Unique Buildings in the Abilene Area – Our Top Seven
The Abilene area is home to many unique buildings. Many, that are in a sense, timeless. They're also buildings that have their own character; they seem to almost speak for themselves. Unique because there are no others “exactly” them. Some may come close, however they don't have the charm nor the history. Let's take a look at the buildings that have caught our eyes, some for over a century.
The Kasmir Mansion
The property at 7302 Buffalo Gap Road is often referred to as, the big white mansion, the white-house and for a while there the “eye-sore”. What it became known as to the people that live next door is, The Kashmir Mansion. This stately manor is a source of wonderment to all who have laid eyes on it. Is it a business? Is it as bordello? Maybe a bed and breakfast. The answer is, it was home to Peter and Pat Kashmir the original owners of the home who ordered it's construction in 1983. Peter Kasimir, was a Polish immigrant who went to Germany as a young man. He immigrated to Canada in 1952 and always dreamed of working in the U.S. He eventually became successful in the hotel business, working his way up to management. By 1973, he and wife Pat, bought their first hotel, the Royal Inn in Abilene. They bought an old house located at 7302 Buffalo Gap road and the Kasimirs decided to build a bigger house. So in 1983, they tore down the little house and started construction on the big white mansion. On a side note, Mr. Kasimir loved European architecture, while wife Pat, who was from Alabama, loved colonial homes. Mrs. Kasmir says “that is how the home got it's design, European American Colonial.”
This is the Jones county courthouse in Anson Texas. Originally the city was named Jones City, the town was renamed Anson in 1882 in honor of Anson Jones, the fifth president for the Republic of Texas. This is not the original Jones County courthouse, there were two prior to the completion of this unique and historical building that is now the Jones County Courthouse. The courthouse in the center of Anson was complete and occupied in 1910. The Jones County courthouse is an excellent example of Beaux Arts styling, other notable features include the statue of Lady Justice on top of the dome clock tower with a flanking pair of columns on each facade. The Courthouse received a badly needed remodel and modernization that was completed in May of 2003. This courthouse is an excellent example of what historical and preservation organizations and some grant monies can do for a community. Whenever you drive through Anson Texas there is no missing this awesome building, because it's in the center of town and is, the traffic circle.
The Texas Theater
First off before I even start telling you about this building please know that the building is haunted, by little old ladies whom many say, they've heard chatting and giggling the hours away. That fact was documented by a nationally televised well known ghost hunting show. That said, the Texas Theater opened in December 1935, where they played movies and had live vaudeville shows. If this little theater is still around today it's because one man saw it and thought “it's meant so much to so many for so long it's a crying shame for it to rot away” that man was, Weston Pyburn who now sits on the board of the non-profit organization S.T.T.A.R. (Sweetwater Texas Theatre Acquisition & Renovation) that is responsible for what goes on, in the Texas Theater and it's up keep. The building had become quite shabby, but was still in operation at least until sometime in 2005, when the owner closed it. It remained closed until 2009, when a group of Sweetwater folks organized S.T.T.A.R. the Sweetwater Texas Theater Acquisition & Renovation a 501©3 charity organization. The group purchased the theater in 2010, and began renovating it. Films are now screened on a part time basis. Weston Pyburn who sits on the STTAR board says “we'd welcome live shows and/or concerts if anyone wanted to hold any in this historical movie theater” S.T.T.A.R. is also looking for assistance in the funding, and any help it can get to restore it fully and operate it. To get involved or for information contact S.T.T.A.R by phone at (325) 235-5488 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater in Abilene opened its doors on May 19, 1930. The entire town came out to see the over 1,400 electric bulbs illuminate the 90 foot marquee. It was billed as the “Event of the Decade!” Manager Wally Aiken was well known for his promotional stunts for over forty years. Many west Texans recall bringing milk bottle caps to get into “Uncle Wally’s Birthday Club” on Saturday mornings. The Paramount was a frequent destination of the soldiers from Camp Barkeley located just outside of Abilene. The Paramount remained open as a movie theater until the mid-seventies when box office revenues dropped and forced it to close for a short time. The theater re-opened in 1979 as the “Paramount Opry” for a short lived career in the country/bluegrass music business, that too failed. It's maximum capacity is one shy of 2,000 and the full restoration was completed in May of 1987. Since then, The Paramount Theater has seen it's share of films, concerts, musical productions, opera, dance, private parties and corporate meetings and more. It's concerts included the likes of Broadway, opera and country singer Gary Morris, rocker Ted Nugent, singer songwriter James Taylor, banjo playing funny man Steve Martin just to name a few. Now days it's the main attraction to downtown Abilene and a great place to take in a classic movie on a hot summer day. By the way, Disney's Jungle Book is playing now.
Underwood's Cafeteria in Brownwood got it's start during the depression in the 1930's, when a local butcher, M.E. Underwood began cooking and selling Bar-B-Que door to door in order make ends meet for his growing family. By 1941 he had a little road side shack in Brady Texas, but by the end of WWII Morris Underwood opened in Brownwood on West Commerce Street. The Underwood's building has had it's share of renovations through out the years but still sits in the same Location at 404 West Commerce Street in Brownwood. The building is familiar to all that have ever eaten there, because the atmosphere is still reminiscent of years gone by, a much simpler time, when a person could order brisket and the famous “Mama Underwood's Fried Chicken” all on one plate. Unlike most of today's fast paced restaurants where the original founder has since been long removed, with Underwood's Cafeteria the family, Leo & Paul Underwood (brothers) still run the day to day operations. In fact the photographer, Carl Wayne that took these pictures is a radio friend of mine and he employs on a part-time basis one of the Underwood's. Paul Underwood is a sportscaster for radio station KOXE in Brownwood.
T&P Train Depot
The T&P building as it's known to many west Texans is located at 1101 North First Street, it's one of Abilene's most outstanding landmarks, the T&P Railroad Station was built in 1910. Its exterior was restored in 1994 to its original early 1900's appearance. The construction of the Depot resulted from the efforts of local civic leaders to promote Abilene. The last passenger train left the Depot in March 1967 with only 39 passengers aboard. Since then a few have traveled by rail through the T&P Train Depot in Abilene, but only as a promotional ride on a modern day Amtrak. There were plans at one time to regularly schedule an Amtrak service to and from Abilene to Dallas with a competitive fare price that would rival the Greyhound bus fares. No word on why that never developed any further. Today it's an office building.
Geo Dome Home
It's been said “dome homes are virtually indestructible” and the folks at underwriters laboratories have tested that dome home theory. The fact is they can withstand extremely high winds and most earthquakes. Domes have gone through tornadoes, hurricanes (including Katrina), and earthquakes (the 7.5 earthquake in Chile) with minimal surface damage and no structural damage. The difference is in the aerodynamic shape of a dome. Domes employ a basic yet somewhat complicated geometrical theory. Some domes, like the one here in Abilene, were designed utilizing a triangular pattern where by three sides are connected to other three sided walls forming a much more sturdier construction. Dome homes are also proven to be extremely energy efficient. While Dome homes are more energy frugal and safer, for some odd reason, they have never really taken off. Could it be their non-conventional appearance, which is why we may only have one that I'm aware of here in Abilene? One closing thought on dome homes, they really do make sense, because, not only are they highly efficient and durable, but the can be built in no time.