Historic Waxahachie Inc. members retold the stories of an unexpected Greek immigrant, the farmhouse built by two Ellis County pioneer families, as well as, the generous gift of land for a youth center, the all-but-forgotten school in Bullard Heights, and the under-told story of New Town and its thriving commercial district.
So what do these Waxahachie locations all have in common? They are endangered and in dire need of attention.
South Ward School
The boarded up, abandoned building east of Cantrell Street served as a variety of facilities, but was utilized the longest as a school.
When the building was constructed in 1912, it was located in an annexed area referred to as Bullard Heights. The land housed approximately 400 residents, which lead to the demand of public “ward schools,” which is noted to today as “neighborhood schools.”
After a decade of debate, the South Ward School was founded and operated for 50 years until the 1963-64 school year. The school functioned with 30 students and two teachers in the concluding year.
By 1960, residents sought more modern facilities. After the building’s closure, it had been used for a variety of purposes as it fell into private hands, was used both as a residence and storage facility.
The building still incorporates the original elevations.
Waxahachie is known for its iconic gingerbread homes. While driving down Lucas Street, any passerby would notice the distinctive Tudor Revival architecture on the home addressed 105.
Turns out, the gentlemen who the street is named after built that home in 1932. L.G. Louie "Lucas" migrated from Greece and arrived at the port of New York by the age of 18 in 1906.
He saved money to bring his brother, Elias, over to the Land of the Free to join him in his entrepreneur endeavors. Lucas then married Texas native Fairy Anderson.
Once permanently resided in Waxahachie, he joined a former business associate, Nick Karras, and partnered with him at the Palm Sweet Shop. Lucas eventually went solo and moved from College Street next to the Interurban to the east side of the square.
In 1932, Louie entered into a contract with William Cameron and Co. to construct a small home on Highway 34 — then known as Sardis-Midlothian Highway, now identified as Business Highway 287.
In 1939, the sweets shop was sold, and Lucas opened a filling station, and tourist cabins called the Ideal Tourist Court, which proved to be a very successful operation.
Lucas also played the saxophone in the Lone Star band and led humanitarian efforts for his homeland as the local chairman of the Greek War Relief Association.
Lucas Street was named in his honor.
Optimist Youth Center
The 60-foot barn that predates 1932 houses the Optimist Club in Waxahachie. The local chapter founded in 1946 is an outgrowth of the Optimist International organization and was established as a “Friend of Youth” that focused the development of hope and vision in young boys, and later on girls — Optimisses.
Before the 10.5-acre lot on the corner of Patrick and Water Streets housed the youth center, cattle grazed on the property. Rev. E.S. Bledsloe deeded the land to the president of the Optimist Club in 1948. The adjacent baseball fields were also donated in memory of Bledsoe’s late wife, Edna Nash (Thompson) Bledsoe.
Several summer programs, school dances and community gatherings and current social events have taken place at the building and ball fields named in her honor.
Plans to repurpose the C.P. Burnett barn on the site were approved the following spring, and the building opened in June 1949.
“Program director and WWII veteran Lieut. Commander William “King” McDuffle was credited for fundraising efforts benefiting the building, swimming pool and other nonprofits. A design for a grand Youth Center, which would also serve as a civic center, was never completed.”
The Farrar Home, located at 509 E. Ross St., appears to be in substantially original condition from the outside. With a closer look, HWI expressed concerns that many preservation-worthy properties in the area are at risk of water and termite damage.
“That will accelerate loss of taxable value and historic properties,” HWI noted.
The house constructed before 1930 is within an original plat of Waxahachie in an area with non-existent stormwater infrastructure, lack of curbs and significant drainage problems.
John Sidney “Sid” Farrar was born near Palmer and resided in the home with his wife, Maude Boyce, whose parents were Ellis County pioneers of the Boyce community.
John’s parents, Captain Simon Bowden and Leslie Smith Farrar, were too Ellis County pioneers. Bowden is noted in the Republic of Texas history as one of five men to select and locate a fort, which became Fort Worth.
The home shares attributes with the prairie-style Ellis County Rural Heritage Farm, also known as the McKinney-Aday farmhouse. The Waxahachie house includes more bedrooms and a larger porch.
Another individual that resided in the home was a local celebrity musician and square dance caller, “Pinkie” Archie Dawson. The local celebrity also operated a service station presently called, “One Stop Grocery,” at 211 Ennis St.
New Town Drug Store
“New Town was established in 1098 as a new ‘colored’ settlement, the first attempt in over 25 years for people of color to expand outside the ‘Freedman’ section,” stated HWI.
A commercial building was constructed in the mid-1920s to serve the needs of residents and remained a gathering place for the community for nearly 50 years.
Owners included prominent Black residents, which comprised a deacon and the first female council member elected to the City of Waxahachie —Rutha May (Bell) Waters.
Waters Grocery & Market was established in 1964 and was named after a football star player for the Oak Lawns Lions — Ezra Waters, who later enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII. Rutha and Ezra later married.
Rev. Wilson L. and Alice (Rucker) Williams are the first known proprietors. Williams had expertise in pharmacy, and Wilson sold life insurance and also served as the superintendent of Sunday Schools at New Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Williams is also a graduate of Southwestern Assembly of God College, currently known as Southwestern Assembly of God University.
The building is currently vacant, and surviving family members own the property.
*The information in this report was shared during an open forum on May 10 by Historic Waxahachie Inc.
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ASHLEY FORD | @AFORD_NEWS | 469-517-1450