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Matagorda County Buildings Designed by Jules Leffland

Leffland Left Important Historical Mark on County
By Mary Belle Ingram

The Daily Tribune, August 28, 2005

An exciting new exhibit on an early Danish architect, Jules Leffland, and his legacy to Matagorda County will open Sept. 1 [2005] at the Matagorda County Museum.

Jules Carl Leffland (1854-1924) was a Danish immigrant who was trained in architecture at the University of Copenhagen and immigrated to Texas in 1886.

His first work involved moving homes from Indianola inland to Cuero after the devastating hurricane of 1886.

From an office in Victoria, Leffland designed and supervised the construction of hundreds of structures.

He designed churches, schools, banks, city halls, hotels and residences in an area from Wharton to Kingsville between 1888 and 1910—17 were constructed in Matagorda County between 1900 and 1910.

The museum’s Leffland exhibit will feature Hotel Blessing in Blessing, the only building in Matagorda County that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Of the 17 Leffland structures, only eight remain; others were destroyed by hurricanes, fire or demolition.

The exhibit is the end result of the discovery of an original blueprint of Hotel Blessing found in the attic of the A. B. Pierce home with Jules Leffland’s signature on every page.

This discovery led to a visit to the Nave Museum in Victoria to view the Leffland exhibit with Gary Dunnam, Victoria Preservation Officer, as guide.

From that discovery—with Dunnam’s help and items from the Victoria exhibit—the Matagorda County Museum archives staff researched and found 16 photos of Leffland’s structures to place in the exhibit.

Leffland kept excellent records and one of his day books listed many plans by the number of structures that he designed and, in some instances, notes of fees and other information.

Copies of these original documents are part of the exhibit.

The Leffland exhibit helps tell the history of small towns through photos of buildings that were built at the beginning of Bay City, Blessing and Palacios.

Blessing has two Leffland buildings which are almost 100 years old—the Blessing Bank and Hotel Blessing.

In Palacios, only two Leffland buildings survive—the Luther Hotel and the Price-Farwell House.

Photos of those that did not survive also will be on display—Palacios State Bank, the first Palacios Pavilion, the P. W. Elder house on South Bay Boulevard, Palacios College and the Grant Lumber Company (no photo is available for that building).

A note of interest discovered in the research was that Jules Leffland had a cottage on South Bay Boulevard when Palacios’ first pavilion was built in 1905-1906.

In Bay City, researched showed that two churches were designed by Leffland, the First Baptist Church and the Episcopal church—both date back to 1903 and were destroyed in the hurricane of 1909.

A second structure by Leffland that was demolished in 1955 was the old Jeff Davis School on Fourth Street which was built in 1905.

Leffland buildings still standing are all on Seventh Street: the Masonic Lodge building, 1906; Bay City Bank, 1903; LeTulle Mercantile Company, 1901; and First National Bank Building, 1903 at 7th and Avenue H.

Shortly before his death at the age of 70, Leffland became a citizen of the United States. He died October 21, 1924, at his home in Victoria.

Bay City

LeTulle Mercantile Company - 1901

1841 7th Street

LeTulle Mercantile Company was established by Vic LeTulle, O. J. Doubec and Henry Rugeley in 1901. This building was designed by Jules Leffland; with Hatchett & Large as contractors and constructed in 1901. Leffland's daybook lists Plan #870 for this building. It is a one-story brick, early 20th century commercial building containing four major sections and featuring elaborate brick corbelling and decorative parapet. The design of the facade above first floor is of exceptional quality.



St. Mark's Episcopal Church - 1901
[2200 Avenue E]

The first church of St. Mark's Episcopal Church was constructed in 1901 and was designed by Jules Leffland. In his daybook he lists this church under Plan #887. The first service was on Easter Sunday 1901. Five years later on St. Mark’s Day, April 15, 1906, Bishop Kinsolving consecrated the church. A vicious hurricane destroyed the church building on July 21, 1909.


