Roadtrip to Elgin

February 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Diana and took a most pleasant afternoon excursion to Elgin this afternoon — that is, after we got to Manor and on to Old Hwy. 20. We made the mistake of taking US 290 out of Austin (instead of 969/973) to Manor, and wasted at least 20 precious minutes in backed up traffic because of toll road construction. But on to pleasantries. Passing through Littig, the old store/post office there crumbles more each year and is no longer identifiable as such. Coming into Elgin, the old brick cotton gin is gone, although some of the old Elgin brick lives on in more modern perversions of the building trade. The little H&TC freight depot is now the Elgin Chamber of Commerce headquarters. Our first stop was the Elgin Antique Mall, looking for God knows what, and that ended up being a piece of Smith Ballew sheet music, “We Can Live On Love,” with lyrics by Smith and Edward Pola. Smith is prominently featured in my as-yet unpublished opus “If You Can’t Dance, Get On and Ride: Austin During the Jazz Age.” After that pleasant $4.56 surprise, it was on to Meyer’s BBQ (instead of Southside; Gregg Meyer generously provided food for one of my book signings last year, so I was obliged to return the favor, although the pleasure was all ours.) Diana pronounced the half-chicken magnificent in all respects, and I was quite content with the brisket, rope sausage and kosher dill pickles.

On our way back, we took the Upper Elgin River Road to check on the status of an old iron bridge that is just past the intersection with Hogeye Rd. The bridge is in full retirement but looking hale and hearty; thank God for the historic preservation mentality that was so scarce 40 years ago.

Upper Elgin River Road dead-ends into 969, and we headed thusly for Austin. Webberville’s city limits stretch farther and farther to the east every year so it seems. There was water standing everywhere, which is a good harbinger for spring wildflowers, but other than some isolated stands of rain lillies, nothing is blooming yet, except new traffic lights along the way (sigh).

As I rue the fading of the old Central Texas I grew to love, I am now going to assuage my anguish with some leftover brisket, sausage, and potato salad of my own making.

Get out and enjoy it while it’s still there, because less of it will be there tomorrow.


Today in Austin History

February 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Austin Centinel, February 11, 1841

We noticed, a few days since, a fellow dashing about with a huge Bowie knife protruding from his bosom. We advise him to exchange this weapon for a corn cob; he will find the latter much lighter and convenient to wear, than a Bowie knife, and just as useful in respectable society.

Comal County Restoration Update

February 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Work on the $8.6 million restoration of the Romanesque Revival Comal County Courthouse in New Braunfels, designed by J. Riely Gordon (who also designed the Gonzales, Fayette and Lee county courthouses included in Central Texas), is shifting from demolishing to rebuilding the 1898 structure.

The three 20th-century additions that had obscured its victorian-era beauty have been torn off and hauled away by the general contractor. As demolition crews inside finish removing structurally unsound walls and floors, other workers are building new floors, scraping paint and installing ductwork. A new foundation has been added, which required excavating a basement.

The restoration has included replication of original floor tiles and courtroom chairs and plugging a well discovered almost directly beneath the jail cells that were added to the building in 1930.

Among the artifacts unearthed by excavation of the basement, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News, were a tire from a Ford Model A and a stone chisel whose blade matches the cuttings on the building’s original limestone blocks

Local support of the restoration is strong; recently the owners of Pat’s Place, a local restaurant, donated a window from one of the building’s original doors, bearing the words, “Comal County Courthouse,” which they had purchased at an antique store in the 1970s and displayed in the restaurant. In return, the county will give the restaurant owners a newer window from the same doorway.

An interior balcony in the second-floor courtroom that was removed decades ago will be reinstalled. Limestone blocks that made up the demolished wings will be reused to patch the gaps created by their removal. So, the restored courthouse will basically look like it did when built, but will have modern features, such as security alarms, air conditioning and an elevator.

The restoration is supposed to be finished by July 31, but given the project’s complexity, that deadline may not be met.

You can read the complete article and see a photo gallery of the restoration at

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