Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture

Archive for April, 2012


Talpa City Hall

It has been reported that Talpa was founded as early as 1883 and in 1886 when the Santa Fe Railroad came to this section of the county, however, not all right of ways for the laying of tracks were obtained until 1890-1891.  The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company bought some land from W. P. Cusenbary and his two brothers, D. B. and E. T., on February 17, 1886.  (The Cusenbarys had purchased several sections of land in this area, making one of their first transactions in 1883).  W. J. Sayre came to Talpa as a telegrapher and agent for the railway company.  The railroad first built a section house one mile east of Talpa, with the depot being erected and completed in 1891-1892, in the town site.  Talpa was started as a switch-place on the railroad.

Just who named Talpa or decided on the name is not known, but there have been a number of conflicting stories as to its origin.  Some say it was named for the catalpa tree and others from a rock, possibly talpatate, a rock of superficial origin resembling caliche.  Talpa was known as a two county town, since it is located in Coleman County on the west boundary, just over the line of Runnels.  For many years, it served not only Talpa residents, but the farmers and ranchers of both Coleman and Runnels Counties.  Cotton, grain, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, mules, poultry, wool, mohair, all kinds of supplies and groceries were shipped in or out by the railroad.

Judging from the following account of Vena Bob LeSueur Gates, in “The History of Coleman County and Its People”, Talpa was a prosperous town in the early 1900s.

In 1903-1904, E. M. Jones of Coleman bought several lots and opened one of the first Dry Goods Stores in 1904.  It also served as a bank until Sidney Turner and Ed A. Hattan came from East Texas in August, 1905.  Turner and Hattan, along with W. T. Laughlin and W. P. Cusenbary paid $100.00 for land to erect the First State Bank of Talpa.   On the cornerstone at the bank building reads:  W. T. Laughlin, President; W. P. Cusenbary and Sidney Turner, Vice Presidents; E. A. Hatton (Hattan), Cashier. J. B. Dumas, Builder, September, 1905.  The first hotel, built in 1900, was a frame building located on Main Street.  I. D. Dunn had the first tailor shop in 1902.  Fred Boyer, one of the first druggists and pharmacists, was followed by John Clay and J. Ben Harris. S. P. (Perry) Hale also had a drug store. In later years, Bill and Lillian Turk opened the drug store after Mr. Harris sold out.  Persy Hale and Eric Tate put in a picture show called the Gem.  John Trammell had a livery stable.  The “Rock” hotel, south of the railroad, was run by William Ledford.  One of the first doctors who resided and practiced in Talpa and its boundaries was J. L. Jones, who came in December, 1903.  He and his family first lived in a two room house that later became the Methodist parsonage.  1913 was one of Dr. Jones’ “big baby boom” years.

Mrs. E. M. Jones organized the first Study Club, called the Talpa Reading Club in 1905, followed by the Talpa Shakespeare Club in 1906.  Ed P. Eason was Editor and Proprietor of the Talpa Tribune Newspaper, beginning in 1905.  W. A. Forman had a Mercantile Store; Phillips and Son had an ice house; Ira Phillips ran a confectionery, later Stanley Wood; R. L. McElrath did tin work, plumbing, etc.; W. J. Sayre and Will Musray sold real estate and insurance; W. M. Kidd had a Dry Goods and Mercantile store, later W. E. Bush.  Brown and Meeks ran a grocery store; M. M. Slaten sold coal arid owned a gin; N. A. Perry of Brownwood also opened gin property in Talpa, probably the one southeast of the depot on the south side of the tracks and later owned by Floyd Hollinger; Hatton and Turner were in real estate; Dunn and Stigler were barbers; H. A. Montgomery owned the Talpa Hotel (Rates: $1.25 per day, meals, 25 cents; Regular Boarders $16.00 per month).

REFERENCES:  Beatrice Grady Gay, “TALPA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed April 10, 2012.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association; “Talpa, Texas,” Texas Escapes (, accessed April 10, 2012;  Vena Bob LeSueur Gates, “The History of Coleman County and Its People”, 1985


Bradbury Store - Speaks, TX

In 1828 Jesse H. Cartwright received from the Mexican government a small grant of land on the east side of the Navidad River near the crossing of the Atascosito road.  In 1835 Archibald S. White received a much larger grant that surrounded Cartwright’s land and included most of the area that became Speaks.  In 1866 the community, named Speaksville in honor of the owner of its single store, acquired a post office that remained in operation until 1876, when the name of the community was changed to Boxville.  Under the new name the post office operated until 1882, when the store apparently closed.  In 1928 J. W. Koonce reestablished the store and post office under the name of Speaks, and with the coming of a new wave of residents the community grew and prospered. By 1950 the settlement had two stores, a population of fifty, and the Speaks Community Church.  The discovery of the Speaks oilfield and the Seclusion gas field raised the value of property in the area but not the size of the community.  In 1987 the post office, a store, and the church remained, serving a dispersed population of about sixty.  Speaks is on Farm Road 530 twenty miles southeast of Hallettsville in Lavaca County.