Bay City Bank Building - 1903
2044 Avenue F


NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS—Sealed proposals for the erection of a two-story bank and office building (brick and stone) for Mr. Henry Rugeley at Bay City, Texas, will be received until 4 o’clock p. m. January 2, 1902, at my office, where also plans and specifications now can be seen. Each bid must be accompanied by a certified check of $100 as a guarantee that the successful bidder will furnish satisfactory bond of $1500 and sign contract within eight days. Right is reserved to reject any or all bids. Jul. Leffland, architect, Victoria, Texas. 22

The Houston Daily Post, December 21, 1901


The Bay City Bank was established in 1898 by private bank owners, Henry Rugeley and Frank Hawkins. Four years after the founding, this building was erected in 1903, under the supervision of Jules Leffland, architect and Hatchett & Large, contractors. In Leffland’s daybook it is shown under Plan #1029. It was the site of many investment transactions important to the Gulf Coast development. The two-story masonry and stone structure is of Second Empire design. It is a handsome structure with a small mansard roofed tower, arched bays and corner entry.





Old First National Bank Building - 1903
1903 Seventh Street

Bay City Grocery Company - 1903
[1909 Seventh Street]

Bay City Hardware Company - 1903
[1911 Seventh Street]


The architect firm of Jules Leffland designed and built this structure in 1903 for the First National Bank of Bay City. Listed in Leffland’s daybook as Plan #936, #937 and #938, the First State Bank was the occupant by 1911. In 1985 Scott Peden became the owner and completely renovated and restored the building returning it to the elegant way it looked in 1903. The building has elaborate brick corbelling and a corner entry with the single columns and beautiful arched bays. In Jules Leffland’s daybook, he lists plans #937 for Bay City Grocery Company, #938 for Bay City Hardware and #936 for First National Bank. These three businesses were constructed under Leffland’s plans in 1903. Later the decorative corbelling and elaborate brick work on the façade was removed from the Bay City Grocery Company and the Bay City Hardware store leaving only the corner bank and west side intact. The 1913 and 1922 flood photos in the Matagorda County Museum Mary B. McAllister Ingram Archives, show the entire building intact with Leffland’s handiwork in evidence.


NOTICE TO CONTACTORS—Sealed proposals for the erection of three brick buildings, 100x125 feet, at Bay City, Texas, will be received until 4 o’clock p. m., November 10, at our office, where plans and specifications can be seen. The buildings are all connected and bid will be received for all under one. Each bid must be accompanied by a certified check for $200, as a guarantee that the successful bidder will furnish satisfactory bond of not less than 30 per cent of his bid, and sign contract within three days after the job is awarded him. Right is reserved to reject any or all bids. Hull & Leffland, architects, Victoria, Texas. 10

The Houston Daily Post (Houston, Texas), November 5, 1902




First Baptist Church - 1904
[2300 Avenue E]


The First Baptist Church constructed their first building in 1904 at 2300 Avenue E, just one block south of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. It was #918 in the Leffland daybook. Reverend J. H. Thorn became the first full-time pastor. In January, 1904, Reverend Eli F. McDonald of Yoakum became pastor and served the church until 1909. On July 21, 1909, a terrible hurricane struck Bay City and destroyed this building.


Jefferson Davis School - 1904-1905
[1300 Fourth Street]



Jules Leffland prepared a sketch, plan #884, in his daybook for a public school in Bay City. This may possibly have been the Fourth Street school constructed in 1904-1905 for all grades. This handsome red brick school was named the “Jefferson Davis School” by the E. S. Rugeley Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy. W. T. Pollard was the superintendent at the time. The school served all grades until 1930 and then became an elementary until it was demolished in 1955 after fifty years of continuous service. The brick from the building was used to build a red brick home at the corner of Fourth and Avenue K across from the original site of the school.

Masonic Hall - 1906

1600 Block 7th Street

(Masonic hall on left side of diagram.)

