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Palestine Hotels
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PALESTINE

Old homes, fruit cakes,
and stained glass windows

Excerpted from
"The East Texas Sunday Drive Book"
by Bob Bowman

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The focal point of this Sunday Drive is Palestine, the county seat of Anderson County and a town whose history parallels the arrival of the railroad in the l870s. But you'll also have the opportunity to see some excellent rural scenery.

Start your Sunday Drive with a tour of downtown Palestine. The Chamber of Commerce offers an excellent walking tour guide which will carry you to several points of interest, including:

  • The Redlands Hotel at 400 North Queen. Now a nostalgic galleria of specialty shops, the old hotel thrived from 1915 to 1918 and then served as an office building for the next four decades.
  • Carnegie Public Library, located at 502 North Queen. Built in 1915, the building is a recorded Texas historical landmark.
  • Kolstad's Jewelers, located at the corner of Oak and Sycamore. This business is known as the oldest continuous retail store in Texas and the oldest jewelry store west of the Mississippi River.
  • Eilenberger's Bakery, located at 500 North John, known for its world-famous fruit and pecan cakes. The bakery has been in business since l898.
  • The Museum of East Texas Culture, originally the old Palestine High School. Exhibits in the museum deal with various aspects of Anderson County's history, including an excellent section on railroad history. The museum is located adjacent to the John H. Reagan Monument and Park near the downtown area.
  • Palestine also offers a wealth of Victorian homes, located primarily on Sycamore, Perry, Hodges, Link, Kolstad, Mallard, Magnolia, Reagan and Royall streets. Few of the homes, however, are open to the public, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying the exteriors during a drive-by.

    Another feature of Palestine is its abundance of stained glass church windows, including those at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 503 North Queen; First Christian Church, 113 East Crawford; the First Presbyterian Church, 410 Avenue A; First United Methodist Church, 422 South Magnolia; St. Philips Episcopal Church, 106 East Crawford; and Grace United Methodist Church, located at Kolstad and Queen.

    Palestine is also the western terminal of the Texas State Railroad, which runs regular passenger service with old steam locomotives and restored coaches between the city and Rusk. The tours start around Memorial Day and end around Labor Day. Be sure to check with the local Chamber of Commerce for reservation information.

    Five miles west of Palestine on Texas 287 is the National Scientific Balloon Facility, the launching site for balloons reaching high altitudes. Visitors are welcome, but you should call ahead for reservations.

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    To continue your Sunday Drive beyond Palestine, turn north on Texas 155, but before you leave the city limits, turn to the left on Link Road and make a drive through Davey Dogwood Park, a spectacular area during the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom. The park's main road winds five miles through the 400-acre park.

    Return to 155 and continue north to its intersection with Farm Road 321. Near the intersection is a state historical marker noting the importance of two Anderson County towns, Plenitude and Mound Prairie, during the Civil War. Both settlements, now ghost towns, made rifles, grist mills and cotton gins used in the Confederate war effort.

    At the highway intersection, turn the east toward Montalba community, which lies at the intersection of 321 and Texas 19. The town's distinctive name comes from a nearby mountain.

    From Montalba, continue in a western direction on 321 to Tennessee Colony.

    From Tennessee Colony, head south on Farm Road 645 To Tucker, named for an early settler known as Colonel Tucker.

    Near Tucker, on U.S. 79, you'll find Old Magnolia, a cluster of old buildings representing turn-of-the-century life in East Texas. The theme park, built by schoolteacher/carpenter Bill Gibbs, is open during the Dogwood Trails season and for special events such as group gatherings.

    Continue in a westerly direction to Long Lake, where you should veer back to the east on Texas 294 toward Elkhart. A few miles from the intersection, look for a historical marker to Old Magnolia, a Trinity River steamboat port. In the 1850s, Magnolia consisted of about 800 residents and included a drug store, land office, blacksmith shop, tavern, cotton gin, general store, school, church and a hotel, the Hagood, known all over Texas for its hospitality. Dozens of steamboats docked at the town's wharves, but the railroad eventually killed trade on the river.

    Continue your Sunday drive to Elkhart, named for a friendly Indian who helped early settlers. At Elkhart, head west on Farm road 319, and then turn south on Farm Road 861 to the Pilgrim Church and Cemetery, which has been in continuous use since 1833 when Rev. Daniel Parker built a small log house of worship. A replica of his original church still stands on the site. The Parker family earned an additional place in Texas history when a Comanche war party attached Parker Fort near Mexia, kidnapping Cynthia Ann Parker, who adopted the ways of the Indians and married Comanche chief Peta Nacona.

    When you leave Pilgrim, continue on 861, which will carry you back to Elkhart. Then turn south on Texas 19, but pick up Texas 294 to Slocum a few miles outh of Elkhart. Continue through Slocum until you come to the intersection with Farm Road 323, which will return you to Palestine.

    Slocum enjoys one of the oddest names in East Texas; it was reported named by a local wit because of the slowness in securing a post office which was finally established in l898.. "It's been slow to come," he reportedly remarked.

    For meals, we recommend Lobo's Little Mexico at Palestine, one of the best Mexican food restaurants in East Texas.

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    (For additional information about places found on this Sunday Drive, contact the Palestine Visitor and Convention Bureau, P.O. Drawer I, Palestine, TX 75801, telephone 214/723-3014.)

    December 2000
    Excerpt by permission of author Mr. Bob Bowman.
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