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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

1928 :: Downtown Rockdale

The following article was written by Dr. Lucile Estell, and was published in the May 23, 1996 issue of The Rockdale Reporter. Mr. Bland's model was the central focus of the Rockdale historical display which was set up at the Rockdale Homecoming on Sunday, June 13, 1999. At that time, it was intended that the model would find a permanent home in the restored I&GN Depot.

Nolan Bland's model
of downtown Rockdale . . .
a trip back in time

Backward, turn backward,
O time in your flight,
Make me a child again, just for tonight!

These words, penned in 1860 by Elizabeth Akers, describe in part the feeling which engulfed me as I crossed the threshold of Nolan J. Bland's workshop to view the model of Rockdale, circa 1928.

The model came to life as I examined sites which were among my first memories growing up in Rockdale in the early 1930's. The feelings were so real that for a fleeting moment I felt that I had been once more at Mr. C.W. Matson's Dixie Theater, followed by ice cream at Mrs. Hill's.

The model of Rockdale is the work of Nolan J. Bland. According to Bland, the idea for such a model had been in his mind for a number of years. After his retirement, he decided to make the model a reality. He began its actual construction more than a decade ago, using as a basis a 1928 map of Rockdale. He laid off the streets first, presenting them in the unpaved condition which existed in 1928.

Construction of buildings came next. Bland used old photographs as well as his own important mental images of Rockdale in this early period. "I remember all of this," he said. "I was born and raised right here," he added, pointing to a site southwest of town. In the beginning, his work was on a scale of one foot to sixteen inches. However, he altered this in some instances in order to make the buildings look more realistic.

As his dream took physical form, Bland enlisted help in identifying buildings and ensuring the accuracy of the model. Part of this assistance came from his wife, Leona Gest Bland. She is a native of the Gay Hill community and strong supporter of the project. A major role in this identification process was played by E.E. "Buck" Henry, who assisted Bland in this important phase.

The first area that Bland constructed was south of the railroad tracks in the booming industrial section of Rockdale. This is the area near the first city water tower, shown on the model.

Featured here are...
  • the ice plant
  • the cotton oil mill, including garage & scales
  • the lumberyard
  • Farmer's Union Store & Warehouse
  • Blackburn's Electric Gin
  • Sinclair Oil
  • Gulf Oil
  • the swimming pool
  • railroad houses
  • William Cameron Lumber Yard
and other structures. Also seen on the model is the office of the cotton buyer, a man named Vinton.
Moving on toward "downtown" Rockdale, one sees both the passenger and freight depot of the IGN Railroad. The town was thriving. Persons looking for a residence, temporary or permanent, might select from...
  • the Larue (formerly Wolf) Hotel
  • Mrs. Queen's Room & Board
  • Wilson's Boarding House
  • or the Hale Hotel
Those wanting to eat had a broad choice, including...
  • Scheihing's Restaurant
  • Carrol Robison's Hamburgers
  • Albrecht's Hamburger Shop
  • Owl Cafe (Mr. Landis)
  • Peveto's Restaurant
  • Mrosko's Cafe
  • Elite Cafe (Ryan & Vogel)
  • Dad Griffith's Cafe
If there was a sweet tooth to be satisfied, there was also a broad choice...
  • Bob Reagan's Confectionery*
  • Hill's Confectionery* & Book Store
  • Stein's Bakery
  • Henning Root Beer & Gas Station.

*A place where confections, ice cream and cakes are made or sold; a candy shop.

Those persons needing or wanting to purchase groceries could go to...
  • Cannon's Grocery
  • Ray Ead's Grocery
  • Noack's Grocery
  • Marshall's Meat Market
  • Backhaus Brothers Grocery
  • R.L. Orr's Meat Market
  • H&L Hudson Grocery
  • Jim Hamilton's Meat Market
And the model shows stores and services of other varieties. I noted with pleasure Dora Poole's Millinery* (my maternal grandmother), and Estell's Tin Shop (my paternal grandfather).

*The business of making, trimming or selling women's hats.

There was...
  • Ousley's Variety
  • Cone's Dry Goods
  • Perry & Quebe Drug Store
  • Lowenstein's Merchandise
  • Pruett's Feed Lot
  • Coffield Hardware
  • Henne & Meyer Hardware
  • Baldridge Brothers Drug Store
  • Stricker's
  • T.B. Kemp Insurance
  • City Panatorium*
  • McCawley's Saloon

*Have been unable to find a definition for "panatorium", but did find a description of another turn-of-the-century business which describes "The City Panatorium" as a " . . . cleaning and dying establishment. . . . where garments are cleaned, pressed, repaired, and dyed and a specialty is made of dry cleaning...."

Rockdale was progressive, with...
  • a newspaper, The Rockdale Reporter
  • a Masonic Lodge
  • Dr. I.P. Sessions
  • Dr. T.S. Barkley
  • at least one dentist and one lawyer
Rockdale had two banks, Rockdale State Bank and Citizens Bank. There were other amenities...
  • B. Regenbrecht, Jeweler
  • Moultrie's Blacksmith Shop
  • Phillips & Luckey, undertakers
  • Gaither Motor Company
  • Texas Power & Light
  • W.E. White Dry Goods
  • Scarborough & Hicks
  • Louie Gest Chevrolet
  • B. Ashby Gas Station
  • Schubert's Shop & Shoe Repair
  • Franklin's Filling Station
  • Strelsky's Gas Station
  • W.P. Henry's Garage
Reflecting on these years and on all the years between, we should remember most of all that this was a town filled with hope and promise and compassion -- a town filled with people, some of whom would remain in this central Texas location and some (such as George Sessions Perry) whose influence would span the world and future generations. The model is a treasure beyond words, a pleasure to view, and perhaps most of all -- a gentle reminder of who we are and from whence we came.

