If you had to sum up in one sentence what Luling Main Street is, it would be: “We are Economic Development through Historic Preservation…” An important aspect of what we do is to help promote an environment that is sensitive to preservation and help enhance our community by making it a great place to shop, work, walk, and invest in. We have several wonderful older buildings that are still an important piece of everyday life in Luling, however, we have lost many historic buildings over the years and it is a shame that some of them couldn’t be saved. Anyone remember the old two-story building that stood for many years on the northeast corner of Davis and Magnolia? Unfortunately, now that particular corner is just a vacant lot next to Luling BBQ. Everyone I’ve spoken to refers to it as “the old Webb building”, so that is what I’m going to call it. It is but one of many treasured Luling buildings that are gone forever and now just a fading memory. Thank goodness people come forward to share some of their old historic photos with us, or very few of us would even know they ever existed at all. In this column we would like to occasionally highlight some of the more memorable Luling buildings that for various reasons aren’t making the journey with us into the 21st century.
The Webb General Store operated out of this building at 701 E. Davis for about 27 years starting in the 1940’s. In the picture to the right, it is shown as Luling Steam Vulcanizing in the 1920’s where they repaired new and used tire casings. There were many landlords and tenants that came and went, and I’m sure they would have many stories to tell. One of the many upstairs tenants – McSwain Engineering, was the firm responsible for all of the engineering work on the Gonzales County segment for the construction of the new US Hwy 90 back in the day. Another story has an “ingenious” tobacco salesman giving away a raffle ticket for the rights to a caged live Cardinal Rooster with every purchase of “Red Rooster” snuff during a promotion in the Webb General Store days. Not sure I’d rush over to buy some snuff just to have a shot at bringing home some goofy rooster. Different day and age I guess… But all of these buildings have an interesting history with many stories to tell and this one is no different. Unfortunately, the old Webb building started leaning a little too much towards the highway and it was slated for demolition approx. 30 years ago. Another cool story I stumbled across was right after this building was demolished, Willie J. Biggs rescued a large amount of bricks from the rubble and they were stored out on the grounds at BJP, Inc for many years. He wanted them to be used for the future Oil Museum people were talking about. Then in 2009 when the Luling Oil Museum was upgrading the entry way into the exhibition area, these old bricks from the Webb building finally made their way to their intended destination. So when you visit the Oil Museum you will see these old bricks installed at the base of the wall when you come inside the main entrance.
Historic buildings will be lost to unforeseen circumstances and other Acts of God, but hopefully we can do our best to save them when we are at a crossroads with some of these old treasures. Based on 30 years of data saying that Preservation helps a community’s ability to preserve its heritage, we hope it would become a top priority when a building starts to fall onto hard times. It has been proven thousands of times over at sites all around the country that the restoration of some of these old buildings creates a powerful domino effect when trying to revitalize a business district. For those looking to fix up an older building, the Texas Historical Commission offers free architectural and engineering advice for those in our main street district. If you want to tap into these resources, or if you have any questions or issues with an old building that is starting to be a little cantankerous, don’t hesitate to call us. Maybe we can save the next one before it leans too much…
“We have a strategic plan… it’s called doing things!” – Herb Kelleher