A large crowd was on hand Thursday evening at the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame on East MLK Jr. Boulevard as residents gathered to hear the presentation of the 2019 Most Endangered Places list for Waxahachie.
Every year, Historic Waxahachie Inc., a preservation advocacy group for the city’s historic buildings, presents its list of structures that are at risk of being lost due to being torn down or renovated in a non-historical manner.
The 2019 list named five historical structures: the South Ward School building, the Lucas home, the Optimist Youth Center, the Farrar home and the New Town Drug Store building. These five buildings join those already listed by Historic Waxahachie as endangered sites throughout the city.
Previously named sites include the Boze-Mitchell-McKibben Funeral Home building, International Order of the Oddfellows building and Joshua Chapel.
“Waxahachie is one of the most historic towns in Texas but our heritage is fragile,” Historic Waxahachie member Nancy Post said. “Each year, many historic places disintegrate, are torn down or are remodeled and stripped of their historic features.
“Our hope is to move places from our Most Endangered Places list to our list of ‘This Place Saved,’ ” she said.
As she read through the 2019 list, Post gave a bit of history on each – as well as its current status.
“[South Ward School, 716 Dunaway St.] operated for 50 years until the 1963-1964 school year,” Post said of the 1912 building. “After that it became an activity center. Then it fell into private hands uses as both a residence and a storage facility.”
The Lucas home, located at 105 Lucas St., was constructed in 1932. “The home’s Tudor Revival architecture is unusual in Waxahachie but is far more common in some areas of Dallas,” Post said. “The original owner, L.G. ‘Louie’ Lucas, was a Greek immigrant who became a successful local entrepreneur.”
The Optimist Youth Center, located at 219 Patrick St., was built prior to 1932. “The Optimist Club in Waxahachie, an outgrowth of the Optimist International organization, was founded in Waxahachie in 1946,” Post said. “The youth center and adjacent ball fields were made possible by a donation from Rev. E.S. Bledsoe in memory of his wife, Edna Nash (Thompson) Bledsoe. Plans to repurpose a 60-foot barn on the site were approved and, the following spring, the building was officially opened in June 1948. The barn was from the farm of C.P. Burnet and predated 1932.”
The Farrar home, located at 509 E. Ross St., was constructed prior to 1930. “The home is within an original plat of the town of Waxahachie in an area with non-existent storm water infrastructure, lack of curbs and serious drainage problems. Historic Waxahachie is concerned that many preservation properties in the area are at risk of water – and termite damage will accelerate the loss of taxable value and historic properties.”
The New Town Drug Store building is located at 516 Wyatt St. “This building was constructed in the mid-1920s to serve the needs of residents in the New Town section of Waxahachie and remained a gathering place for that community for nearly 50 years,” Post said. “The building is currently vacant and surviving members of the family own the property.”
Post noted that a multi-faceted approach is required with preservation efforts.
“We must work to protect our heritage for past, present and future generations through preservation, education and advocacy,” she said.
The meeting was held in the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame Building, which itself was once an endangered building listed with the 2011 Preservation Texas 2011 Most Endangered Places. It was saved when Dr. Jamil R. Allen Rasheed bought the building and began its restoration. In 2017, the building received an honor award from Preservation Texas for the renovation work that was done.
After the presentation of the Waxahachie Most Endangered Places list for 2019, Rasheed provided attendees a tour of the building, which features many historical aspects. He also told about the restoration process the structure underwent.