Many of you will have probably noticed by now the construction and widening of US 377 south of I-35 in the last few months. One piece of Denton history is likely to be removed in the process: the Texas and Pacific/Missouri Pacific/Union Pacific railroad bridge.
In 1881 the railroad came to Denton, forever changing our town as this event did to thousands of others. What you are looking at, and probably didn’t realize when you see the trains and the tracks, is a 138 year old footprint. Sure, the technology has changed but the right-of-way and grade is basically the same as when Oran Roberts was governor of Texas and Rutherford B. Hayes was president.
Looking at the first three pictures below, one can barely see the outline of the T&P logo; the words “Texas” and “Pacific”; the names of two cities it served via connections with parent company Missouri Pacific (“St. Louis”, “Memphis”), “New Orleans”, and “California”. We’re not sure of the exact date of the lettering, but, it’s a good guess that it was done in the 1940’s-1960’s range.
In the picture below, folks with hawk eyes will notice “76” painted on farthest right of the bridge; likely remnants of the Denton High School Senior Class of our nation’s bicentennial. (Sorry, kids, I think your senior prank is finally going away. Pretty good run, though.). And, for the truly train-obsessed, if you blow up the same picture, you will see an engraving or stamp that says “Lancaster Shops” in the second to last panel. This undoubtedly refers to the T&P railroad shops at their main facility in Fort Worth: Lancaster Yard.
Located on the eastern abutment is a construction date stamped in the concrete, 1933, which is the same date and font as used for the T&P bridge over Dallas Drive where it becomes Bell Avenue in downtown Denton.
This is what the T&P “diamond” logo might’ve looked like when new:
It wouldn’t be a true “In The Weeds” blog post if we didn’t get into some more minutia so, to fulfill the mission, this bridge appears to be of the “steel plate girder” type. Also, while this construction is going on, the Union Pacific is building a temporary “shoofly” track to accommodate rail traffic while the new longer span is put in place. This is a common thing for railroads to build and has about the greatest name!
So, before this old bridge is replaced, take a short trip down US 377/Ft Worth Drive to see 86 year-old infrastructure.
Have you ever wondered about the various structures around Denton – or other places – that were constructed using concrete blocks? Some have been spruced up in the past few years, such as a couple of brightly painted homes (yellow, teal, and white) on Crescent Street, while others may have been covered with some type of siding.
It wasn’t until recently that I found out a little about them when someone asked about the history of a home and who the builder was.
The builder’s name was Bert Moore who built many businesses and homes in Denton and surrounding areas during the late 1940s through early 1970s. Mr. Moore was rather unique because he also manufactured his own concrete masonry units1 which were used by other builders. He dubbed his product “Dencrete” and advertised them as being “lightweight, sturdy, fire and rodent proof.”2
I read up a little bit about concrete masonry units because I was curious to know just why they seem to show up around the same time period. For those who are interested, there is a thesis by James P. Hall that is very informative. He explained that their popularity arose in the first decade of the 20th century – not because of the first successful commercial machine [to make concrete blocks] – due to the marketing ingenuity of the Portland cement industry and other concrete subsidiaries. But it was after WWII that manufacturing of cement in Texas really peaked as there was a need for building materials. And that is why concrete building blocks became part of postwar Texas architecture.
But back to Mr. Moore.
Bert Riner Moore was born on 28 April 1912 in Tucumcari, New Mexico. He attended UNT and graduated in 1937. Later he owned his own filling station called Bert Moore’s Service (Station). He joined the Texas Defense Guard and before serving in World War II as a lieutenant (junior) in the Navy from 1942 to 1946.
After the war was over, Bert and a man named Ray Hunt organized and opened Moore Building Products in 1945. And in December of 1946, Moore bought Hunt’s interest. The plant was originally located at the old fairgrounds which was (at that time) just east of the railroad tracks on Exposition Street.
The company made a general purpose masonry for all types of buildings, as well as a pumice aggregate material that formed a light-weight building block (Dencrete). They also made ventilators for use underneath houses. The sand and gravel were obtained from a pit in Carrollton, Texas and the pumice from New Mexico.
In 1954, Bert built a larger and more modern plant at 420 Bell Avenue. The site was convenient because the back faced the railroad tracks which allowed them to deliver sand and gravel right to their back door.3 The building is still there today and is now the current location for SCRAP Denton.
