Saving Luling’s “Iconic Structures”

In honor of Preservation Month, I will continue tossing around preservation topics throughout the month of May which are relevant to Luling. I asked someone very dear to me if they had read the 1st preservation column a couple weeks ago and they said “yeah, but it was boring and wasn’t funny like the others”.   It’s been proven out that humor is important in relationships, but it looks like humor has now been proven out to be the most important aspect of this column. Oh well… On to less important things…

Last week we did our 3rd installment in the “buildings lost forever” series which talks about some of our buildings that had fallen into disrepair and ultimately “bit the dust” for various reasons.   Maybe under a different set of circumstances their demise could have been avoided, but it just wasn’t in the cards for these three buildings. Our memories of these buildings will fade further away with each generation that passes, and I suppose the best we can do now is to document their existence and share these stories so future generations will know what happened around here in the early days.

But although some of these buildings are now gone, I think the major point that could be made here is that we still have many other buildings around here that are clinging to life and are still awaiting their fate.   Some have passed into the dangerous “afterthought stage” and are almost past the point of no return.  And regretfully, a few of these buildings are some of Luling’s “iconic buildings” that I have been referring to. There are several of these buildings here in Luling, and you are just going to have to excuse me when I actually start naming some of them here shortly. My intent is not to embarrass any property owners, but to try to spur thought and to try to push forward the ideal that there are multiple reasons why some of these buildings might be worth saving, if we could just put all our heads together and find a feasible way out for everyone involved. Because believe it or not, in some cases the roof, walls and floor are not actually what make these buildings so important. It is their historical significance and the sentimental role they have played in enhancing our community’s heritage.

People from all around the country continue to call up to the Visitors Center at the Luling Oil Museum inquiring about some of these structures, and it would be a shame if we lost them. The last call I received was inquiring about the Rock-A-Bye Motel. I have had several conversations with different people (most of them from out of town) asking if anyone had tried to restore it yet and talking about how unique those structures are.   Another is the old Sarg Records building next to the Thump Pavilion which many people still ask about. Not too long ago someone from England was asking us if “that record store” was still there. There was tons of history made in that building and Sgt. Fitch’s legacy is HUGE outside of this community. I hear inside there are still large stashes of vinyls lying about. Other interesting buildings that have fallen on hard times are the old Belle Haven Orphanage and the old Cain Building on Davis St. There are also numerous buildings in downtown Luling that are in need of serious work and are currently living on borrowed time.   Buildings like the old “Winn’s store” at the corner of Davis St. and Pecan Ave., or even the old “Battle Ax” building across the street. Some of these “eyesores” still have tons of potential and with good planning, can still become integral parts of the revitalization we are now seeing. However, there are a couple of them that need attention soon or they will be added to the growing list of “buildings gone forever”.   I guess it’s very possible that some of these “iconic buildings” can no longer be saved and are too far gone, but maybe we can at least salvage parts of them for historical sake and somehow preserve their important contributions, which have made this town what it is today.

Believe me, I fully recognize that sound economics plays a major role in these things and that restoring some of them may not make good business sense, at least on the surface.   Potential projects are at an impasse due to crazy asking prices and other issues, but is it possible that some creative “out of the box” thinking may be lacking in some cases?   That maybe a broader view of the possibilities could lead to new “light bulbs going off” type ideas? Maybe not in all cases, but surely it could work for some.   I know there are entities adjacent to some of these properties that may have other ideas, but maybe there are ways to satisfy everyone involved if we are creative enough. But if nothing else, I hope these discussions help stir conversation and get us on the path towards improving Luling’s Preservation Ethic. An ideal that encourages us to at least consider preservation before making that ultimate, and very final decision to bulldoze another one of Luling’s “iconic structures”.

“We have a strategic plan… it’s called preserving things!”   – Luling Main Street

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 15 May 2014: Volume 136, No. 8
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