Tag Archives: History

The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

The Titus County Courthouse was built in 1895, but currently looks nothing like its original brick exterior with a large bell tower on top. The building underwent a couple of modernistic renovations, one of which earned it the title of “Ugliest Courthouse in Texas,” although there are other contenders. In the 1990s, the building was restored to its 1940s Art Deco – Moderne appearance. Now I think it’s starkly beautiful.

The ugliest courthouse in Texas? Yes, definitely we needed to put the Titus County Courthouse on our field trip list.

On a recent trip to Texas, family members and I were looking for interesting historical destinations in northeast Texas.  Visiting courthouses usually takes you to scenic and historic areas in each county.  There are 254 counties in Texas, so there are a lot of courthouses to visit. A quick search online in our desired area found several notable destinations.  One place stood out: The Titus County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant was named as The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas. (There are several contenders to that title, according to several websites devoted to Texas.)

Actually, the Titus County Courthouse didn’t look that ugly in the photo — just dramatically changed from its original appearance when it sported a brown brick exterior and a large bell tower.  Bell towers on top of courthouses fell out of favor when they began to fall during high winds during severe Texas weather, so they aren’t usually a feature on Texas courthouses in modern times. The Titus County Courthouse, built in 1895, is the fifth courthouse building in Titus County.  The current courthouse underwent a couple of  renovations, including one that did look hideous, but the building was restored in the 1990s to its 1940s appearance of Art Deco and Moderne, which I think is attractive.  One quirk is that a loudspeaker blasts music, news and commercials from an area radio station in the area around the courthouse.  One website noted this, and we discovered it was true.  It was a Sunday and otherwise quiet in the courthouse neighborhood.

Mount Pleasant is a Texas Main Street City.

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas Postcard

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

Click on these thumbnails to see full-size photographs.

We also discovered one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas, the Old Harrison County Courthouse, which I’ll write about in another post, and also include other Texas courthouses.

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

 

 

 

 

 

Titus County Courthouse: The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

254 Texas Courthouses Website.

Texas Courthouses.

A Link to Several of My Courthouse Photographs in Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

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Filed under Architecture, Photography, Travel

History on Every Street in Jefferson, Texas

The Jefferson, Texas, General Store beckons travelers, tourists and residents with refreshments, clothing and all sorts of other enticements.

Whenever I visit my sister in Tyler, Texas, we go on tours of the many historic towns in her corner of Texas, called the Piney Woods.  On my recent visit, my sister took us (my mother and niece, too) to Jefferson, in the northeast corner of the state.

We happened to go when the city was preparing for its annual re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson, a Civil War battle.  The re-enactment is reported to be the largest in Texas.  We didn’t see this re-enactment, but we saw many of its participants in town before it began.  You can check out the links below to find out more about this fascinating town, where there is an historic plaque or marker on almost every public building and on many residences. Shortly after the Civil War, which ended in 1865, Jefferson was the six largest town in Texas. Now, although it’s a small town, it retains its historic grandeur. The town, which is in Marion County, was named after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

Click on the thumbnails at the bottom of the post to see full-size versions of the collages.

Jefferson General Store

In the upper left, a cat leaves empty pawed from the Jefferson General Store, Jefferson, Texas. Shoppers in Civil War era clothing examine the goods in the general store.

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas, for the Battle for Jefferson, a U.S. Civil war re-enactment, which takes place the first weekend in May. Some of the many historical buildings are visible in this collage: The Old Post Office, the Marion County Courthouse, Excelsior House hotel; and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Civil War re-enactors

Participants in the U.S. Civil War re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson relax and shop in Jefferson, Texas.

History is on Every Corner in Jefferson, Texas

History is on every corner and every street in Jefferson Texas. From the upper left is the Old Post Office, now the historical society; The Excelsior House hotel; The Jefferson Carnegie Library, still operating as a library; and the Sterne Fountain.

Jefferson, Texas.

History on every corner, including old gasoline stations turned into antique stores, markers dedicated to residents who got famous and even old clawfoot bathtubs featured at an antique store.

Jefferson, Texas

Jefferson, Texas, offers tourists a variety of destinations to explore, including the Museum of Measurement and Time and the Jay Gould Railroad Car.

About Jefferson, Texas.

Visit Jefferson, Texas.

Jefferson Carnegie Library.

About the Battle for Jefferson.