Bert also worked with Tom Polk Miller of Mount-Miller Architects. The architectural firm was the pairing of a husband-and-wife team, Abigail Mount and Tom Polk Miller designed many mid-century modern homes and buildings that can still be found around Denton. But Bert and Tom worked on a lot of projects together also. They were, according to Bert Moore’s son, “both extraordinary men who built out of conscience and were creative together. They could read each other.”4
According to Mr. Moore’s son, Dr. Louis Moore, his dad had stiff competition from Dallas companies who would come to Denton and try to undercut his prices. His other memories of his father’s business included working at the old fairgrounds and that in the early days, they made the concrete blocks by hand. Louis also said that his father had built about (no more than) ten homes made from Dencrete in the African-American part of town and offered them as rent-to-buy, something that was unheard of at that time and it gave people an opportunity for home ownership. Many of the houses (in that area) at that time period, were “just awful” he said, so people were glad to have something new.
Mr Moore was one of many business owners in Denton during the post-World War II and pre-Dynamic Denton period. And you can’t help but run into their name on the side of some of the older businesses, find their names underneath the paint, or displayed on a street sign. And sometimes, we live in their old homes. Such as the case of one of the masonry contractors used by Mr Moore: R. B. Trotter, who lived at 614 W. Parkway Street and was the father of a man I interviewed for an oral history a few years back: Dr. B. B. Trotter.
It is a small world.
With thanks to David Morton of Tim Beatty Builders and Dr. Louis Moore.
Did you go to the library as a kid in the 1980s, 90s, or early 2000s?
Do you remember storytime and watching a puppet show? And later did you hang out in the junior-teen area where you got to hold a hedgehog for the first time? Or perhaps witnessed some knights reenact a sword fight out front of the library while you wore a paper crown?
And maybe a couple of librarians come to your school and acted goofy, just to get you to read a book. See Chuck & Stacy in a Summer Reading Club skit at Newton Rayzor Elementary.
If this sounds like you, then please take a look at some of our historical library videos. We are almost halfway through digitizing them using equipment that can be found in our Legacy Lab.
I would also like to thank our volunteer, Nily, for helping out with this because it is pretty tricky watching 95 VHS tapes while at work. Our volunteers are awesome!
For those of you who want to delve into further nonsense, please take a look at some of my favorites: a former mayor , and a couple of wacky programs the youth services staff performed in over the years such as a book cart ballet and a short clip in which a local cable news station covered a mock murder trial of “The Wolf”.
They are quite a hoot.
If you have any comments or would like to add your information to one of the videos in the collection, please email me. This is a work in progress and we would love to have more information.
We discovered some photos taken by Alec Williams in the mid 1980s of the Water Works Spa/hot tub rental company at 537 South Locust Street. Sounds like a great idea in a college town, right? It didn’t last long, in spite of the ferns and potential clientele-it is only found in the 1986 city directory.
On first blush, this type of business seems like it was of a certain time, like disco, polyester and the swinging ’70s. I had visions of mustachioed men with their girlfriends in feathered blond hair pulling up in a Chrysler Cordoba (“fine Corinthian leather”) and Eddie Murphy’s “Celebrity Hot Tub” skit on Saturday Night Live. Turns out there are still many such businesses around the country today providing health benefits to thousands.
Written by Chuck Voellinger, Special Collections Librarian, Emily Fowler Library email@example.com
October of 2018 The City of Denton established a Municipal Archives operating
out of the Emily Fowler Central Library. While the remainder of 2018 was spent
drafting collection development policies, forms and procedures, and processing
manuals, the processing of collections began in earnest in January of this
year. In order to validate procedures and identify changes, it seemed prudent
to begin with our smallest collections and work our way up. The library’s
archival holdings are rather modest at the moment but are steadily growing.