Masonic Lodge #865, Bay City was organized April 13, 1902 with W. C. Carpenter as worshipful master. This building designed by Jules Leffland, Plan #1028 with Hatchett & Large as carpenters, was constructed in 1906 and dedicated February 2, 1907. The building served the Mason and Eastern Star members until damaged by Hurricane Carla in 1961. It is a two-story, three bay brick early 20th century commercial style featuring elaborate brick corbelling and arched second story windows. Brick work is exceptionally good.






Hotel Blessing - 1906
Corner of FM 616 & Sixth Street

Hotel Blessing is one of the oldest buildings remaining in Blessing and for many years has provided the community with a unique landmark because of its location adjoining the town square and on well traveled FM 616, west of Highway 35. The hotel was built in 1906 by Jonathan Edwards Pierce. The original blueprints drawn and signed by Jules Leffland were discovered in the attic of the historic Pierce home in Blessing in 2005. In Leffland’s daybook it is listed as Plan #1082. The design was inspired by the Spanish mission churches and was translated into “Anglo” wood siding construction. About 1906 the Blessing townsite was platted and subdivided; thereafter, Hotel Blessing was built and opened for the traveling public and land seekers. It was the residence of Jonathan E. Pierce until his death in 1915 and also of his son, Abel B. Pierce, until completion of his Blessing residence in 1910. The Blessing Hotel received a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark designation in 1965 and, in 1979, was the first Matagorda County structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Blessing State Bank

761 FM 616

The Blessing State Bank was designed by Jules Leffland as found in his daybook as Plan #1082. Built during the boom of 1907, the Blessing State Bank is one of the few remaining commercial buildings from this period. The bank operated until 1932 and Blessing was without a bank until 1996 when it was restored to its original function and appearance. The building has an asymmetrical entry, arched windows, flat roof and stately feeling reflected in a classic, early 20th century bank building. It received a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark designation in 1997.


Bay View Hotel and Additions - 1903
408 South Bay Boulevard

The Palacios Hotel was first known as the Bay View Hotel and was one of the first buildings to be constructed in Palacios in 1903. It was built to encourage “northerners” to visit and buy area property. It originally faced East Bay. Building materials were brought from Louisiana and consisted of long-leafed yellow pine for the frame and cypress for the siding with 18 inch shingles on the roof. A framed testimonial to the builder and contractor, D. D. Rittenhouse, hangs in the lobby of the present hotel.

The town’s tourist trade began to prosper, and by 1904 the hotel building was inadequate to house the stream of visitors to Palacios. In 1905, the hotel was moved from East Bay to a new location facing South Bay near the newly-built pavilion which was also designed by Leffland. During the complicated removal, the original chimney and porches were removed and the building was sectioned into three parts. Mule teams pulled the sections to the new site. Jules Leffland’s daybook notes that Plan #1015 was for the Palacios Hotel and additions. Additional wings and the “Longest Front Porch in Texas,” (300 ft.) was added. The hotel is a 2 ½ story frame building with a three part mass, each with a hip roof containing hip dormers. The central portion has a two-story gallery with Doric columns and balustrades above. The hotel was purchased and renovated by Charles and Elsie Luther and was formally opened as The Luther Hotel on April 20, 1941.  The Luther was designated as a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark in 1965 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The owner in 2012 is Jack Findley, husband of Claire Joy, daughter of Charles and Elsie Luther.


1012  Sketch of Palacios Hotel
1013   Plan of ____ for Hy Rugely Bay City
1015  Plan for Palacios Hotel

Palacios Pavilion - 1904
[Fourth Street & South Bay Boulevard]

The first Palacios pavilion built by the Palacios Town Company was designed by Jules Leffland and constructed in 1904 under the supervision of Hatchett & Large of Bay City. It was a two-story open air pavilion with a roof over the entire building and was built at the end of a 400 foot pier. The lower deck was used for dancing and skating. A walkway, where the public could sit on benches and look out at the bay, circled the dance floor. Dressing rooms were erected east and west from the pier, and catwalks were on each end of the dressing rooms. There was a pier on the south side of the pavilion for boating. The building sustained hurricane damage in 1912, 1919 and 1934 and was replaced in 1935.

