Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tarleton Thursdays - Stephenville Historic Resources Survey

In the spring semester of 2015, Dr. T. Lindsay Baker, W.K. Gordon endowed chair in history, and his students in HIST 5309 (Historic Preservation) and HIST 4350 (Special Topics) partnered with the City of Stephenville to identify and document historic, mostly commercial structures within a 25 block area surrounding the Erath County Courthouse and the square, as well as additional sites outside of this area selected by the city.  The students used recording forms approved by the Texas Historical Commission, adding photographs and other research documents.

The result was called the Stephenville Historic Resources Survey.  Dr. Baker recently donated a copy of this survey, as well as the accompanying research files for the 147 sites and other supporting material, to the Dick Smith Library, along with digital copies of the photographs from the project.

A nearly-21-block area downtown was initially identified, with over half of the buildings surveyed in it considered to be contributing to a historic district designation on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  Further work by the expert consultant hired by the city, Mary Saltarelli, has expanded the district to include a total of 120 buildings, with 77 of those (63%) contributing.  The minimum requirement is 51 percent to be considered for placement on the registry.  Being listed on the registry can bring tax incentives and other benefits to the downtown area and property owners.

While the original research files will be preserved, the library hopes to make copies of the files available in the Local History Room in the Special Collections Suite on the lower level of the Dick Smith Library, where users can access them to learn the history of their homes or buildings.

Here are just a few examples of buildings that are part of the proposed district.  The first building pictured, the First National Bank building on the square, built in 1889, has been a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark since 1994.  On July 21, 2015, it was added to the NRHP as an individual building, and in February 2017, it received a Preservation Texas Honor Award for its restoration and rehabilitation.

Above:  198 S Belknap Ave., First National Bank Building.  Photo by T. Lindsay Baker, 4 May 2015.
Below:  160 E Washington St., W.W. Rutherford Building.   Photo by T. Lindsay Baker, 3 May 2015.

Below:  154 E Washington St., Tatum and Sons Building.  Photo by T. Lindsay Baker, 3 May 2015.
Research by the library's Special Services and Archives staff using old Sanborn insurance maps shows that the first floor of the Tatum building was actually constructed between September 1902 and November 1907, which corresponds with a large increase in the property's value in 1905, the estimated construction year for the first floor.  The second floor was added in 1920.

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