The library’s holdings consists of, the Denton Municipal Archives with materials transferred from city departments and employees and the Denton, Texas Collection with materials donated by citizens of the City of Denton. The Denton Municipal Archives is currently made up of the City Secretary Records 1892-1976,Parks and Recreation Department Collection 1876-2006 and Water Utilities Records 1947-2012. The City Secretary Records, contain reports from city departments, financial and administrative records, correspondence, clippings, maps and subject files. Of note, while processing this collection it was discovered that City Hall West, a Spanish Colonial style building erected in 1927 and in the planning stages of a possible restoration, had a time capsule, for lack of a better term, placed in its cornerstone (see image above). The Parks and Recreation Department Collection contains the Sexton’s records for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery beginning in 1876 and the Oakwood Cemetery beginning in 1954. The collection also contains photographic materials with further accretions expected. The Water Utilities Records contain work orders with hand drawn maps, reports, bond ledgers, drawings and plans.
Denton, Texas Collection is currently made up of the KDTN Channel 2 Collection 1977-2013 and the Miss Denton Pageant Collection 1953-1981. The KDTN Channel 2 Collection, contains documents regarding the
establishment of an educational television station on the VHF frequency
designated for Denton, Texas which would later become a part of KERA. The Miss Denton Pageant Collection, contains
souvenir pageant programs, photographs and negatives, clippings and ephemera
that chronicle the Miss Denton Pageant, an official preliminary to the Miss
America Pageant. There have been three holders of the title Miss America that
have hailed from Texas and two of those also held the title of Miss Denton,
Phyllis George (1971) and Shirley Cothran Barret (1975).
There are still a number of collections to be processed including Denton Public Library Records and History and the Mayor Euline Brock Papers. The Engineering Department Records have also been identified for processing which contain nearly 20 cubic ft. of maps, plans and drawings.
Completed collections are open for research and the finding aids have been published online and can be found through the Denton Public Library’s online catalog or by following this link: https://denton.lyrasistechnology.org/repositories/resources. Select digital objects chosen to be representative of their specific record series are also available to view through the archives website.
For additional information regarding the Denton Municipal Archives contact:
Matthew Davis Archivist Special Collections Denton Public Library 502 Oakland St. Denton, TX 76201 940-349-8782 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About 30 years ago while a student, I moved into a duplex at 1204 West Mulberry St. next to HMS Art Supply and across the street from the Art Building on the UNT campus. A fantastic location for many reasons, but especially so because of my neighbors to the east at 1120: Olive and Kathryn Honeycutt. We would exchange pleasantries on occasion and one afternoon they invited me over for tea. Olive was elderly then (I guessed about 90) and her sister a bit younger. In the course of a very genteel visit, I’m sure we talked of many things but, what stuck in my mind was the story from when Olive was working on the Square in the late 1920s-early ’30’s. She said she walked over to the old Courthouse and watched the trial of, and here is where time and memory are a bit foggy, either one of the Barrow Brothers or of Barrow Gang member Raymond Hamilton. I sort of remember thinking how strange and small town it must’ve been to be able to walk in on a trial for what we consider *now* as famous and notorious criminals.
A refresher: Clyde and his brother Buck robbed the Motor Mark Garage on West Oak Street two blocks west of the Square on Nov 30th, 1929. Clyde was driving the escape vehicle but crashed it and escaped while Buck was shot by police and arrested. He was tried in Denton and sentenced to Huntsville Prison. Raymond Hamilton was arrested for robbing the First National Bank in Lewisville, Texas on April 25th, 1934 and his trial was also held in Denton.
But, this blog post isn’t really about the Barrow Gang.
Olive was born August 2, 1900 in Gainesville, Texas and passed on December 11, 1998, about a month after her sister Kathryn, and was a long-time employee and manager at the Russell’s Department Store on the southwest corner of the square. That building still stands and one can still see the “Russell’s Entrance” sign on the back of the building. There are over 300 hits in Newspaper Archives for her in the Record-Chronicle from 1909-1977, which is as far as that database goes. I imagine there are many more in the subsequent years until her death. She is a good example of someone you’ve never heard of but was quite active in the community for many decades. Here she is in the September 1966 Denton Doings:
I also have a vague recollection that she mentioned knowing Larry McMurtry when he attended UNT (NTSU) in the late ’50s. Maybe another tale lost to time in my mind? Intriguing idea: did McMurtry live in the same duplex that I did at some point? I *did* find McMurtry in the 1957 city directory living at 1120 West Congress.
Thanks again for the tea, Olive and Kathryn.
