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Donley County Historical Markers

Clarendon Motor Company Building, Clarendon


Narrative: The Clarendon Motor Company Building (1924) is a 2- story stucco, Mission Revival-influenced automobile dealership with a rectangular plan and built-up roof. Red tile canopies cover major entrances to the primary building while recessed medallions and tiles decorate the upper facade. The building is located in the commercial center of the small town of Clarendon, Donley County, Texas, at the corner of Third and Sully Streets. The noteworthy element of the facade is the Alamo-style parapet that punctuates the front (east) facade. Two tiled- roof kiosks stand near the street, one on the east and another on the south facades. Both kiosks are Contributing structures on the site. The property retains a high degree of integrity.

The Clarendon Motor Company Building (1924) building is constructed of brick and clad with stucco. Decorative glazed tile and red clay tiles provide ornamentation. The roof is flat and built-up with rolled asphalt covering. Exterior walls are painted a buff color. Red tiled canopies protect entrances to the primary building. Distinctive architectural elements include the Mission-influenced roof parapet with coping, recessed medallions above each bay, and decorative brown patterned tiles. The built-up roof is entirely obscured by the parapets.

The building is on the northwest corner of the intersection of Third and Sully Streets. The principal (east) facade is symmetrical with a central door flanked by two large bays, originally designed for viewing automobiles inside.(Photo 1) Above the door and bays are tile roofed hoods and recessed medallions. Small brown patterned tiles in both horizontal and vertical linear patterns further ornament the facade. The former service area shares a wall with the showroom to the north and is now utilized as a parking garage for the building. It is a 1-story building featuring two garage door bays and an identical roof parapet and complementary tile detailing to the principal building.

The south facade of the building is comprised of the 2- story principal building to the east and a 1-story former auto parts department to the west.(Photo 2) The principal building's south facade is comprised of an entry door protected by a tile-roofed hood, a large bay to the right, and three additional windows to the left. More recessed medallions, linear tile work, and the Mission-influenced parapet echo the front facade of the building. The former parts department (now additional office space) to the left once featured a garage bay flanked by three large, multi- paned windows. As part of the adaptive use of the building, the garage bay was converted into a second, handicapped- accessible entrance utilizing design details from other areas of the building. A new ramp for the disabled was added. The landscaping and sidewalk adjacent to the south facade were improved considerably as part of the rehabilitation.

The plan of the entire complex is rectangular. The original showroom portion and parts department together comprised a long, rectangular footprint of equal size to the service area to the north (see floor plans). Presently, the showroom and parts areas have been modified into space for a contemporary office building which includes a reception area, offices, conference rooms, and other rooms (see floor plans). Originally, a second floor balcony looked over the showroom (see floor plans). The stairs were relocated to the center of the plan, the balcony enlarged, and two offices created for the owners (see floor plan).

The floors are of terra cotta tile and the ceiling pressed metal. As part of the adaptive use of the interior, the second floor balcony was enlarged into an office and work area accessed by a new central staircase leading from the main floor (Photo 6). The new stair retains the detailing of the original stair which had flanked the north wall of the showroom.

As part of a rehabilitation of the structure, the original canopied kiosks over the gasoline pumps were recreated following the design found in historic photographs (Photos 1, 2). Both kiosks are considered Contributing to the site. Along the south facade, the original window boxes were retained (Photos 1,3). One bay of the service wing's west facade, long ago widened from a door into a car entry, was retained as is to provide access to the newly created parking garage (see floor plans).

The Clarendon Motor Company Building, located in the town of Clarendon, Donley County (1990 pop. 2, 316) serves both as a reminder of the prosperity of the ranch economy around which the town prospered in the 1920s, and also as an example of the distinctive architectural forms adopted by the first car dealers in this country. Thus the significance of the building is twofold; it stands both as a symbol of the goals and aspirations of a then growing community and also as a fine local example of Mission Revival architecture. Contextually, the building relates to the Texas Historical Commission's historic context Community and Regional Development in Texas, 1690-1945. The building is nominated to the National Register under Criterion A in the area of Commerce and C in the area of Architecture, both at the local level of significance.

The Clarendon Motor Company Building reflects an era in which the town of Clarendon began to prosper. Organized as the county seat in 1882, the town relocated five miles away to its present location in 1887, when the railroad arrived. Henry Lewis Calhart, a Methodist preacher and land speculator from New York, founded Clarendon as his location for a Christian colony named for his wife, Clara. The town is 60 miles east of Amarillo. Calhart intended Clarendon to be a prohibition colony. All deeds of property contained a clause forbidding the use of liquor. The first edition of the Clarendon News (August 2, 1879) proclaimed Clarendon's sobriety settlement" with three words: Christianity, Education, Temperance.