Below is the list of buildings on Nolan Bland's model, as prepared by Peggy (Skinner) Wright. At one time, the buildings were numbered to correspond to this list.

  1. IGN Railroad Depot (R) Passengers (B) Freight
  2. Cannon's Grocery ~ Peveto's Restaurant
  3. Mrs. Queen's Room & Board
  4. Ousley's Variety Store
  5. Cone's Dry Goods
  6. Scheihing's Restaurant
  7. City Pantatorium (Dry Cleaners)
  8. Dad Griffith's Cafe
  9. Ray Eads' Grocery
  10. Carroll Robison's Hamburger Shop
  11. Rockdale State Bank (doctor, dentist, lawyer upstairs)
  12. Coffield Hardware
  13. Border State Grocery
  14. Larue Hotel (Formerly Wolf Hotel)
  15. Rockdale Furniture
  16. Albrecht's Hamburger Shop
  17. Owl Cafe (Mr. Landis)
  18. McCawley's Saloon
  19. Perry & Quebe Drug Store
  20. Loewenstein's Merchandise
  21. T.B. Ryan's Shoes
  22. Jack Pamplin's Confectionery
  23. Mrosko's Cafe
  24. Noack's Grocery
  25. Marshall's Meat Market
  26. Stein's Bakery
  27. Backhaus' Brothers Grocery
  28. H & L Hudson's Grocery
  29. W.P. Henry's Garage
  30. Henry Barnhouse Home
  31. Colored Barber Shop
  32. Moultrie Blacksmith
  33. Pruett's Feed Lot & Livery
  34. Menn's Monument Works
  35. Estelle's Tin Shop ~ Woodmen's Lodge ~ JP Hillyer
  36. Preston Perry (vacant lot)
  37. Harness Shop
  38. Billy Richard's Garage
  39. Moses' Livery Stable (rear)
  40. T.B. Kemp Insurance
  41. Henne & Meyer Hardware
  42. Phillips & Luckey Undertakers (upstairs)
  43. Furniture Store
  44. Dixie Theater (C.W.Matson)
  45. Citizen's State Bank ~ Southwestern Bell (upstairs)
  46. Elite Cafe (Ryan & Vogel)
  47. Strelsky's Gas Station
  48. Gaither Motor Co.
  49. Texas Power & Light
  50. Wilson's Boarding House
  51. R.L. Orr's Meat Market
  52. W.E. White Dry Goods
  53. Baldridge Bros. Drug Store ~ B. Regenbrecht, Jewelers ~ (doctor & dentist offices upstairs)
  54. Arch Holley Barber Shop
  55. Hill's Confectionery & Books
  56. Scarbrough & Hicks Co.
  57. First National Bank
  58. Horton's Barber Shop
  59. Bob Reagan's Confectionery
  60. Dora Poole's Hat & Dress Shop
  61. Schubert's Shop & Shoe Repair
  62. Jim Hamilton's Meat Market
  63. Stricker's Variety Store
  64. Rockdale Reporter (downstairs) ~ Masonic Lodge (upstairs)
  65. Rockdale Post Office
  66. Franklin's Filling Station
  67. Louis Gest Chevrolet
  68. B. Ashby Gas Station
  69. Claude Ashby Pool Hall
  70. Moultrie Blacksmith
  71. Hale Hotel
  72. Rockdale City Jail ~ Backhaus Bros. chicken pens
  73. Clyde Rhodes & Tony Allen Machine Shop
  74. Will Scheihing Home
  75. Sour Lake Machine Shop
  76. Grocery Warehouse
  77. Wm. Cameron Lumber Yard & Cabinet Shop
  78. Farmer's Union Gin
  79. Blackburn's Electric Gin
  80. Blacksmith Shop
  81. Texaco/Gaither Whse.
  82. Machine Shop
  83. Railroad section houses
  84. Henning Root Beer
  85. Vinton Cotton Buyer
  86. Seed House
  87. Stockyards (for shipping cattle)
  88. Lumber Yard
  89. Warehouse
  90. Mine Payroll Office
  91. Williams' Grocery
  92. Farmer's Union Store & Warehouse
  93. Cotton Platform
  94. Cotton Sample Room
  95. Cotton Bagging and Tie
  96. Gulf Oil
  97. Cotton Oil Mill Garage
  98. Cotton Oil Mill Scales
  99. Cotton Oil Mill
  100. Ice House
  101. Swimming Pool
  102. Railroad Houses.
  103. Railroad Well
  104. Railroad Motor Car House
  105. Railroad Water Tower
  106. Sinclair Oil (Palmer's)
  107. City Water Tower (first)
  108. SA&AP Railroad
  109. Water Fountain ~ middle of street
  110. Turner Lumber Yard
  111. Crittenden Home
  112. Fred Palmer Home
  113. Rockdale Bottling Works
  114. Leo Harris Store ~ Catchings Barber Shop ~ Henke Dry Goods ~ E.A. Camp Office (upstairs)
  115. T. Raymond Dry Goods
  116. Perry Building
  117. Kestenbaum Garage
  118. Maxie's Sweet Shop & Theater

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