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Texas | Feature | Texas Books


by Robert E. Reed Jr.

Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History series.
Title: Tyler

Robert E. Reed Jr.

(Arcadia’s Postcard History series)

ISBN-10: 0738571784
ISBN-13: 9780738571782
# of Pages: 128
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
Release Date: September 28, 2009
List Price: $21.99
The book contains 226 vintage postcards covering Tyler's history during the first seven decades of the twentieth century. They are separated into nine chapters: Street Scenes and Buildings; Courthouses and the Public Square; Public Buildings; Education; Religion; Residences; Festivals, Fairs, and Parades; Businesses; and Recreation and Organizations.

Tyler TX - North Side School, renamed Marsh School

Located on the southwest corner of North Bois D’Arc Avenue and West Bow Street, North Side School was built in 1889 as Tyler’s first ward school. It was later renamed Marsh School to honor Colonel Bryan Marsh, a local Confederate veteran who was a Texas Ranger and Smith County sheriff for eighteen years. This school was demolished in 1917 and rebuilt on the same site. None of the original four ward schools of Marsh, Douglas, Bonner and Gary featured lighting of any kind; hence, they all had a large number of windows for daytime illumination. Also, all of these schools were limited to white students, for there was the West End Colored School built in 1888 and the East End Colored School established in a rented building in 1894. This panoramic real photo postcard measures 11 inches by 3-1/2 inches.

Tyler TX - Prohibition Parade, Ferguson St, June 5, 1909

Shown is the Prohibition Parade held on June 5, 1909. The postcard is looking east along Ferguson Street, from the intersection with North College Avenue, and states that the votes cast for Prohibition were 2564, with 1650 votes against. This must have been a revote, for prohibition was achieved in Smith County in 1901, long before the 18th Amendment imposed it nationwide in 1919.

Tyler TX - Brown Derby Drive-In Café

The Brown Derby Drive-In Café, located at 1905 South Broadway Avenue, was opened in December 1935. The entire restaurant was originally enclosed in the hat-shaped structure, but in 1936 the kitchen was moved into a new building in the rear, and the entire “hat” was made a dining room. The restaurant closed in early 1953 and became a used car lot by 1956. The buildings were demolished in 1958.

Tyler Texas - Tyler Barber College Interior view practice shop
No colleges existed to train African-Americans the skills required to obtain a barber’s license until Henry Morgan opened Tyler Barber College, located at 212 East Erwin Street, in 1934. It became a successful chain with locations in major cities throughout the United States and reportedly featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not column as a corporation headquartered in a small town with a branch in New York City.

Tyler Texas - North Spring Ave., East Side Square

Tyler Texas - North Spring Avenue

These postcards both show the same section of North Spring Avenue, but from opposite directions and different times. The top view is early 1910s looking south, from the intersection with East Ferguson Street. The only readable sign is for The Steger Land Company to the far left, but the Queen Theater is in the right adjoining building. Tyler’s first Brookshire’s store opened in 1928 around mid-block. The bottom view is late 1930s looking north, with East Erwin Street crossing in the immediate foreground. Along Spring Avenue, a couple of blocks further north, were boarding houses, two of which were closed in 1936 as “bawdy houses.”

Tyler TX - Durst And BergfeldBuilding Tyler Commercial Club

Tyler TX - Tyler Commercial Club Room after April 6, 1907 fire

Civic leaders founded the Tyler Commercial Club on June 2, 1900. Located on the southeast corner of South Spring Avenue and East Erwin Street in the Durst and Bergfeld Building constructed in the early 1890s, it was the forerunner of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tyler Economic Development Council. This building also housed the Elk’s Club on the second floor. On the far right of this postcard, the Grand Opera House is partially visible. A devastating fire struck this corner on April 6, 1907. The postcard below, with the exact same view, shows the empty shell that remained of the building after the fire.

Tyler TX -  1851 Smith County Courthouse

After a series of three log cabins over five years served as the county courthouse, the cornerstone was laid in December 1851, for a new courthouse, Tyler’s first brick structure. The two-story building was 40 feet by 70 feet and sat in the middle of the square. In 1876 a third story was added, as well as a clock tower that never had a timepiece installed.