Henry Calhart's Clarendon Land Investment and Agency Company collapsed after the winter of 1886, but the community remained intact. Donley County was organized in 1882, and a courthouse, erected adjacent to the site of the Clarendon Motor Company Building, was built in 1890. The Southern Kansas and Panhandle Railroad (later called the Santa Fe Railroad) came from Topeka, Kansas, through Oklahoma, and into the Panhandle by 1887. The Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad, originating in Fort Worth, reached Clarendon shortly thereafter. Now feed, barbed wire, and supplies could be freighted from Clarendon to the neighboring ranches rather than from Dodge City, 200 miles away. Clarendon grew to become a significant shipping point for the railroad. Cattle were shipped to Fort Worth and Kansas City from here.

By the 1920s, Clarendon had become the building block of the county economy. The population of Donley County jumped from 5,284 in 1910 to 8,035 in 1920, an increase of more than 50 percent.(Fourteenth Census of the US, 1922) Further, the population reached 10,262 in 1930, an increase of more than 23 percent from the previous decade.(Fifteenth Census of the US, 1932) Further, the population reached 10,262 in 1930, an increase of more than 23 percent from the previous decade. Significantly, the 1920 census recorded no urban population, while the 1930 census indicated an urban population of 2,756; this new number in the "urban" category reflects the now-measurable population of Clarendon itself. The commercial core of the small community grew around Kearney Street (figure 17). In 1921, Clarendon boasted three banks, seven grocery stores, two school buildings, four drug stores, six churches, three restaurants, the Pasttime theater, three hotels, a hospital, one railroad, one newspaper, and even a college (there had once been an opera house, too, but it had been demolished by this time). The first school was established in Clarendon in 1878. Clarendon College was established in 1898.

In 1920, J.W. Martin and J.T. Patman purchased lots at the corner of Third and Sully Streets, across from the courthouse, where they commissioned Ed Barnes, a local builder, to erect the Clarendon Motor Company Building four years later, in 1924. Located at the corner of Third and Sully Streets (formerly known as Second and Jefferson Streets), the dealership was located along the town's major thoroughfare, Highway 5 to Fort Worth. Highway 5 supplanted an earlier highway known as the Colorado-to-Gulf (Denver to Galveston) and in part followed the route of the Ozark Trails (c. 1917, from Arkansas to New Mexico). Adjacent to the building were the courthouse (built in 1890), a funeral home, a hotel, the opera house (now demolished), an ice plant, and other buildings (see figures 16, 17). In 1930, the men assumed a nearby Ford dealership and changed the building to a Chevrolet dealership. Mr. Martin died in 1936 and Mr. Patman in 1951, when the business was then sold to gentlemen named. Moffitt and Noblett. Three years later, Earl Alderson purchased the business and changed the name to Alderson Chevrolet, a name which it retained until the recent adaptive use.

By 1924, when the Clarendon Motor Company was established, the car industry had come a great distance since the first car was run in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1893. Henry Ford's first car in Detroit led to the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The Model T was introduced in 1908. Ford began production with a moving assembly line in 1913. Between 1900 and 1910, the number of automobile sales had increased from 4,100 units to 186,000 units nationally. The 1920s brought the advent of mass marketing of cars. Financing became available and tire design greatly improved. Henry Ford was considered something of a folk hero.

The automobile presence in Texas grew dramatically in the first two decades of this century. In 1903, there were fewer than fifty automobiles in Dallas. Scarcely ten years later, there were 32,000 cars in the state of Texas. By 1902, 428,000 cars were on Texas roads and there were 1,500 car dealers. There was one car for every ten people in the state at this time. 1.4 million cars traveled Texas roads in 1930. To keep up with the escalation in car ownership in the state, the Texas legislature passed the first registration of autos in 1907. In 1917, a highway department was created. Between 1909 and 1913, counties issued bonds for roads and bridges totaling $12.4 million. The Texas Almanac for 1914 reported that Texas counties also were spending $5 million annually to augment the bonds. 130,000 miles of public roads covered the state as early as 1912. The Federal Highway Act, passed in 1921, provided for national routes with expenses to be shared by both the federal government and the state. Another milestone occurred in 1925 when the Texas legislature conferred upon the highway department the authority to construct and maintain a connected system of highways. The plan required several years to take hold.