REFERENCES:  Jeff Carroll, “SPEAKS, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online ( /online/articles/hns67), accessed November 26, 2011.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Colorado City

When it was built in 1927, what was then called Hotel Colorado was the pride of Colorado City and emblematic of the economic boom of the time.  The 85-room hotel was constructed using the latest technology of the times including a structural concrete frame, fireproof materials, and “…high-speed elevators, steam heat, fans, and other conveniences” according to an article in the Dallas Morning News.  The building, designed by Dallas architects Young & Young and constructed by Churchill-Humphres Company, cost over $400,000.  An 800-seat theater, space for five stores adjoining the lobby, and 40-car parking garage completed the overall development.  At the same time, Colorado City built a $160,000 high school building “…to care for the large scholastic increase” and an 86-acre country club with golf courses and clubhouse.  The Colorado City Chamber of Commerce declared, “All of this development has paved the way for a year of real accomplishment that will securely place Colorado City among the foremost and strategic cities of West Texas”.

Originating as a ranger camp in 1877, Colorado City (then only Colorado) was called the “Mother City of West Texas”.  The Texas and Pacific Railway built a station in Colorado City in the early 1880s, which became a cattle-shipping center for ranchers as far away as Amarillo, San Angelo, and eastern New Mexico.  Great herds were held until rail cars were available.  After shipment, cowboys were free to enjoy the town’s amenities.  Between 1881 and 1884 its five saloons multiplied to twenty-eight, and other businesses showed the same growth.  The boom slowed after the 1885-86 drought and the population dropped from 6,000 in 1880 to 2,500 in 1890.

A second boom period started in 1900 following the influx of farmers followed by the development of local oil and gas resources in the 1920s.  Construction of the Col-Tex Refinery in 1924 gave an additional boost to the economy of Colorado City resulting a population of nearly 4,800 in 1930 served by 200 business.  Population peaked in 1955 at 6,774 forcing the need to build a new municipal water source - the Champion Creek Reservoir.  After the Col-Tex Refinery closed in 1969, Colorado City found other industries to support the community.  Population has remained fairly stable through the 1990s and 2000s.  Citizens of Colorado City have embraced a local Main Street revitalization program to preserve the remaining stock of commercial architecture from its heyday.

REFERENCES:  William R. Hunt, “COLORADO CITY, TX (MITCHELL COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 14, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  “Banner Program is Outlined by Colorado Chamber…”, The Abilene Morning News, February 1, 1927, Page 4.


The angled entrance of this building tied it to the intersection of two cross streets, thus increasing its visibility and prominence.  One might infer from the placement that it was one of the principal commercial buildings at the time of its construction.  The corner facade is further reinforced by an arch over the door and brickwork on the cornice built up to simulate a pediment.  It’s curious, but effective.  The front facade featured two paired windows with minimal embellishment.  This building is reminiscent of many commercial buildings of the Late-Nineteenth Century in Texas.

Lyons is on State Highway 36 two miles from Lake Somerville in south central Burleson County.  When the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built its main line through Burleson County in 1880, a construction workers’ camp, known as Camp Pennington, was established near what is now the site of Lyons.   Saloons, established near the camp to serve the railroad workers, soon formed the basis for a small railroad community.  Early settler W. A. Lyon gave fifty acres of land to the railroad for a right-of-way and established the first general store near the settlement.  It was first called Lyon’s Station but later became known as Lyons.  It soon became the trading center for outlying communities and at one time was the second largest town in the county.  Cattle, cotton, and cottonseed were regularly shipped by rail from the town.  Businesses included a cotton warehouse, an oil mill, a millinery shop, a drugstore, a hotel, four general stores, three cotton gins, and several blacksmith shops, livery stables, and photo galleries.  By 1890 the community had a population of 150, and in 1897 it had a newspaper, the Weekly Ledger; later it had the Lyons Enterprise.  A post office was established at the community in 1886.  Around that time the first school was built.  In 1887 a Methodist church was organized at Lyons.  There was also a Masonic lodge; its building was used by the entire community for civic functions.  The First State Bank was established in 1910 but was liquidated in 1938.  By 1934 Lyons had an independent school district and a two-story brick school building.   However, the school was merged with the Somerville Independent School District in 1948.  In 1990 Lyons, with a population of 360, had its own water system, three grocery stores, several antique shops, a car wash, an auto body shop, and a post office.  At that time the Home Demonstration Club was active and owned its own building.  There were also four churches in the community.  The site of Lyons is located above the Austin Chalk Formation in Burleson County; consequently, there are many oil wells and several oil-related industries in the area.

REFERENCES:  Catherine G. Alford and Mrs. Allen Rhodes, “LYONS, TX (BURLESON COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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