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Filed under History, Photography, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Travel

Webster House in Kansas City

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Webster House, formerly the Webster School. It’s in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

It’s a beautiful work of art, designed in the “Richardson Romanesque” style.  What a grand place it must have been to attend school there! It’s lovely inside and out with fabulous interior wood woodwork. The school officially opened in 1886 and then closed in 1932. It was restored, opening in 2002, as a beautiful dining and shopping location. The Webster House has a beautiful bell tower, which is a reconstruction. The original was removed after another school’s bell tower fell during a tornado and caused the death of fifteen students.  I like to meet friends and family at the Webster House for lunch or dinner, served in a couple of lovely dining rooms, which were once school rooms.

Behind the Webster House are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Pylons, architectural icons and modern additions to the Downtown Kansas City landscape.

The Webster School was designed by the Kansas City School Board’s architect, Manuel Diaz. Webster House is one of the oldest remaining public school buildings in Kansas City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Webster School was the last area school built with a bell tower on top. In 1886 a tornado caused the bell tower on the Lathrop School at Ninth and Broadway to crash into the school, collapsing the third and second floors into the basement and burying children in the debris.  Bell towers were no longer permitted on top of schools after this tragedy.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

History of the Webster House.

History of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Crossroads Arts District.

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Filed under Education, Kansas City, Personal, Photography

Historic Valentine Diners

I first saw a Valentine diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.

I first saw a Valentine Diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.

I grew up in the Wichita, Kansas, area but it wasn’t until I visited a museum in New Mexico a couple of years ago that I found out about a hometown industry — the Valentine Diner. My family moved to the Wichita area because of its biggest manufacturing business — airplanes — but somehow I missed this smaller manufacturing cousin.

The diners were manufactured in Wichita by Valentine Manufacturing, Inc., from the late 1930s into the mid-1970s. Sales of the buildings expanded nationwide, and soon Valentine diners were installed all over the United States. About 2,200 of the portable diners, in a wide range of sizes. Some served only a handful of customers, while the double deluxe versions were as large as many restaurants with added areas that featured several booths, tables and a long counter with stools.

Numerous Valentine diner buildings are still in use today, but many are no longer diners, but serve as headquarters for other types of businesses, such as used car lot offices and dog grooming salons. One 8-stool Valentine building was converted to an Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Substation

Menu of Terry's Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint's Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.

Menu of Terry’s Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint’s Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.

One Valentine diner still serving delicious meals is Brint’s Diner in Wichita, where my mother and I enjoyed a meal. The red and white checkered linoleum tile floor, the red vinyl booths and bar stools and the aluminum trimmed interior provide a delightful vintage atmosphere.  The diner attracts a loyal following. The Brint’s building is a double deluxe model.  The diner concept was based on railroad dining cars, but with a parking lot and the addition of porches and other extras they settled in as permanent residents of their neighborhoods.

The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.

The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.

This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe's Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.

This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe’s Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.

Brint's Diner (actually Terry's Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.

Brint’s Diner (actually Terry’s Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.

Vintage Diner Interior Poster

Interior of Brint’s Diner.

For more about Valentine Diner’s check out these links:
Kansapedia: Valentine Portable Diners in Kansas

Valentine Diners Along Route 66 and Beyond.

Arthur Valentine’s Portable Diners.

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Filed under Food, History, Kansas, Life, Photography, Travel

“There’s Tourists in Them Thar Hills”

A stage coach in Silverton, Colorado, waits for riders.

A stage coach in Silverton, Colorado, waits for riders.

If you want to get high, the place to go is Silverton, Colorado, and I’m not talking about anything you smoke.  I visited this gorgeous very high-altitude Rocky Mountain town in June 2015. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song would be an appropriate soundtrack to this post.

Silverton  is a former silver mining town that now mines tourists, who visit the charming historic town with its Wild West and Victorian ambiance in a spectacular mountain setting.

With a mean elevation of 11,240 feet (3426 meters), Silverton is in San Juan County, which is the highest county in the United States. It’s also the county with the smallest population in Colorado. Most or all of Silverton is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District, the Silverton Historic District. Silverton is linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark. Tourism provides the gold and silver in Silverton, not mining. Also supporting the population is maintenance of US 550 (which links Montrose with Durango via Silverton), mine pollution remediation, and retirees. In 2002 an extreme ski mountain, Silverton Mountain, opened near the town.

The Durango Silverton train arrives in Silverton, Colorado.

The Durango Silverton train arrives in Silverton, Colorado.

Tourists arrive by car, motorcycle, bus and train.  I drove, trying to keep my car on the road while peeking at the scenery as we climbed the steep narrow highway from Durango.  It also rained from time to time, adding to the thrill of mountain adventure.  This trip I skipped traveling the section of the highway north of Silverton, called the Million Dollar Highway, which I like to call the Million HOLLER highway, because it truly is scary.  I’m sure I screamed a lot on that trip, something I almost never do, not very helpful to the nerves of the driver, my husband. Even though it was years ago, when we traveled on the Million Holler Highway  in the dark, in the rain, my heart still hammers thinking about it.