Written by Chuck Voellinger, Emily Fowler Library email@example.com
I don’t know about you, but I am still struggling with this years’ time change. It could be because I am getting older but the change did prompt me to start thinking about time. Not just the passing of it, but the marking of it. Have you ever noticed how many clocks we have in Denton? Today they blend in with the scenery but it wasn’t so long ago that we really relied on community clocks. Of course, not all of them have survived the passing of time, but some are ticking on.
I’ve often admired the clock mounted to the side of the old Denton County National Bank building on the corner of Hickory and Locust. A few weeks ago the library hosted a program about historic stained glass in Denton. The presenter, Christie Woods, said she had to repair the stained glass on the top of the clock after a hail storm. My first thought was, I didn’t know there was stained glass on the top of that clock and my second thought was, who in the world would put stained glass on the top of a clock in Texas? The elaborate clock was made by the McClintock-Loomis Company of Minneapolis, Minn. The company specialized in these elaborate, decorative clocks and different models can still be found all across the United States. The system is set up so that the clock we see is actually a “dummy clock” controlled by a more sophisticated clock located inside, usually in the lobby, of the building.
An ad published in the January 15, 1917 edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle described the newly installed clock. It measures 10 feet long and 4 feet square. The outside enclosure is made of brass, copper, and bronze and “holds four beautiful art glass signs, reproducing the name of the bank, also four 30 inch art glass clock dials and the five chime bells.” The chiming system was very impressive and the ad describes it in detail. At a quarter past the hour it would ring four strokes then it would play the Westminster chime; at half-past the hour it would ring eight times then play Reveille; at the 45 minute mark it would ring twelve strokes and then play the Cathedral peal; and at the hour, it would ring sixteen strokes, play Westminster again, “followed by striking of the full hour.” Seems like a pretty complicated system to me, but then again, I don’t have a pocket watch to set every day.
It appears to have kept good time, and an article published on March 9, 1962 in the DRC stated that when the clock was damaged in a hail storm in 1961 it “marked the first time the clock had been out of operation for more than a few hours since it was installed in 1917.” However, a quick search of the old issues of the DRC in the public subscription to Newspaper Archives reveals that there were quite a few times that the clock was not functional. One instance is lamented by Dr. C. L. Oliver in an article from 1933. He stated “I don’t know which is most inconvenient, a stiff neck or to have the Denton County National Bank clock out of order. With my neck, I can’t look up to see the clock on the top of the Courthouse; the bank clock has been out of order a good deal of the time lately; I can’t afford to buy a watch so I’m just in a heck of a shape as regards to the time of the day. Don’t know when to go eat even.” 1
Speaking of the clock in the Courthouse, it was installed when the Courthouse was nearly complete in 1897. (Read more about the building of the Courthouse). It too could prove unreliable. I came across an interesting article from 1947 when the clock went wonky and would chime 13 times at 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. The same article mentions that until March 1945 the clock was motivated by a 300-pound weight on a cable which ran the length of the shaft from the tower to the basement of the building. That is 8 stories! Next time you visit the Courthouse-on-the-Square take a minute to peer up into the rotunda to marvel at that.
You know, it wasn’t so long ago while I was attending school at Stonewall Jackson Elementary that Texas Woman’s University (TWU) added another clock to Denton’s skyline. From the school yard, heck, anywhere in Denton, we watched the 18 story building being built. The Administration Conference Tower (ACT) was opened in June 1978 2 and on each of the four sides of the top of the tower was a clock face. I have to say they came in handy when we were running around the neighborhood and needed to see what the time was to get home for dinner. But on the flip side, if I ever said I lost track of time, my mom just reminded me of the 18 story building with the clock on the top. This clock also rang out with the Westminster chimes but instead of bells it had an electronic system with huge speakers tucked into the corners of the building. The chimes rang on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. At first the chimes would ring on the hour for 24 hours, but for some reason that tended to disturb the neighbors. 3 That clock was removed in 2014.
If you needed to borrow time there were a number of other community clocks around town. Which ones do you remember? Later, we could call (940) 387-0212 to check the time and temperature, but this was before we all had mini-computers in our pockets that, among other things, mark the passing of time.
Here’s a link to a video for more information about the McClintock-Loomis Company and their clocks. The quality is not so good, but it is informative. If you go to the 3:30 point in the video, you’ll find out about a “secret message” included on our clock.