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Stateapostrophe1212s white elephants are chock-full of history


Texas is crowded with what the Preservation Texas Reporter calls industrial white elephants.

These include the 1913 American Beauty flour mill, which the Reporter says "was Dallas's largest historical industrial mill complex." The mill produced (among other brands) American Beauty flour, "The flour that blooms in your oven."

The article also pictures the Magnolia Station project, the original distribution center for Magnolia Petroleum Co. products.

Fortunately for history, both are being developed into apartments by a Dallas developer.

The Magnolia Petroleum Co.'s origins date to Texas' first true oil boom at Corsicana in the late 1890s. It was absorbed into Mobil Oil in 1959.

An even more significant Magnolia white elephant is the former Magnolia Building (1921) in downtown Dallas, which for years was the tallest in Dallas, at 29 stories. The famous Flying Red Horse revolving neon sign was erected in 1934. The building was presented to Dallas in the 1970s, and the sign was given landmark status protection in 1973.

Dallas is only one city with industrial mills and commercial installations of tremendous historical significance.

Galveston's entry avenue is lined with acres of empty cotton warehouses and compresses; its waterfront is a maze of rusting rail yards. Houston's lavish Rice Hotel, on the site of Texas's first Capitol, remains empty. At Itasca, the Itasca Mills, a huge cotton weaving plant, is shut down. Nearby Cleburne, once Santa Fe Railway's main coach and car repair center, has acres of unique facilities no longer needed after passenger service was abandoned.

A handful of beautiful railroad passenger stations survive. Dallas' Union Station is now the center for the DART system, the new Trinity Valley Express commuter run to Fort Worth and Amtrak. Fort Worth is planning a large transportation complex, based in the tall art deco Texas & Pacific headquarters station. San Antonio's Southern Pacific station, with its magnificent stained-glass-window lobby, currently the Amtrak station, will be adapted into a dining and entertainment center. The San Antonio I-GN/MoPac station is restored by a credit union. (A "Texas Sketch" about Texas railroad stations is planned. Suggestions welcome.)

Dozens of smaller Texas towns that once had large hospitals are now haunted by the abandoned buildings - towns such as Ranger, Cleburne and Santa Anna. Some still contain medical equipment. Decatur has the grand l9th-century Decatur Baptist College administration building (the relocated school is now Dallas Baptist University).

A.C. Greene is an author and Texas historian who lives in Salado.

The Dallas Morning News
A.C. Greene