I first heard the quote “There’s gold in them thar hills” years ago, and never knew where it came from.  Now, I’ve learned that the saying is associated with the  first major gold rush, which was in the United States was in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828.

Wikipedia entry about Silverton, Colorado.

San Juan County Courthouse, Silverton, Colorado Postcard

The San Juan County Courthouse is in Silverton, Colorado. San Juan County has the highest average elevation of any county in the United States and the smallest population in Colorado.

Shady Lady Restaurant

This house built in 1888 was the last brothel in Silverton, Colorado. Madam Jew Fanny closed shop in 1947. This restaurant is right by the railroad stop, so it’s periodically very crowded. People in period costumes urge tourists to come inside. We didn’t eat there. The reviews for the most part weren’t favorable, and it doesn’t take credit cards.

Animas River in Silverton, Colorado

In this photograph from June 2015, snowmelt and heavy rain combine to produce the rushing waters of the Animas River which flows through the Silverton area, shown here, to the city of Durango in Colorado. The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad travels 45.4 miles each way along the Animas River from Durango to Silverton during our summer season May through October.

Getting Around in Silverton, Colorado

Many tourists get around in Silverton, Colorado, after arriving on the train, but you can also take a stagecoach ride or rent a bike.

Silverton, Colorado, Train Depot Postcard

Silverton, Colorado, Train Depot.

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It’s Tea Time at Charleston Tea Plantation

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

What sounds perfect on a rainy chilly day?  Hot tea!  We’d set out from Kiawah Island in late February (2015) to visit some notable outdoor sites in Charleston, South Carolina, but the morning rain persisted so we saw little more than gift shops (where we could stay dry).  As we returned to Kiawah, we turned off at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is about twenty miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. We could stay dry in a trolley as we rode around the plantation.  And there was plenty of free hot tea in the gift shop!

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of "Man of War," a famous race horse.

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of “Man of War,” a famous race horse.

It was overcast and a little misty when we arrived, but no umbrellas were required.   My hair was already frizzed out by now anyway.  According to the plantation’s website, “Wadmalaw Island is in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry…Wadmalaw provides the perfect environment for propagating tea. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches per year, Wadmalaw possess idyllic conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is currently used to produce both black and green teas and exists in over 320 varieties on the 127 acre grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation.”

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea -- Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea — Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows the tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only working tea plantation in North America and is open to the public for tours of the grounds and factory and for hosting private events. Every year the plantation also hosts the First Flush Festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest season.  The name, First Flush, means the new leaves that are beginning to grow on the tea plant bushes that are ready to be harvested for production.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn't like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn’t like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

Since 1987, the American Classic Tea brand of the Charleston Tea Plantation has been the official tea of the White House.

Plenty of rain is what Camellia sinensis likes, so at least the tea plants were happy!  There were several types of hot tea waiting for us to try, which we happily drank while waiting for our $10 trolley ride. Our trolley was called “Man of War,” named after the famous horse. Our driver told us that the plantation bought the trolley on ebay from the city of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby town.  We stopped along the way at the state-of-the-art greenhouse, where tea plant propagation takes place. The tour is narrated in a recording by William Barclay Hall, founder of American Classic Tea and world renowned Tea Taster, as well as by the very knowledgeable driver.  The plantation was only started in 1960, although other southern plantations had tried to grow tea plants previously.

The leaves are processed at the plantation factory, but the final product is packaged in Connecticut. We were there during the off-season, so we didn’t see any harvesting or processing.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

From Wikipedia:  “In 1799, French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux brought the Camellia Sinensis  plant to the United States and gave it to Henry Middleton. They planted the tea at Middleton’s plantation. The tea seemed to thrive in areas like Charleston and Georgetown.  It took many attempts by multiple companies and individuals to successfully establish a tea company without an early failure. These failures included plantations in Georgetown, Greenville and Summerville, the longest of which lasted less than twenty years. The Thomas J Lipton Company decided to give it a try.  In 1960, they bought the failing tea plantation in Summerville and in 1963 they moved out to Wadmalaw Island  and operated a research station for about twenty-five years. 

You can't visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

You can’t visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

The Charleston Tea Plantation, as it is known today, was established in 1987 when Mack Fleming and William (Bill) Barclay Hall bought the land and the research station from the Lipton Company. Mack Fleming, a horticultural professor, had been running the plantation for the Lipton Company and Bill Hall was a third generation tea tester from England.  Along with establishing the plantation, they created the American Classic Tea brand. ”  The R.C. Bigelow Company in Connecticut bought the plantation about a decade ago.