Census records indicate that by 1930, Donley County bore a surprisingly large number of businesses related to the automobile industry. There were 55 individuals employed by automobile agencies and repair shops in the county, 53 employed by automobile factories and repair shops, and 24 working in garages. (Neighboring counties, such as Gray and Collingsworth, reflected similar figures).

In Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture, Chester Liebs chronicles the development of the automobile industry and the accompanying new architectural forms that emerged. Unlike today's automobile dealerships that feature huge lots with a small buildings behind, early dealerships featured prominently located showrooms complete with clearly defined parts, including service areas. Liebs explains the newfound importance of the architecturally interesting automobile showroom in this era:

By the second decade of the new century, dealers began pouring their own money into lavish new facilities. Within ten years, fashionable showrooms were going up by the hundreds, and auto-showroom construction had become a visual game of visual one-upmanship. Now architectural imagery was used not just to give credibility to fledgling companies, but also to symbolize the power of well-established corporations and the prosperity of successful dealers.

The Clarendon Motor Company Building was part of this nationwide trend, serving as a deliberately distinctive architectural statement intended to lure prospective buyers into the showroom. Its Mission-shaped roof parapets and other design elements, borrowed from early Hispanic motifs, are here freely adapted to the needs of the modern commercial building. The Mission Revival mode of architecture is utilized in another local building, the Texas Saddlery Building (formerly Clarendon Junior High School, 1921), but the Motor Company Building possesses more refined details and is located in the heart of downtown, allowing it to serve as a critical architectural component of the urban fabric of the town. Architecturally, it always has been, and remains, one of the most important buildings in downtown Clarendon.

The composition of the building perfectly articulates the various functions within. For example, the showroom is, appropriately, a grander, two-story space that sets itself apart from the secondary parts and service areas. Further, the Mission Revival motif for the building manifests itself in several details, such as the canopies over the gasoline pumps. The builder adeptly continues the rhythm of the curving parapet where required, along the service wing of the principal facade, but suspends it along the less visible secondary parts department wing on Third Street.

The integrity of the building is excellent. The architect for the rehabilitation conducted extensive research regarding the original building before any work was undertaken. For example, historic exterior and interior paint colors were investigated and a template of the original wainscot detailwork made to guide the rehabilitation. Much of the original hardware was refinished; where it was missing, it was duplicated. Because the existing doors were badly deteriorated, new ones were made to duplicate them. The metal ceiling and quarry tile floors were left intact. On the exterior, only badly deteriorated materials were removed and replaced with new materials to match. Near the west end of the south elevation, the overhead door was removed and replaced with an entrance based upon the appearance of another opening on the east facade shown in an historic photograph.

Today, car dealers in Clarendon have followed the nationwide trend of establishing dealerships away from the central city along major highways, such as Highway 287 East. The building's role as a car dealership is over. It is fortunate that the current owners purchased the building with a clear vision for its adaptive use. They have systematically and carefully rehabilitated the building as part of a larger goal of revitalizing downtown Clarendon. Like other small communities in the region, Clarendon has suffered in the decades since the erosion of ranching and farming as community economic generators. The building, rehabilitated into professional office space, may function as an catalyst in the future revitalization of the town center.

Historic Courthouse

Donley County Courthouse and Jail, Clarendon


Narrative: In Romanesque Revival style, the Donley County Courthouse is a fine picturesque work incorporating polychromatic masonry. Walls of the 1890 temple were St. Louis pressed brick placed upon a base of quarry-faced ashlar, the stones of which, according to one local historian, were taken from an earlier courthouse. Stone was also used for the arches, lintels, and decorative features. On the ground story cut stone was employed for the watertable, pinnacle shafts, and lintels. The arches of the tower base were comprised of large voussoirs with quarry faces, wide archivolts, cut intrados, and imposts decorated with geometrical ornamentation. These were supported by columns with alternating courses of smooth and textured stones. A billet terminating the wall was formed with inset bricks of contrasting colors to create patterns of recesses, which are emphasized by the play of light on the surface. A brick and stone fireplace on the south facade contributes to the picturesqueness of the asymmetrically composed massing.

Changes in the exterior of the building include the removal of the upper section of the tower, removal of dormers and the conical turret roof, all done in the 1930's. In addition, some of the pinnacles have been remove and a cast iron cresting and metal finials have been taken off the roof ridges.

