The Hancock Building


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from This Was Ellis County

A publication of the Junior Historians,

Waxahachie High School, 1979

 

The information in this article was compiled by Shannon Simpson, based heavily on information originally researched and written by Steve Wallace of the above mentioned organization. This article deals mainly with the history of the property and the structure, with only brief reference to the individuals William P. & Forrester Hancock. For detailed information concerning these individuals, follow William P. Hancock and/or Forrester Hancock.

The Hancock Building

205 S. College

William P. Hancock & Forrester Hancock (brief)

The two story commercial building at 205 S. College was constructed in 1890. Although numerous individuals owned the property from as early as 1847, the Hancock family owned it for the longest continuous period, securing its recognition as the Hancock Building today.

The property occupied today by the Hancock Building originally belonged to Emory W. Rogers, founder of Waxahachie. Mr. Rogers gave 63 acres from his headlight for the establishment of Waxahachie as the county seat of Ellis County.

The property passed through three owners from 1860 - 1871, the most noteworthy being Mr. James H. Ellis. The property purchased by Mr. Ellis consisted of the present day sites of the Ellis County Museum and Gift Baskets, Etc. Mr. Ellis ran a boarding house and later constructed the Ellis House Hotel on the site of the Ellis County Museum.

Cotton harvest time in Waxahachie, on the courthouse square, circa 1882. Building center background is the Ellis House Hotel, occupying site of the present day Ellis County Museum.

This may have been the first commercial use for the property. It is known the hotel was in operation as early as 1881 and that in 1887, Mr. Ellis conveyed the property to his son, Pete A. Ellis, with "love and affection" for $1. Pete Ellis divided the property into two lots, for in 1889 he sold the corner lot to the Masonic Lodge. Masonic records show that the 22" south wall was to be financed in half by Pete Ellis should he "ever desire to build a brick or rock house" on that site. A year later Mr. Ellis sold this lot to Mr. William F. Lewis and his partner M. B. Templeton who planned the first commercial building for this site. According to Sanborn Maps, this lot contained a residential dwelling until purchased by Lewis and Templeton in 1890. It is interesting to note that Mr. Lewis was in charge of the Masonic Lodge when it purchased the corner lot in 1889.

By July 4, 1890, work had begun on the Lewis - Templeton building. Originally planned as a one-story structure, a wise business decision by the partners added second floor office space. A wooden sidewalk in front of this building and the Masonic Lodge was replaced with a concrete walk in October of 1890. The building's address at this time was 203 Washington Street.

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The law offices of W. L. Harding, Fountain P. Ray, and Mr. Templeton as well as a local printer originally occupied the second story office space. Sources conflict on the original occupants of the ground floor space, which was divided into two retail spaces. Some say the shop on the left side was originally a hardware store and tin shop while others state S. Y. Matthew's "Gents Furnishings" occupied the space. In any event, Matthew's "Gents Furnishings" was in the building by 1898. Sources are in agreement that C. E. Youngblood’s Cash Grocery occupied the ground floor on the right side of the building.

C. E. Youngblood Cash Grocery

Templeton eventually bought out Lewis' interest and later sold the property to the Waxahachie Loan and Trust Company. The property again passed through various hands until W. P. Hancock, C.O. Atkins and W. G. McClain purchased it in 1907. Hancock soon bought out his partner’s interests, signaling the start of the Hancock era and forever naming the building.

The businesses, which occupied the second floor of the Hancock building from 1907 - 1982, consisted mainly of insurance, real estate, and attorneys offices. There was a justice of the peace office at one time. The second floor was also known as a congregation place for businessmen to spin yarns, talk politics and discuss matters of import. Over the years, the ground floor housed dry goods, groceries, office supplies and gifts.

 

Interior of Will Hancock's Law Office, Hancock building 2nd floor, next to Museum building. Left photo individuals are left to right: Unknown, Attorney Louis Johnson, Justice of the Peace Bill Cox, Miss Ross, Secretary for Will Hancock, Attorney Tom P. Whipple, Dr. W. B. Ferguson, and Attorney Will Hancock. Right photo individuals are left, Miss Ross (Secretary) and right, Will Hancock. Both photos are from 1930.

In 1982, Mrs. Forrester Hancock sold the property to Richard and Penelope Redington. The Redington's provided interior and exterior renovation for the building and it received a Texas Historical Medallion in 1985. The building was sold to Chuck and Judy Demoney in 1995 to house their retail store Gift Baskets, Etc. They sold it in 2000 to the current owners. The second floor is leased for various professional office spaces.

The exterior facade of brick mirrors the first two floors of the 1889 Ellis County Museum building, which adjoins the Hancock Building. Among the important architectural features are decorative window arches over the double hung wooden windows and cast-iron columns capped with acanthus leaves. With its graceful scale and distinctive Victorian style and detailing, it is one of the outstanding buildings in Waxahachie's downtown historical district.

Above the entry staircase is an original and intact skylight, which illuminates the upstairs entry hall. Pressed tin ceilings with deep cornices, interior woodwork bearing the original faux bois graining (a method of simulating oak wood grain), and the original pine floor highlight the lobby. The interior also features swivel windows for ventilation during hot Texas summers.

Will and Forrester Hancock

William P. Hancock's parents arrived in Texas in 1853 and in Ellis County in 1861. Will was born in Palmer, Ellis County, Texas, August 27, 1872. He graduated from the second class of law at the University of Texas in 1897 and returned to Waxahachie to practice law. He was well known for his oratorical skills and is said to have entertained large galleries during his trials. Some of his university classmates included future Governor Pat Neff, Senator Earl B. Mayfield, and Senator Tom Connally. Hancock maintained an interest in cotton farming and banking as well as a mercantile business in Palmer. Hancock owned and practiced law in the building from 1907 until his death in 1955.

In 1933, Will Hancock's son, Forrester, following in his father’s footsteps, began practicing law in the building. The two were never partners but maintained a close relationship. Forrester Hancock served Waxahachie as City Attorney from 1934 - 1937 and Ellis County as Criminal District Attorney from 1939 - 1942. He maintained his private practice until his death in 1982.

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