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As cities grow, new development can leave in its wake spaces that are no longer needed or necessary; these spaces are remnants of human advancement. Retrofit developments, reclamation projects, and restoration/adaptive reuse techniques are all attempts to reintegrate these areas back into productive societal space. They are, at once, both a liability and an opportunity.
Lost, Texas couples a literal narrative and discourse with a sightseeing tour of various architectural elements, either currently repurposed or in the process of abandonment, that are scattered across Texas. The book tells the important, yet disappearing, stories of fading components within the built environment, dotting both the rural and urban Texan landscape.
—From foreword by Galen Newman, Texas A&M University College of Architecture
Crockett | Houston County
In the 1870s, the Pennsylvania-based Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen established a school for African American girls in the prosperous East Texas town of Crockett. Initially named Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School, the name was changed to the Mary Allen Seminary in 1886 in honor of one of its benefactors. A four-story, Second Empirestyle brick building—named Mary Allen Hall—opened in October 1887 on a tenacre site donated by the citizens of Crockett. An additional three hundred acres of land, added to the campus in 1889, allowed other buildings to be constructed, including Grace McMillan Hall. Although successful in educating African Americans through the 1930s, the school experienced several changes in administration and ownership, finally closing in September 1972. Mary Allen Hall, perched on the top of a hill, is all that remains of the school.
Eagle Lake | Colorado County
The history of Eagle Lake dates back to the late 1830s, when members of Stephen F. Austin’s first colony received land grants in the area. Early settlers found a lake teeming with fish, alligators, and waterbirds, along with low-lying land ideal for subsistence farming and raising sugar cane and rice. Following the Civil War, three railroads served Eagle Lake, facilitating the shipment of farmers’ crops to market. The town grew rapidly during the late 1800s, as sugar and rice mills were built and other businesses opened. In the early 1900s, excursion trains brought hunters and recreation seekers from Houston and Galveston. Eagle Lake’s population of 406 in 1880 ballooned to more than 1,100 by 1900. The ten-square-block Eagle Lake Commercial Historic District (listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation) has thirty-nine significant structures—most dating from the early 1900s.
Education for African American children throughout the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s was largely insufficient, where it existed at all. Eugene H. Henry was a teacher and principal at Eagle Lake’s school for African Americans in 1929, when he and leaders of the black community were awarded a $7,000 grant from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to build a new school for their children. Rosenwald, the one-time president and chairman of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, was a philanthropist who established a fund to build schools for African Americans in the southern United States. Local supporters in Eagle Lake raised an additional $1,365 for a three-and-a-half acre site for the school. The E. H. Henry High School served the African American community in Eagle Lake until the public schools were integrated in the 1960s. After subsequently serving as a middle school, the building was abandoned when the Eagle Lake school district became part of the Rice Consolidated School System.
Bronson Dorsey is an architect and architectural photographer. Lost, Texas was published by Texas A&M University Press in 2018.