The courthouse plan is unusual in Texas but conforms to conventions followed by some other architects who worked in the Romanesque Revival style. One entrance is emphasized by the tower and porch. The turret contains a stairway; the windows placed in a stepped pattern also express change in level.

On the interior of the Donley County Courthouse many of the original finishes and furnishings are still extant. Walls were plastered and trimmed with stained woodwork, although the wood has now been painted. Hardwood floors are still intact, as are the ceilings which were finished with stamped sheet metal with intricate patterns. However, some ceilings are finished with plaster. Original furnishings include fireplaces, courtroom furniture, and bookcases in the judges' chambers. Beautiful stained glass windows in arched openings and iron vault doors with Victorian decorative features are other original details that add to the interest of this courthouse.

The Donley County Jail is located on the northwest corner of the public square, near the courthouse. Built on stone footings, the walls of the jail were of Millsap and Vernon brick, completed in 1904. That same year, lightning rods, electric lights, and water and sewage systems were installed. In 1907 porches were added to the north and south sides. Although the utilities and other interior features have obviously been remodeled, the exterior still retains most of its original character.

The jail is a cubical building with stuccoed walls emphasized by stone stringcoures. Stone was also employed for lintels over the openings. The walls are terminated by a cornice formed with brick corbeling. On the northeast corner of the building the walls rise above the cornice and form a picturesque tower-like feature. This is decorated with details resembling battlements and machicolations--Medieval military architectural details. The use of these stylistic features in detention facilities symbolized strength and was common in Texas during the latter part of the century. Located near the top were small indentations resembling openings which added interest.

The porches were wooden. Square columns with simple capitals supported the roofs. On the interior, as was common, the sheriff's quarters were on the ground floor and cells were installed on the second. The Donley County Courthouse and Jail have architectural and governmental significance. They are fine regional examples of nineteenth century design and have been the focal point of county functions for three-quarters of a century.

Located in the southeast section of the Panhandle, Donley County was created in 1876 and organized in 1882. It was named for Stockton P. Donley, an early lawyer and Texas Supreme Court Justice. Although containing an area of over 900 miles, in 1973 only about 4,000 people populated the county for which Clarendon serves as the county seat.

Clarendon was originally founded in 1878 and named for Clara Carhart, the wife of the town founder, Lewis Henry Carhart, a Methodist minister. However, shortly thereafter a new townsite was selected along the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad.

As was typical, provisions for county government were makeshift during the early years. In 1882 the house of J.S. Wright was leased for county offices and courtrooms. Subsequently, the building was repaired and furnishings were purchased. However some county offices were located in other buildings in Clarendon. The arrangements were, of course, inadequate and several years later commissioners prepared to build a new courthouse.

In 1887, after examining several sites, it was ordered that block 14 be selected as the site of a new building. Meanwhile S.T. Martindale, and Charles Goodnight, the latter of whom was a prominent West Texas rancher, were authorized to purchase material and oversee the erection of a temporary courthouse. Shortly after this building was completed, it was determined that it was "entirely insufficient for general use and that a new, more comfortable and commodious courthouse" was a public necessity. It was then ordered that a new brick temple of justice be erected at the earliest practicable date.

In 1890 another block was donated to the county and the county clerk was ordered to publish invitations for proposals for a new building in the Clarendon Traveler and the Dallas Morning News. After receiving the bids, the proposal of Troutman Brothers, contractors from Trinidad, Colorado, was accepted on plans provided by Bulger and Rapp, architects. Construction proceeded in a routine manner and was completed in 1891.

During the next several years the grounds were landscaped. In 1892 a board fence was built around the courthouse and in the following year trees were planted.

An annex has been added on the south side and the courthouse continues to serve its original functions. Embodying fine stylistic and decorative features and still retaining considerable original character, it is the finest surving example of nineteenth-century architecture in the area.

Similar to the provisions for county government, the first jail was improvised. In 1884, the purchase and repair of a powder house to be used as a jail was authorized. Subsequently a jail cell was purchased from the Pauly Jail Building Company.

In 1885 Charles Goodnight was appointed an agent to purchase materials for a new jail building and to oversee construction. However, work was delayed. Five years later officials intended to contract a new jail at the same time as the courthouse contract, but this effort also failed.

Finally in 1903, the Pauly Jail Building Company was asked to furnish plans and specifications for a new facility. After considering bids on these plans, J.A. White was awarded the contract for $8,980. Structural iron and steel, and the cells were purchased from Pauly Company. Early in 1904, the county accepted the completed jail and today it continues to serve its original function.

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