Updated: May 2
Downtown is important because it’s the heart and soul of a community. If you don’t have a healthy downtown, you simply don’t have a healthy town.” - Ed McMahon
Along with the great history, this small town boasts there is a growing sense of community amongst the local business owners that provide a welcoming invitation for tourism. The sidewalks of downtown allow for long romantic walks at night soaking up the architecture of famous builders from days gone by, to the vibrant street art that is scattered throughout the downtown blocks. We have several murals in our revitalized downtown and this has to be one of my favorites at the moment. I love owls and the eyes of this capture a caring moment between mother and child which hits a soft spot for me. I know I will be sad when the day comes for it to be repainted for the towns' music and arts festival as they only have so many buildings participating and trying to maintain the vibrant feel of a freshly painted mural. I doubt the Owl will be removed at this years' event but it has not been announced yet, fingers crossed. This one in particular brings joy to me when I see it.
I wanted to put it to canvas and preserve this moment in the history of our downtown when the local business owners sprung into action and made a conscious decision to bring traffic and tourism back to our struggling area. It was not long ago that once the courthouse was closed for the weekend our downtown looked like a ghost town at best because most of the traffic that kept local shop owners thriving at the time came into town during the day on day trips with the kids to tour Blue Bell; then eats, sweets, and shop on the square. Once Blue Bell took the ultimate hit with leading the pack on people's knowledge of listeria, they suffered big time and had to stop doing tours for a while causing 40,000+ tourists a year to abruptly change their plans and go somewhere else. The shop owners took a hard hit causing many to shutter. We're Baaa-ack!
I have seen a lot of stores change names just since then, a lot. Gone are the days of kids running all over the place with their paper hats and chocolate-stained faces, breaking all the antiques, losing their parents, and causing a ruckus like they were in an old Pioneer Town...wait. I hope they all come back one day, they were good for local business and Blue Bell is still the best ice cream made.
This is the revival..bringing art, music, and people to the area so they can enjoy the beauty of the buildings and soak up the quaintness it brings when walking around. This place is for couples to get away from the hustle and bustle for the weekend staying at the historic building Ant Street Inn, or bridesmaids having the last hoorah that can safely traverse from Home Sweet Farm Biergarten to Four Star Concert Hall without ever getting in your car from Airbnb to several choices of restaurants and live music almost on every corner of downtown during the weekends plus some of the cutest shops ranging from clothing stores, cafe's and antiques, to jewelry plus CBD to coffee and a shave.
Seeing the old pictures from even 25 years ago, a lot of the buildings looked pretty shabby and worn out and mostly in disrepair. Whatever they are doing to bring life back to this historical downtown is working and as you look back at pictures from decades past I think right now is the best it has looked in half a century at least. Everyone is doing their part to preserve what has been documented as probably the most influential downtown in Texas history. I read more and more these days that the citizens are recognizing this and are trying to rally with City Council to put some protection in place for this area the way the Heights Association did for their own historical purposes. I see a lot of run-down buildings right now on the courthouse square that needs to be saved for this very reason.
The woman that owns this building that I have painted I have known since I was 12 years old. She is a businesswoman and a natural leader whose standard for what is "Brenham" goes back to the original settlers coming here by boat in the very early 1800's I see the name Lange in old school photos on archiving sites. She has added a lot to keep our little town historically sound and current at the same time allowing the back of her building to be painted for this small town revival and has a solid say-so. Thanks, Brandi
I found out a lot about this place and it seems it all began in the building next door which looking at it from the front makes more sense.
The F. A. Engelke Bank, organized in the 1870s, became the First National Bank in 1883, with F. A. Engelke pres- ident and J. N. Brown cashier. The "Heber Stone Bank," which had been founded in 1889, was consolidated with the First National in 1890, and Heber Stone, who owned the controlling interest, was made president. H. F. Hohlt is at the head of this banking house now, and C. L. Wilkins is the cashier.
On August 15, 1905, the Washington County State Bank opened for business, with H. K. Harrison as president and J. S. Giddings cashier. The officers at present are F. H. Bosse, president, and James S. Harrison, cashier. These two banks, with the Giddings & Giddings Bank, constitute the city's financial institutions.
"In April 1920, the First National Bank of Brenham, then located at 112 E. Alamo, authorized the purchase of the adjacent Keber Building (114 E. Alamo). The Keber Building was soon demolished, and the lot was cleared for the construction of a new facility. Sanguinet and Staats, a prestigious architectural firm from Ft. Worth, were hired to design the new bank building. Central Construction Company of Dallas served as the contractor. Construction was completed in 1923, and the First National Bank vacated 112 E. Alamo, authorizing extensive renovations to suit the subsequent tenant, Barnhill Drug.
The First National Bank building, as designed by Sanguinet and Staats, is a three-story, two-part commercial building. This is one of the few unpainted brick buildings in Brenham. The facade is divided into three bays, defined by oversized fluted pilasters with simplified Corinthian capitals that flank the central entry bay, and massive brick pilasters that mark the edges of the building. The entry features an ornate Classically-inspired architrave with an urn and garland frieze and a row of dentils below. The cornice is dropped just below the third floor and features a double row of corbelling and molded shamrocks and fretwork. A simpler corbelled stringcourse placed above the third-floor accents the projecting parapet. Other details include glass block windows flanking the central bay on the ground floor and a metal deposit box with engravings embedded in the eastern corner of the building.
The building was remodeled in 1955. Additional banking facilities were added to the basement and the windows of the east facade of the first story were changed. These changes do not significantly affect the integrity of the building. The First National Bank moved its headquarters in 1965, and the building was sold to First Savings Association of Brenham. It is now the home of the J.H. Faske Company." Source: https://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/NR/pdfs/04000154/04000154.pdf
The bank also printed money out of it for a good period of time and a lot of it for the time period. Printing money out of Brandis' building makes me laugh and sing Cardi B. Money! All I ever need is money!
I have linked a website where you can see the different bills that were printed right there in that building.
J. D.'s daughter Mary Louise married Heber Stone (fl. 1870-1906), a partner in Giddings & Giddings, and had five children: Giddings; Albert; Heber; Mary; Louise (Baby). Heber was active as a land agent; plantation farmer; oil and mining prospector in Texas, Mexico, South America, and the Philippines (Heber Stone Oil and Mining Company; Trinidad and La Louise Mining and Smelting Companies); politician (Texas State Senator, 1897-1900); banker (First National Bank of Brenham) and businessman (Brenham Furniture and Manufacturing Company). Heber's sons continued their father's interests as well as establishing law practices and an automobile company. Louise founded Brenham chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in the early 1900's.
I love doing the research finding out more and more about my little town. I hope I have informed you as well and we can continue on this historical journey through art.