Tyler Texas - 1886 City Hall, Locust Street Fire Station, old postcard

The Locust Street Fire Station was built on the northwest corner of North College Avenue and West Locust Street in 1886. Over the years the structure at times concurrently served other purposes, such as the police department and city hall. This postcard includes a view of the early horse-drawn fire department. Visible atop the building in the above postcard is a bell used to summon the firefighters when they were not at the station. The bell was originally used on the first building that housed Marvin Methodist Church from 1852 to 1889. After the church moved and no longer had a belfry, they loaned the bell to the fire department. When this building was demolished in 1955, the bell was returned to the church, and it is currently displayed on their east lawn along South Bois D’Arc Avenue.

Tyler TX - Carnegie Public Library

Carnegie Public Library, located at 125 South College Avenue, opened October 3, 1904. It was constructed with a $15,000 donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, while private funds paid for the lot and furnishings. With two large rooms on the first floor and an auditorium called Carnegie Hall on the second, the library was designed to hold 12,000 books and be operated by one librarian, paid $35 monthly. An expansion in 1936 doubled its size, courtesy of a Public Works Administration grant. Library service for African Americans was segregated until the 1960s. A new public library opened at 201 South College Avenue on May 5, 1980. The old library, one of a dwindling number of original Carnegie Library buildings still standing in Texas, now serves as the museum and archives of the Smith County Historical Society.

Tyler TX - Church of the Immaculate Conception

While mass had been celebrated for a number of years before, the first Catholic church was dedicated in 1882 on the northeast corner of North College Avenue and West Locust Street, shown above. It was called Church of the Immaculate Conception, with French Reverend J.S. Chaland preaching to a mainly Irish congregation employed by the railroad. After a fund collection drive of fifteen years, construction started in 1934 on a new church, on the southwest corner of South Broadway Avenue and West Front Street. The parish, now known as Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, was so eager to move in that it actually did by Christmas 1934, before construction was completed. The actual dedication occurred on March 17, 1935. Soon afterward, the 1882 frame church was moved to West Lollar Street for use as a mission parish.

Tyler, TX - Mayer & Schmidt Department Store
Mayer & Schmidt moved their department store to the northwest corner of North College Avenue and West Ferguson Street in 1893. The store, shown above, was built on land made available when Alfred Ferguson’s hotel burned. The new store was considered the area’s most spacious and luxurious. In 1956 it became an early component of the Dillard’s chain, but operated under its original name at this location until 1974.

Tyler TX - Gathering Elberta Peaches

Truck farming is the cultivation of fruit or vegetable crops for transport to distant markets where they cannot be grown due to climate. In Tyler’s case, most of the crops were canned or iced down and shipped northward on the Cotton Belt Railroad. One of the early important truck crops for the area was peaches. Shown on this postcard is the gathering of Elberta peaches. In 1889 alone Smith County harvested 104,283 bushels of peaches. However, disaster loomed on the horizon, arriving just after the next century started. San Jose scale, a major peach blight, soon struck, and by 1914 all peach orchards were killed. Most peach growers switched to the growing rose industry.

Tyler TX 1939 Rose Festival "Queen's Float"

In August 1933 Marion Wilcox and other Tyler Garden Club members approached Russell Rhodes, the Chamber of Commerce manager, to insist he somehow publicize local rose growing. With assistance from local attorney Thomas Ramey, the effort evolved into the Rose Festival, with Thomas as the first president. The festival dates were set for October 11-12, leaving only six weeks to get it organized. Starting the first day at 2:30 pm, a 2-mile-long parade circled the downtown square. It is interesting to note that the Rose Queen, Margaret Copeland, was not chosen until that night, and her afternoon coronation occurred on the last day in Bergfeld Park. This postcard shows Rose Queen Dorothy Bell’s float for the 1939 Rose Parade.

© Robert E. Reed Jr.

Tyler Azalea Trails, Texas
Tyler, Texas
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher

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