Texas Highway 34 and FM 1388, Kaufman, Kaufman County

In 1869, the State of Texas directed the responsibility for the care of its poor residents to the counties. Many county governments created poor farms where the residents could live and work to support themselves.  Today, efforts by historians and genealogists have identified poor farms in various conditions.  In Texas and across the nation, interests in family history have sparked a renewed enthusiasm in the history of these institutions.  For the last 30 years, the Kaufman County Historical Commission has tirelessly worked to preserve the remaining 27 acres, various 19th and 20thcentury buildings, and vintage farm implements of the Kaufman County Poor Farm.Located a few miles from the courthouse square, the Poor Farm was established in 1883 by Kaufman County to provide housing for its poor and indigent population.  From the beginning, the Poor Farm offered opportunities for its residents to farm and raise farm animals.  The Poor Farm also provided barracks for jail inmates, it housed an epidemic camp and, in 1931, it was used in the Farm Demonstration Program.  Originally over 408 acres, the farm was usually filled to capacity and operated into the 1970s.The size and complexity of the Poor Farm property have overwhelmed the efforts of volunteers as financial and human resources are scarce. PT hopes this listing, will bring statewide attention to the efforts of Kaufman County and other local communities struggling to find a way to preserve the history of an important institution of Texas history.

Lewis Railroad Hotel:
500 W. Columbia Street, San Augustine, San Augustine County 

The Lewis Railroad Hotel served African American railroad workers in the early 20th century as a boarding house after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company extended its tracks through San Augustine. The circa 1870 building is one of the few remaining traces of the economic opportunities seized by African Americans in the face of segregation. The hotel not only provided a safe haven for black travelers through the area, but also served as a home for black men working on the railroad.The Lewis Railroad Hotel has been vacant for approximately 25 years.  In 2001, the City of San Augustine with support from prominent Texas foundations and local community-based organizations initiated a restoration project with the purchase and stabilization of the hotel.  But shortly after adding a new roof, the project stalled. The expansion of the oil and gas business in San Augustine is impacting the character of the community and there is a risk that this part of the story of the African American experience in San Augustine will be lost to new development.  By calling attention to the Lewis Hotel, Preservation Texas hopes that restoration efforts will once again be focused on this tangible reminder of San Augustine’s and East Texas’ African-American heritage.

Magnolia Hotel:
203 S. Crockett Street, Seguin, Guadalupe County

Established in 1838 and considered one of Texas’ oldest cities, Seguin was once home to as many as 90 limecrete buildings, an innovated construction method that used local gravel. The Magnolia Hotel is one of about 20 of these early concrete buildings to survive. The Magnolia Hotel opened in Seguin as early as 1847, serving stagecoach travelers passing through the town conveniently located between Gonzales and San Antonio.The 20th century was not kind to the Magnolia Hotel.  The construction of fire-proof brick hotels lead to its decline and during the 1930s, the Magnolia was converted to small apartments to accommodate the oil field workers during the oil boom.  The last residents moved out of the building around 2000.The Magnolia Hotel is currently vacant.  The building is open to squatters and susceptible to vandalism and arson.  Seguin is committed to the preservation of its historic downtown and landmarks while a new purpose for the Magnolia Hotel proves to be a huge challenge and financial burden for its owners.  Recent efforts have restored Seguin’s historic Texas Theatre and motivated private investment in historic downtown buildings. It is the hope that these activities will encourage another success in the preservation and reuse of the Magnolia Hotel.

Moveable Jail Cell:
San Marcos, Hays County

The moveable jail cell was constructed for the Hays County Jail in Kyle and, today, it is a rarity of its kind.  The cells were referred to as “calaboose” and were constructed using the cribbing method where the walls are arranged in sets of logs or timber in a log-style cabin formation to create a rising rectangle or square.  The jail cell remained in use until 1925 as Kyle’s city jail and, later, was moved to the Texana Village at Aquarena Springs. Due to lack of funding, the jail cell along with other buildings and artifacts were removed from the Village.  At the eleventh hour, the jail cell was saved and moved to its current location in San Marcos.The jail cell is a valuable piece of Hays County history but for generations it has been shuffled around the county.  It needs a permanent home where it can be restored and appreciated.  Local advocates are working to raise funds and public support to preserve the moveable jail cell in order to tell a broader story of the county’s history.

Panhandle Inn: 
301 Main Street, Panhandle, Carson County

During the 1920s and 1930s, Panhandle was home to the second largest shipping yard in the United States, second to Chicago.  In 1924, Panhandle’s business leaders formed a committee to build a hotel intended to become “Panhandle’s Meeting Place” and indeed it did.  Designed by Amarillo architect E.F. Rittenberry and financed by General Ernest O. Thompson, an acknowledged leader in petroleum conservation, Panhandle Inn served business travelers associated with the oil, gas, and cattle industries.  Its unique pueblo revival-style architecture added to hotel’s prominence as a place to meet and do business during the oil boom.   The 20,000 square foot hotel also housed businesses such as a drug store, café, and barbershop.The Panhandle Inn closed in 1972 and has not been occupied since despite efforts to reopen the hotel.  The building is structurally sound but the size of the project is overwhelming for a community the size of Panhandle.  The hotel was donated to the Panhandle Inn Foundation in 2010 and they have completed an extensive clean-up and hosted several open houses to attempt to get support for its preservation.  Once the site of million-dollar deals, he Panhandle Inn is now in immediate need of a complete make-over and a new life.