Charles Tea Plantation Website.

Wikipedia: Charleston Tea Plantation

Bigelow Tea Company.

Health and Beauty Tips Using Tea!

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Filed under Drink, Gardening, History, Photography, Tea, Travel

The Rainmaker in San Diego

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  Mark Twain made famous this quote by his writer friend Charles Dudley Warner.

According to an account in Wikipedia, the citizens of San Diego so appreciated Warner’s flattering description of their city in his book, Our Italy, that they named three consecutive streets in the Point Loma neighborhood after him: Charles Street, Dudley Street, and Warner Street.

Interestingly, San Diego leaders later proved Dudley’s quote wrong by actually hiring someone to change their weather.  In 1915, the San Diego area was suffering a drought.  They asked Charles Mallory Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam Reservoir. Hatfield, who was from the San Diego area, had already achieved some acclaim for bringing rain to other areas, including Los Angeles. Hatfield was a “pluviculturist,” a fancy term for rainmaker.  By 1902, he had created a secret mixture of 23 chemicals in large galvanized evaporating tanks that, he claimed, attracted rain. (He took this recipe to the grave.) Hatfield called himself a “moisture accelerator.”

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California's drought.

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California’s drought.

A Kansas native, but raised in California, Hatfield traveled western North America promising to bring rain to areas suffering a drought.  One of his biggest “successes” was San Diego, although he didn’t get paid because he “created” too much rain and was lucky he didn’t have to pay for damages.  Hatfield was hired by the city to fill the reservoir, which was only a third full.  Not long after he set up his apparatus filled with his secret chemical connection, it began to rain, and eventually the reservoir was filled  to overflowing and other areas flooded.  At least 20 people were drowned.

It’s likely the rain wasn’t the result of Hatfield’s efforts, but it was certainly a coincidence that more rain fell than usual.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rain is most likely in November through March, with January, on average, measuring 2.28 inches.  NOAA didn’t mention January 1916 as being particularly rainy, though. When I visited my daughter in Huntington Beach, California, in January 2010, we had several days of perfect weather during which we watched a surfing competition and then a couple of days of really hard rain and high winds, something I’m no stranger to in Kansas, but golly, I came to California for the sun!  There was even a small tornado on the beach, which flipped over a car. (Click the link to my “Outgunned” post at the bottom of this post to see surfing competition photos.)

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in january 2010.

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in January 2010.

From the text associated with the YouTube video above about Charles Mallory Hatfield: “In 1915 the San Diego city council, pressured by the San Diego Wide Awake Improvement Club, approached Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield offered to produce rain for free, then charge $1,000 per inch ($393.7 per centimetre) for between forty to fifty inches (1.02 to 1.27 m) and free again over fifty inches (1.27 m). The council voted four to one for a $10,000 fee, payable when the reservoir was filled. Hatfield, with his brother, built a 20-foot (6 m) tower beside Lake Morena and was ready early in the New Year.

On January 5, 1916 heavy rain began – and grew gradually heavier day by day. Dry riverbeds filled to the point of flooding. Worsening floods destroyed bridges, marooned trains and cut phone cables – not to mention flooding homes and farms. Two dams, Sweetwater Dam and one at Lower Otay Lake, overflowed. Rain stopped January 20 but resumed two days later. On January 27 Lower Otay Dam broke, increasing the devastation and reportedly causing about 20 deaths (accounts vary on the exact number).”

Despite Hatfield’s flood, San Diego is said to have one of the most ideal climates in the world.  When I learned that my paternal grandparents lived in the San Diego area in the 1920s, I took an interest in the area’s history.  My grandfather Jack Sherman was a civil engineer surveying projects there, including orchards. My grandparents left California when my father and his two sisters were still young, returning to the Sturgis, South Dakota, where my grandmother’s parents owned a hotel. My grandmother missed home and her mother was sick, but when I first heard about that, I thought, leave sunny southern California, hmmm?  They had good reasons to leave. In addition to my maternal great-grandmother’s poor health, my grandparents’ Escondido house had burned down after a worker knocked over a lantern, but the Black Hills of South Dakota are cold! Of course, had they stayed, my parents wouldn’t have met, and I wouldn’t be telling this story.
My blog post on the Surfing Competition called “Outgunned.” My lens envy.
Wikipedia History of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
San Diego History Journal Biography of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
Charles Hatfield is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
Southern California Tornado in January 2010.

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Filed under Environment, History, Journalism, Life