Palacios College - 1906
[East Bay Boulevard]



Building at the original site.


Palacios College was constructed in 1905 one mile north of town along East Tres Palacios Bay. Jules Leffland listed Palacios College in his daybook as Plan #1106. The college was credited to the Reverend William Travis. The charter was subscribed to on January 28, 1905 by nine citizens who became the first Board of Trustees and Reverend Travis became the first president. In 1912 the name was changed to Palacios Baptist Academy. The school closed in 1917 due to financial problems and World War I. The building was later moved to the Baptist Young People’s Union encampment on Hamilton Point and used for many more years.

After the college closed, the building was moved to the B. Y. P. U. encampment.

The workmen are now at work again on the old College building that they are moving to the B. Y. P. U. grounds. When this building has been completed it will add greatly to the convenience of the many people that come here for the B. Y. P. U Encampment

Palacios Beacon, July 1, 1921

P. A. Elder House - 1906
[204 South Bay Boulevard]

P. A. and Mary Elder built this home in 1906 on Block B, Lot 8 overlooking South Bay at a cost of $2,180. At that time, Jules Leffland owned Lot 6 and evidently had a summer home overlooking the bay as tax records show that he had the property in 1905 and 1906 and sold it to H. B. Farwell in 1907. His son Kai, who also became an architect, was a friend of Elder’s son, Bill and played in the neighborhood with him as a child. Leffland lists the P. A. Elder house as Plan #1021 in his daybook. The architectural features of the house reflect Danish influence and looked like many of the homes in the nearby town of Danevang, a Danish settlement. The house was damaged by Hurricane Carla in 1961 and Mary Sheeran, a granddaughter, built her home in the same location.  Elder Family

Palacios State Bank - 1906
[Corner of Main and Fifth Street]



The Palacios State Bank was constructed in 1906 and merged with Citizens State Bank in 1915. It is Plan #1040 in Mr. Leffland’s daybook. The bank was similar in design to the state banks in Blessing, Markham and Midfield. The entrance is similar to the two early banks in Bay City, an asymmetrical entry, arched windows, flat roof and a stately feeling.

(People standing in front of the bank: Left to right: Jack Barnett, P. A. Boss, postmaster, Grace Barnett, P. A. Elder and Josephine Piper)

Price-Farwell House - 1906
308 South Bay Boulevard

This house was constructed in 1906 by John T. (1875-1921) and Opal (Cates) Price. Herbert Bradford Farwell purchased the home in 1920 and moved it three blocks to its present site on South Bay Boulevard. The house, Leffland’s plan #1045, represents a major shift in traditional residential design at that time. The bungalow became a prominent house form in the early part of the 20th century. The home exhibits neoclassical and arts & crafts influence with a pyramidal roof, front-facing central dormers classical columns, symmetrical façade, three bay porch and multiple-pane window patterning.

The home was approved as a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark in 2004 and the marker was dedicated in 2006 celebrating the 100th anniversary of its building. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

Jules Leffland owned a cottage on South Bay Boulevard in Palacios in 1905 and 1906. The cottage was located on lot 6 in Block B. These two records are from the Matagorda County Collector's Abstract of City Lots of Palacios, Texas. The value of his lot and cottage was $500. More than any other property in the block.

Victoria's Danish Dynamo: From Bay City to San Diego, emigre architect Jules Leffland left a vast Texas legacy
by Gary Dunnam            Pages 18 & 19

Photos of Jules Leffland, his signature and daybook scan courtesy of Gary Dunnam, Executive Director, Victoria Preservation, Inc.

Photos of structures courtesy of Matagorda County Museum - Mary B. McAllister Ingram Archives.

Drawings are from 1903 Bay City and 1926 Palacios Sanborn maps.


Copyright 2012 - Present by
Matagorda County Historical Commission & Matagorda County Museum
All rights reserved

Jul. 2, 2012
Nov. 28, 2015