William Pfluger House:
1512 Pflugerville Parkway, Pflugerville, Travis County

Surrounded on all four sides by encroaching suburban development, the 1875 William Pfluger House was the home to five generations of the family.  William Pfluger, a German immigrant and one of the founding fathers of the city of Pflugerville, was a rancher, banker, and cotton gin owner. The house was constructed in local limestone and expanded over a two year period to accommodate his eight children.Located about 15 miles north of Austin, Pflugerville has doubled in size in the past 10 years.  As the Central Texas region continues to outpace the state and nation in growth, the community of Pflugerville is struggling to keep ties with its past and accommodate the future.  Concerned citizens, the city and the school district support the concept of restoring the property however several attempts to provide funds and to find a solution have failed.  If funding and full community support can not come together to create a successful plan, the story of Pflugerville’s roots will be lost to more parking lots and big-box stores.

Ritz Theatre:
715 North Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, Nueces County 

Since its opening in 1929, the Ritz Theatre has been a rich source of culture, music, and entertainment for Corpus Christi. During its 57 years of operation, the Ritz transformed from a first-rate vaudeville house and movie theatre, into a rock-concert venue, and, later, reemerged as a community theatre. Audiences flocked to the Ritz for the atmosphere the beautiful theatre provided.  The luxurious interior appealed to locals escaping the harsh realities of the Great Depression, military personnel stationed in Corpus Christi before being shipped off to fight in WWII, and later to teenagers who experienced their first rock concerts there as the city slowly rebuilt itself after Hurricane Celia.The Ritz Theatre has been closed for over 20 years, and has slowly deteriorated due to neglect and vandalism. The roof has suffered significant damage.  The ceiling, once painted and illuminated like a night sky, is now crumbling with visible signs of mold. A major water leak over the theatre balcony has destroyed several rows of seating.Restoring the Ritz Theatre will not only ensure the preservation of a significant example of 1920s classical movie palace, but will also revitalize a struggling downtown through economic growth and cultural programming, renew the community’s investment in preserving its cultural history, and ensure that the Ritz Theatre will remain a landmark for entertainment for future generations.

Spettel Riverside House:
215 Spettel Road, Lakehills, Bandera County 

Before 1881, John Spettel, Jr. built a two-story house, featuring elaborate ornamentation and wrap around porches on the east bank of the Medina River. Spettel was a successful cattleman and built the house for his bride south of Mitchell’s crossing on the Medina River.  Drovers herding cattle from Castroville to Bandera made their way toward the Great Western Trail used the house as a rest stop. In 1912, construction began on the Medina Dam which led to the flooding of the surrounding area, including the Spettel property.  Spettel’s wife chose to save the house and the house was cut into two pieces and hauled to the location where it stands today.  The house was relocated one portion at a time, and because hauling the first half by mules took nearly one month, the second half was moved with a steam engine.  The Spettel family continued to use the house as their residence until 1925.  The house was occupied by a subsequent family and by the mid 1940s, the former Spettel homestead was vacant. Beginning in the late 1970s, the property was owned by commercial enterprises and the land was used for camping.  The house was used as a sales office and for recreation and meeting space.The Spettel House is one of the earliest structures in the Medina Lake region but remains unused and is showing signs of advanced deterioration.  The Medina Lakeplex is an enclave of several small settlements that are working to preserve and promote their heritage and they are concerned about the lack of plans for care and use of the house.  Bringing attention to the history of this community, will boast the efforts of those working to preserve the Spettel Riverside House.

Union Missionary Baptist Church:
520 Houston Street, Jefferson, Marion County 

The Union Missionary Baptist Church sits on Houston Street in historic Jefferson, the location of a church since 1842.  The first structure was erected on the site in 1847 and the formal congregation of the Union Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1868.  The Houston Street property was subject to violence and turmoil as part of the local backlash from the reconstruction policies and socio-economic upheaval at the close of the American Civil War.  The church was the epicenter of black religious and political activities in Marion County during the Reconstruction. Its story chronicles the deep and often violent racial divide in East Texas after the Civil War.The construction of the current church building was not undertaken until 1883 when one of Jefferson’s prominent citizens stepped forward to assist the congregation.  The building features a main sanctuary with a bell tower with a few smaller meeting rooms behind it. Separate from the building is an outdoor sunken brick baptismal.  The 1883 church building continues to serve as a symbol of the Marion County African-American community identity.Over the years, the church building has fallen into disrepair as the congregation dwindled.  A nonprofit organization consisting of congregation and community members has been hard at work, holding community meetings and fundraisers, and developing a roadmap for the restoration of the property.  The building has been stabilized but much more needs to be accomplished in order to extend the building’s life and restore the landmark to tell its powerful story.


Posted: March 26, 2012
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