Historic preservation is transforming small towns across the state. There is a new awareness of the beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings that line the Main Streets of many rural communities. An excellent example of the enthusiasm and energy generated by historic preservation can be found in Cuero, Texas.
In 2001, the small town of Cuero participated in the Texas Historical Commission's “Visionaries in Preservation” community workshops, and in 2003, the Dewitt County Courthouse received a THC Courthouse Preservation Planning grant. This new public interest in historic preservation inspired others in town to re-examine old buildings.
Robert Oliver, chairman of the board of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, began restoring the Knights of Pythias Hall at the corner of Esplanade and Courthouse Streets into a new home for the museum and multi-purpose community facilities. The exterior restoration was started by preservation architect David Hoffman and completed in April 2010 by FisherHeck Architects of San Antonio, who built the addition to the museum and is now handling restoration of the interior.
The Museum is also improving the property just behind the historic building with added green space, expanded parking, and restoration of the historic (c.1892) Queen-Anne Victorian Proctor-Green house. FisherHeck is leading this project as well.
The museum's efforts inspired the father and son partnership of Jim and Brad Hedrick (Brad serves on Cuero’s city council) to begin restoration of a two-story, late-1800’s building across the street. Brad’s wife has opened a women’s clothing boutique on the ground floor. The second floor, still in the raw, once served during World War II as the Air Force Officers Club for nearby Brayton Field.
On another corner of the same intersection, Alamo Architects of San Antonio has begun turning a 1940s Teague-designed Texaco gas station into the Prickly Cactus Café.
As the Dewitt County Courthouse was being meticulously restored, the County also chose to renovate a vacant 1920s car dealership near the courthouse as an annex. Citizens needing to pay taxes or register their cars now come to the Downtown Historic District, bringing foot traffic and potential customers. The architect for both the courthouse restoration and the annex was Kim Williams of TWC Architects in Austin.
Cuero’s Downtown Commercial District, part of the National Register of Historic Places, has many interesting buildings, museums and shops that are well worth a visit. Architects will love the scale and intimacy of Main Street, the amazing Wagner’s Hardware that time forgot, and the incredible craftsmanship of the town's early 20th century buildings.
Updated: April 10, 2013
An earlier version of this article omitted identification of FisherHeck Architects as architect for the restoration of Cuero's Knights of Pythias Hall and Proctor-Green house.