WAXAHACHIE — A long and well-recorded history stands as a potent reminder of where Waxahachie has been, but the heritage of its relics have become fragile, leaving some in dire need of restoration.
Preserving such monuments that have guided the growth of the city through the protection of the past, Historic Waxahachie Inc. released their “2017 Most Endangered Places List” on June 16, to help repair what could be lost.
“Historic Waxahachie is not just buildings, it’s also places,” expressed Nancy Post, board member of Historic Waxahachie. “There are a lot of places around here that have historical significance and stories to tell.”
“The places tell about the histories, and the histories tell the stories of our town,” she stressed the importance of the list. “As we lose old places, buildings, parks, cemeteries, churches, and gathering places in Waxahachie, and because there are fewer and fewer of them as time goes by and we lose them — they become more and more valuable.”
Out of a nationwide awareness campaign by the National Trust for Historic Preservation called “This Place Matters,” Historic Waxahachie adopted the theme while also creating a collection of six sites scattered across the town to encourage restoration on neglected locations.
“This list will help us know who we are and the things we value, and the things our ancestors valued. We hope to highlight the special places in town that are threatened,” Post stated. “And though we don’t have a $100,000 check, we want to help call attention to the buildings, the values and resources and people that can help you save a building or find groups that are interested in doing it.”
The same organization that helped save the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame, the MKT Railroad Station and Caboose, and many more throughout the city, has chosen the year’s collective based on physical standing and traditional value.
“The places we chose for the list are the places that best fit the criteria for having historical significance and also being threatened,” Post affirmed. “Obviously, there are lots of places in Waxahachie that fit that criteria, so if a place didn’t make the list this year, there’s always next year we can draw attention to them.”
“The first on the list is a house that represents many historic homes in need of repair and its the 1009 West Main Street house,” Post began the panel.
Constructed in 1900, the house is registered with the National Register of Historic Places West End Historic District, and Post notes that the committee is determined to help advise and provide resources to help recondition the home.
“The next location is Drane Hall at Second Trinity University,” Post read the list of what is now Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s Collins Hall.
“It’s threatened by the development of the University’s growth and needs for space to build, but it’s a very special building. It’s a renaissance revival building from 1902, and my mother also worked there, so it has meaning to us,” Post recollected.
Post continued the list as she introduced the Waxahachie Lodge No. 80 Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) built in 1911 and located off Rogers Street.
“The Odd Fellows building, I know from reading their history, they’ve tried several times when they’ve lost buildings and rebuilt. So they’ve showed a lot of determination to keep their lodge alive, and it’s a very important building right in our downtown area,” Post recognized.
According to Historic Waxahachie, the Waxahachie Odd Fellows Lodge No. 80 was intuited by the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1859 but was dissolved by the Civil War, until its resurrection in 1872.
A few years later in 1884, the building was demolished and rebuilt as a three-story Renaissance Revival structure, tragically destroyed by a fire in 1911.
The current building was constructed in 1891 and purchased by the lodge in 1912 with its neoclassical structural influences of fan windows, brick detailing, and prominent location.
“The Joshua Chapel A.M.E. Church was chosen because it stands for all the other churches in Waxahachie that have very historic values and responsibilities of maintaining a historic building,” Post noted.
Built in 1917-1918, the North Aiken Street church’s structure is as almost as important as its history.
As stated by Historic Waxahachie’s research, the church was designed by William Sydney Pittman (1875-1958), one of the first African-American architects to practice in Texas, and one of the few black architects to have his own firm in the United States at that time.
The structure embodies the Romanesque Revival style and is designated on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a Texas Recorded Historical Landmark, remaining a steadfast icon within Waxahachie.
Moving the panel along, Post recognized an inconspicuous box-like building known as the Waxahachie Cotton Mill Office, established in 1905.
“It’s the only building that’s left from the Waxahachie cotton mill that was an enormous place and employed a lot of people because of the growth of the enormous amount of cotton in Waxahachie,” Post told the mill’s history.
The last remaining piece of the mill sits between Textile and Circle Street, representing the agricultural workforce in the 20th century.
Post went on to describe the highlights of the industry’s beginning as it produced cotton in 1901 with 150 looms, 5,000 spindles, and heavy machinery that took up a large industrial complex, dwindling down to mere office space.
“It’s also worthy of preservation for its rich and unique history,” Post added.
Calling to light the last remnant on the list, Post named the Waxahachie Lumber Company as a building of value.
“It’s the only surviving building of the Waxahachie Lumber Complex,” Post acknowledged. “So this building is the only thing we have left of that is very important to our history, and we need it here.”
Located off Kaufman Street, the small structure was built in 1930 and is verified in the National Register of Historic Places of 1985.
The former office styled bungalow with exposed rafter ends, and a gable roof is the only surviving piece from the lumber company in Waxahachie.
“There are a lot of people who have gone before us and have saved historical places that are here now,” Post finished the list with a thankful acknowledgment.
“So I want to thank them and the people of Historic Waxahachie, the City of Waxahachie, and Ellis County Museum and all the other groups that are working to help preserve the things we love,” she included.
Preserving the places that form a city’s character of today, Post encouraged the community to get involved with Historic Waxahachie and to spread awareness of these prized landmarks.
“We hope by next year that some of the places on this list will be moved from ‘endangered,’ to ‘saved,’” Post concluded with hope.
To connect with Historical Waxahachie, visit historicwaxahachie.com or facebook.com/historicwaxahachieinc
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer