Park Hotel | Painting by James David, Porter, 2019
Posted: April 21, 2020
Written: July 3 - 6, 1892
Casting about for what to post this week, I came across the journal of Arthur Francis describing a visit he and his wife, Lorena, made to the “Saratoga of the South’ – Lampasas, Texas – July 3 through July 6, 1892. It could be a true account, perhaps.
Journal Entry: July 3, 1892 | Aboard the eastbound train to Lampasas
According to my pocket watch it is a little past ten pm. The conductor just told us that we will be arriving shortly at the Lampasas Depot where we will debark. The train is scheduled to arrive at 10:30. Seems that we might be a bit early. I’m curious to visit this town that the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe grandly proclaims to be the “Saratoga of the South.”
The destination of many of my fellow passengers is one of town’s famed springs, to take the waters. My wife is among that number.
Lorena, my wife, and I have been visiting family in San Angelo and she thought it would be nice to relax for a few days at the grand (her term) Park Hotel and partake of the touted health advantages of the mineral springs. She can if she wishes, for my part, I’m skeptical. I’ll wander the town instead.
Typical Pullman Lounge Car of the 1890s
Now though, I am finishing up an enjoyable dram of whiskey in the lounge car of the eastbound Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe evening train, while Lorena is elsewhere chatting with a couple ladies. I will have to ask her if she was able to sip her favorite tawny port.
I am not alone. Sitting across from me is a well-dressed salesman. I would have said, “Drummer,” but he introduced himself as “Abe Fink, salesman.” “Drummers,” he said, were "those men with their sample cases, riding coach." A bit further down the car, closer to the bar were two dapperly dressed men quietly conversing.
Engaging me in conversation, Mr. Fink inquires: “Where are you staying?” “The Park,” I reply, “You?” “Good choice, I hope you have a reservation.” “We do, the wife made it. I understand though that they are having a hard time filling the rooms.” “Not this month,” my acquaintance counters. “With the State Democratic Convention in a few weeks I imagine every room is full.1 You know how these politicians and lobbyist are. There is lots of hobnobbing that will be done over the next few weeks.”
“Is the wife in the mood for buying, you think? (A impertinent question in my opinion) I’m staying at the Park too; take advantage of the well-appointed sample rooms they offer in town. When the rich ladies and gents stop buying I’ll move to the Globe, set up and sell to the town’s people.” (All delivered with a big smile, somewhat greedy, I think.)
“See those gentlemen over there?” nodding toward the two engrossed in conversation. “The Honorable Waller Baker. They say he’s a big player in the Democratic Party, strongly opposed to the Populist party The fellow with him is a lobbyist – I don’t know his name – for the railroad. Hogg’s newly enacted Railroad Commission’s regulatory power is stirring up a lot of opposition from businesses and the railroads. The Populists and Republicans are gearing up for a fight to preserve the powers.” “You seem to to know what’s going on,” I suggest. “Yes sir! In my line of business one has to keep his ear to the ground.”
While we chatted the train has to slow for Lampasas depot. I hand my tumbler to the porter, excuse myself and rose up. As I walk back to our car, it dawns on me, I never thought to ask what he actually sells.
Journal Entry: 11:15 pm | In the Park Hotel carriage en route to the hotel
Some observations I made while at the depot:
Old Wooden Lampasas Depot (Radio Junction) | Photographer: Fred Sanger(?)
The depot is not much to look at at, a poor wooden thing.2 As Lorena and I made arrangements to have our bags transported to the Park I took the opportunity to take a look at my fellow passengers. Even at this late hour there were a line of hackneys and hotel carriages, along with a couple little mule pulled trolleys, waiting to take passengers home, to their hotels, and for some, I understand, to rented tents at either Hancock or Hanna Springs.
I note the usual railroad traveler: Dummers with their sample cases. Card sharks and hustlers, are among them I am sure. A booming resort town like Lampasas is bound to attract their type. It is hard to tell who is who, among the dapper gentlemen debarking are politicians, lobbyists, well-to-do businessmen or bankers. I am told that Lampasas is not only the “Saratoga of the South,” it is also a major West Texas trading center. Being such, ranchers and farmers have come to make arrangements for the selling of their livestock and crops.
What I didn’t expect to see was so many maimed and sickly-looking people getting off the train. Having booked first class passage, I simply didn’t notice these people on the train. One fellow, with the help of a young boy, lifted a lady off the train and carried her to a waiting carriage. Lorena, being the helpful type, left me to the arranging for our bags and rushed over to see if she could be of assistance.
Our luggage arranged for, the lady comfortably settled in her carriage [I learn later from Lorena that she has severe arthritis and is hoping for a cure. The man was her husband, the boy her son. (Ed. This note scribbled on the page side.)], a skewing the crowded hotel carriage we hire a hackney to deliver us to the Park.
Park Hotel 19893
Journal Entry: July 4, 1892, 12:15 am | At last in our room at the Park Hotel
We are finally tucked into our room. The comforts are grand and there is electric lighting, even electric call buttons. Something we didn’t have the luxury of while visiting family in San Angelo. Lorena, exhausted is just about asleep as I jot down my thoughts. Tomorrow – I mean later today – Lorena will take the waters, although I think we will first go downtown to watch the parade. While she is at the baths, I will visit the town; maybe on second thought, check out the horse races. Just like the real Saratoga in New York, this “Saratoga of the South” has a race track. Whether it is as grand, I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.
Almost forgot. We checked in behind Mr. Fink, whom I introduced to my wife. She asked how he got into sales business. He told her that he was the son of Mr. Abe Fink, a Jewish immigrant from Poland and merchant in Brenham. “Please don’t tell anyone I am a Hebrew,” he asked. She winked, and replied, “Don’t worry, I’m Polish too. A Catholic today, but from a family of converted Jews. I smile at that. Sitting here in bed I remember hearing that Brenham has a sizable Hebrew Polish population, many of them merchants. I wonder, Lampasas too? I still don’t know what Mr. Fink sells.
Outside in the pavilion the band and the dancers are wrapping up. Time for me to put the pen aside and get some sleep.
Journal Entry: Morning, about noon | The end of the parade
The parade, a typical small town Texas parade with uniformed Confederate Veterans and Union Soldiers. I should correct myself, these are US Soldiers from both the South and the North. Patriotic floats and bands playing patriotic music (accompanied the whistles of excursion trains from Galveston), kids everywhere. All proceeded by boring speeches, which I ignored. Now the Mayor is about to wax elegant. I want to eat lunch at the Globe hotel. Lorena wants to get back to the Park. The baths at Hancock Springs are calling. After lunch, we'll catch the trolley back to the hotel.
Journal Entry: Afternoon | At the racetrack
Lunch was excellent. Lorena assured me it would be. Sort of a buffet. That is what she was told by the doorman this morning. I am sure the Globe serves a good lunch too. I haven’t mentioned breakfast, mainly because it is pretty much the ordinary affair. The bakery does produce some excellent pasties.
The racetrack not being far from the hotel, I walked (walking lunch off too). Cooling off after I arrived with a tall glass of fresh squeezed,iced lemonade I purchased from a vendor. The Texas heat is back.
I will jot down observations as I wander.
The fair is typical, really a community picnic. Lots of families and kids. The smell of fried chicken permeates. Every table seems to have jars of jellies and jams to trade. An abundance of iced tea and lemonade too A vendor is attempting to duplicate the new Asian treat of shave ice with local juices. There are a few exhibitions, mostly by the Farmer’s Alliance (their banner claims they were founded in 1876), dancing to pretty good local band, tethered balloon rides, and the promise of tightrope walker later in the day. Fireworks after dark.
The Baylor College band from Belton is scheduled to play before the fireworks.
The big hit, it seems, if the line is any indication, is the steam powered carousel. A new thing for Lampasas, I suspect. I am told that the grounds owes their existence to the race track, established in 1875 by a man named Douglas Y. Fox. As for the races, there are both steeplechase and thoroughbred.3 As I look, there is a shooting match going on inside the track oval. The one-mile track is not bad, but it is no where near that of “Saratoga of the North.”
I wonder if Lorena is back from the baths. I’m bored, time to head back to the hotel.
Journal Entry: Late afternoon | Park Hotel
As I arrive some of the more society-conscious ladies of the town are finishing up their afternoon socializing on the porch, perhaps in the parlors too. Passing along upper-crust gossip no-doubt. Their buggies are lined up waiting. At lunch Lorena and I noticed a number of the ladies enjoying the fare. A few were condescending, one quite rude, to the negro waiters. No way for a lady to act. Makes me think that some are society climbers.
Park Hotel Advertisement Card ca 1890
Lorena hasn’t yet returned. I am going to nose about the hotel. The brochure advertises “200 Large, Airy and Elegantly Furnished Rooms in a Beautiful Grove. Electric Bells in Every Room.” Rooms are advertised at a rate of $2.50 and $3.50 per day. We have the higher rate room. For a dollar more we get the balcony and a view of the springs. Facing the pavilion, we also get to hear the band play into the wee hours of the morning.
I do like this wide banistered porch that wraps around the front and sides of the hotel, both floors. From all sides I get a great view of that advertised “Beautiful Grove.” Tonight, Lorena and I will take a stroll along one of the paths, maybe a carriage ride too. Right now I see a few couples strolling and a few folk on bicycles. I have never gotten the hang of those penny farthings.4
Earlier the doorman had told me that the Park Hotel was the most elegant and largest wood-framed building in Texas.
Went back to the room, Lorena had not yet returned. She must be enjoying herself. I am on the grounds now behind the hotel. To my left is the laundry and servants quarters. To the far right are two long row buildings, divided into “cottages.” One is for families. Across from it is the “Bachelor Row,” for single men. I assume for men traveling alone too.
The dining room protrudes from the rear of the building and connects to a separate building housing the kitchen and another for the table service, waiters and the like. I noticed that at lunch.
The creek is dammed up to create a shallow lake for boating and fishing. The dance pavilion sits alongside the creek.
Sulphur Creek at Hancock Springs
As dinner is a dress up affair, I had better head back to the room. Lorena is surely back by now. I am glad she had the foresight to remind me to bring along my summer tux and to send it out this morning for a pressing.
Journal Entry: 6:00 pm | In our room
Hancock Springs Bathhouse (n.d.)
As we dress Lorena tells me about her day. The bathhouses, she tells me, are built of native stone. There are two, one for the ladies, and one for the men. Each has a forty by sixty pool, three to five feet deep. The water was a constant 69 degrees and “Stunk of sulphur.” After a while you didn’t notice the smell, she claimed. “The next time we come, we need to bring the children. There is a small pool for them. Tomorrow, I think I am going to rent one of the small tubs or private pools and have them heated the water as hot as I can stand. Now tell me about your day?”
Remains of the Hancock Springs Bathing Pool
Remains of the Hancock Springs Bathhouse
Journal Entry: 8:30 pm | After dinner
Dinner is over, an elegant affair, food to match. I (along with a few others) was a bit overdressed. My good summer suit would have sufficed. I opted for the filet of beef with fresh mushrooms, accompanied by boiled potatoes and lima beans. Lorena chose the roasted chicken (without the offered okra), accompanied by squash. We wrapped up our meal with a plate of mixed fruits and cheeses. A deep, dry red French wine for me, a French Sauvignon Blanc for Lorena. The wines alone speak to the advantage of staying in a railway promoted hotel.5
We are strolling about one of the paths, listening to the gold-braided house play in the background. Lorena wants me to dance with her. I demur. That is something, like riding a penny farthing, I’ve never mastered, much to my mother’s chagrin. I want to take a carriage ride. We compromise. We’ll dance a bit and then a romantic moon-light carriage ride.
Journal Entry: Last night (Written July 5)
It is early morning, in bed. I am recording the memory of last night as Lorena lays snuggled against me.
We’ve lost the track of time. The Fourth of July fireworks have come and gone. We are heading back to our room arm-in-arm, somewhat in a rush. Well, it is a romantic place. The band is still providing romantic music. For the dancers, I know, but it works just as well for us as it flows into the room with the breeze.
Journal Entry: July 5, 10:30 am
It is a beautiful sunny day. The Texas heat has not yet made itself evident. A repeat of yesterday. I didn’t mention the weather yesterday, did I? Ablutions and breakfast out of the way, I suggest a trolley ride into town. Lorena agrees.
Journal Entry: 12:45 pm | Back at the hotel, after lunch
The town is well just a town, no different than you would expect of any trade center. Busy with commerce. The banks seem to be busy. We had light lunch at the cathedral-like, three-story Globe Hotel. I insisted that we ride the elevator to the top floor and back down again. I believe this is the first elevator in Texas. The Globe, although not as grand as the Park, is still a swanky hotel, and only a bit less expensive. Lunch too, was decent.6
At lunch, Lorena and I struck up a conversation with a banker and his wife. When I mentioned that we were staying at the Park, I was told that the Texas Bankers Association was founded at the Park Hotel in 1885.
Lorena has headed off to the springs for her hot tub soak. I think I will take the trolley to Lampasas’ other famous set of springs, Hanna Springs. It is here, at the Hanna Springs Convention Center that the Texas Democratic Convention is soon to be held. I am curious to see the springs and the convention hall, which I am told is magnificent.
Hancock & Hanna Springs_Hotels & DepotLampasas Street RailwayD
Journal Entry: 1:10 pm | On the trolley
I almost missed the trolley. The conductor, a gracious fellow, saw me coming and held up trolley for me. Now as we ride from the Park through the city to Hanna Springs, in between picking and discharging riders, he is telling me about the street railway. “The line is 3 miles of standard gauge track. We operate 4 cars with 15 mules.7 The thing that really bothers me is that we are owned by a company in Fort Worth. All they want is the money. Don’t care about anything else. At least when we were partly owned by Santa Fe men, they cared about us. We were part of that grand promotion of the railroad’s “Saratoga of the South.8”
Toward Hanna Springs a parson boards. He invites me to the revival he is conducting at the Hanna Springs Convention Center and then, having a captive audience, shares his "Be saved or else," theology with all of us on the trolley.
Hanna Springs Pool Postcard (undated)
Journal Entry: 3:00 pm | At Hanna Springs
Having excused myself from the evangelizing of the parson I am walking around the grounds of Hanna Springs, the first of the springs to go private.
From what I learned from the conductor before the parson demanded our attention, a couple by the name of Scott erected a ten-room cottage hotel and some rudimentary bathhouses. The springs became known as “Scott’s White Sulphur Springs.” It was the Scotts who cleaned up the springs and filled in the boggy areas. Twelve years later John Hanna purchased the springs, renaming them as “Hanna Springs.” John and his wife Hanna built the concrete wall around the springs and a few bathhouses.
Remains of the Hanna Springs Bathing Pool
These grounds are not as elegantly designed as the larger Hancock Springs, although the convention hall is an elaborate affair. I have to admit I was awestruck with the hall itself, a massive center hall, 60 by 120 feet built with timbers large and sturdy enough that no center posts are needed. The brochure in my hand claims that it is the largest such hall in Texas. It hosts the brochure states, Chautaugua-like events, revivals, theater productions, musicals and weddings.
Hanna Springs Bathhouse, ca. 1885
To my eyes the building is kind of an odd arrangement. It is a massive bathhouse with a reception room, dance hall and orchestra pit. Unlike Hancock Springs and the Park Hotel, Hanna Springs was obviously designed for use by the general public. Across Hackberry Street is a stone hotel, the Scott. I need to look at it before I return. Most taking the water at Hanna springs camp in tents, I am told. The same at Hancock Springs.
The bathhouse contains several bathing rooms to which a portable heater can be brought to heat the water. There are also several circular pools outdoors for those who wish to bath in them. There is a long line of people waiting to fill their jugs with the mineral water. I assume that is the case at Hancock Springs too. Earlier when I arrived, a Medicine Man" tried to sell me a bottle of what he claimed to have "wonder-working" healing powers especially good for the nerves and brain, concocted from a "special mixture" of local spring waters.
Wandering about the tent grounds, a resident of one of the tents told me that he like many of those camping were families waiting until they could afford to purchase a home, or waiting for their home to built.
It’s getting late. One last stop before catching the trolley, the hotel.
Scott Hotel as the Wintersteen House, 1994
Well, it is not the Park. It does look comfortable though. The center hallway adds an elegant touch.9
Hanna Springs Overflow just after it flows under Hackberry Street toward Cooper SpringsIt is just north of here that the Scott Hotel was located.
Journal Entry: 6:30 pm | Back at the hotel
I decided to hire a hackney to return to our hotel. There was a goodly number of folk returning home from the Springs waiting for the trolley. I was told that the 5:30 westbound train had arrived early, that would add to the press.
On the way back my coachman regaled me with the history of Lampasas. I made a few notes, but I need to put it down coherently before I forget. Lorena is getting dressed for supper. I am told it is to be served on the lawn tonight. Less formal.
He told me that the “official history” of Hancock Springs began in 1853 when a man named Moses Hughes “carried his wife to springs” and built a small cabin. Within weeks, according to my coachman, Mrs. Hughes has fully recovered. “Why she could even walk again!” The story spread and by 1865 over 1500 people were living by the springs, drawn there for their healing powers. Sensing an opportunity for profit, The Gulf Central & Santa Fe Railroad extended the line to the bustling community. With the arrival of the railroad, growth exploded.
Taking advantage of the growth that the railroad had created, a syndicate of wealthy railroad businessmen purchased a large tract of land across Sulphur Creek from the springs and went about building a magnificent hotel and grand resort where we are staying. The coachman approved: “It gives me business.”
The resort, in concert with the railroad and promoters, began advertising Lampasas as the “Saratoga of the South.”10 “See the opera house?” the coachman asked earlier as we drove by it. “Something else that gives me business. That opera house shows the success of the railroad’s marketing.”
It was railroad, he told me, that backed the mule-drawn trolley between Hancock and Hanna Springs.11
Advertising the mineral content of Hancock Springs
The “official” version out of the way. My coachman started in with real history, which began back in 1721 when a Spanish expedition “discovered” the springs. I could hear those quotes in the tone of coachman’s words. The Spaniards recorded that the springs were sacred to the Tonkawans and other tribes. To them it was a place of peace, all weapons laid on the ground. No blood was to be spilled. (The coachman sounded a bit doubtful about that.) They also recorded the medicinal properties that the natives claimed for the springs. “Cattle drives paused at the springs as they headed north, buffalo too watered at the springs” he added.
After I paid the coachman I asked if he knew the origin of the town’s name. “Suppose to be the Tonkawan word for water lilly. In those days the springs and creek were full of them.12
Journal Entry: 7:45 pm | Dinner in the park
A lighter fair tonight: Sliced roast beef and ham, Macaroni a’ la Italienne (some sort of a red sauce concoction), chicken salad, unrecognizable puddings, assorted cakes, the ever present cheeses and fruits, and finally a delicious lemon sherbet. Although wines and after-dinner cordials were available, I opted for am aromatic French roast coffee.
Tomorrow is going to be a very early day for us. To make our connect at Milano Junction with the Austin-bound International & Great Northern we need to catch the 10:30 am eastbound morning train.
Mr. & Mrs. Francis apparently made the morning train and the connection okay. There is only one brief note written on the I&GN leg, noting that it was a bit a rush to catch the train in Lampasas and that the connection went as planned. The next entry in journal is July 7, stating that the family has arrived safely home. Oddly, we are never given a hint of Mr. Francis’ occupation. Whatever it was, Mr. & Mrs. Francis were obviously quite well to do.
The very last journal entry for the trip:
Journal Entry: July 6
“I still don’t know what Mr. fink sells.”
Editor's Note: Mr. Francis' journal notes are hand-written, sometimes making it a bit hard to read. In spite of that I have endeavored to re-record his journal notes as accurately as possible.
Hostess House (Front), Hancock SpringsE
Hostess House (rear) and poolE
1. There seems to be discrepancy about the date of the convention. John Henry Brown writing in 1895 (Indian Wars & Pioneers of Texas, Austin, 1896, p. 404) places the convention in 1892, while The Texas Handbook has it happening in 1893. As Brown’s recollection is closer to the time, I have gone with his date. In the late 1890s and early 1900s it seems that most state conventions took place during the summer. The Sanborn Fire Map notes that the Park Hotel is only open for 5 months. While there were other hotels, the well-to-do delegates would have stayed at the Park. Thus, I have taken the liberty to place the date of this convention in late July, in lieu of a more accurate date.
Whatever the date, the delegates would be concerned about the rising power of the Populist Movement (although Mr. Fink called it a “party,” at this date, not quite yet a full-fledged party), it’s cohesion with the Republicans, and a large disgruntled segment of the Democratic party, as well as Governor Hogg’s unpopular Railroad Commission.
2. A new brick depot was built in 1904. It appears that the arrival tracks was moved to the present location in 1902. This necessitated the trains backing in a siding via a wye off of the main line. See "Photo Note B" for the image posted in the body of the journal of the old wooden depot.
Santa Fe Depot, Built 1904
3. Although the fair grounds were officially designated sometime after 1900. There are hints that picnic-like events were held at the race track before then. Since many small Texas towns hosted small fairs/community picnics on the Fourth. I have taken the liberty to place the Fourth of July, 1892 community picnic and fair at the race track. My description is a compilation of what might have been found at such a fair.
4. The penny farthing (high wheeler or ordinary) is a type of bicycle with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel that became popular in the 1880s. The first Penny farthing was invented in 1871 by British engineer, James Starley. It was all about speed. The theory, the larger the front wheel, the faster the bike went.
5. Seeming to realize that extension of the Santa Fee westward would usher in a decline for the resort, the railroad syndicate sold the Park Hotel in 1885 when the Santa Fe began construction west toward Brownwood. The hotel for a while was able to sustain itself, but by the time of the State Democratic Convention was struggling to fill its rooms. Once opened year around, by 1892 the hotel was open only during summer months. That said, the elegance of service did not decline. A year or so after the convention the Park was leased out to a local college. On a cold winter night of 1895, with a rare snow on the ground and the water lines frozen,the Park Hotel burned to the ground.
6. The Globe was destroyed by fire in October of the same year that Mr. amd Mrs. Francis visited. Circumstances of the fire were suspicious.
7. Another account states that toward the end they were running 6 cars with 13 mules.
8. The Lampasas Street Railway & Transportation Company(1883-1890) was backed by a syndicate Santa Fe Railroad investors.
9. The Scott Hotel was built by George (G.W.) & Elizabeth Scott in 1855 (103 N. Hackberry St.) The hotel later became known as the Wintersteen House. In 1994 the house was moved to Salado and reassembled there by architect Tim Brown. When Mr. Francis visited Hanna Springs, the 10-room wooden hotel was no longer there. It is believed now that this hotel became the first section of the Keystone Star Hotel now being restored by Andrew Fish.
Keystone Star Hotel Today
10. It is stated in the records that the first to promote Lampasas as the “Saratoga of the South” were G.W. & Elizabeth Scott, major landowners, who sold home lots priced $5.00 to $12.50. as the "Lampasas Land Company." It was the Scotts who first developed what became Hanna Springs. Newspaper advertisements throughout the country invited people to “come to Lampasas to drink the health giving mineral waters and meet the socially correct.” The Santa Fe ran weekend and holiday excursions from Galveston. During the summer months the railroad offered special rail rates from all over the country to Lampasas. In the early 1900s, Sutherland Springs along the Cibilo River (Wilson County, 21 miles east of downtown San Antonio) began to advertise a new resort as "The Saratoga of the South." Many other springs throughout the South also claimed the moniker.
11. At the time of Mr. Francis’ visit it had become the Lampasas Street Railway Company(1890-1896). In 1890 the street railway was sold to the Fort Worth based syndicate. They operated as the Lampasas Street Railway Company. By 1895 the tracks were in such poor condition that their charter was revoked in 1896.
12. Another version of how the town came to be called Lampasas is proposed by Historian R.A. Wright, Jr. Mr. Wright suggests that the name is connected to the San Gabriel Mission 60 miles east in what is now Rockdale. This mission was established in the 1750s by an order of Franciscan Fathers under the sponsorship of the College of Santa Cruz de Queretaro (located in the city and state of the same name). The College had previously established a mission in Lampazoz (which means "lillies" in Spanish), Mexico that had recently become secularized (Roman Catholic, but no longer under College control). Wishing to establish another mission to take her place, the College suggested that the San Gabriel Mission establish a new one at the recently discovered springs (Lampasas). Wright goes on to suggest that a Father wishing to honor Lampazoz named the springs.
A. The Park Hotel painting by James David Porter (2019) is used with the permission of the artist and is copyrighted by him. You can connect with Mr. Porter on his Facebook page.
B. Radio Junction Depot. This is more than likely not the depot that Mr. & Mrs. Francis arrived in Lampasas at, although I did see one (somewhat questionable) account that suggested that depot was created out of the original wooden depot at this site. The depot (not the building) was relocated, according to one source, to Radio Junction so that trains did not have to back into town. Another source states that this building served mainly as a section tool house. Perhaps after passenger service was discontinued. I believe this photo was taken by Fred Sanger in May of 1968.
C. 1891 Sanborn Fire Map showing the layout of the hotel.The cottage rows are located where the map indicates "cottages." This is how the hotel would have been laid out during Mr. & Mrs. Francis' visit.
Sanborn Fire Map of the Park Hotel 1891
Houston & Texas Cemtral Trestle
E. The Hostess House, built 1911 at Hancock Springs by Dan Culver who excavated a large open-air swimming pool utilizing spring-fed waters. The Hostess House used materials from the Texas Baptist Encampment which had erected a campground in Hancock Park following the flooding of the original bathhouses. Charles Baker and L.N. Little bought the property in 1929.
Hancock Springs Hostess House & Pool Postcard
The two-story frame building included a reception hall and changing room for the pool. The second floor provided an open air dance hall. The hall featured both local and nationally known bands. In 1936 the city took ownership of the park. A few years later, during World War II, the Army leased the park for recreation use by the soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Hood (Fort Hood). It was renamed "Panther Park." In 1947 a golf course was built to the west and the Hostess House received a limestone veneer. Further renovations took place the following year. The park became a popular picnic area. The people of the area continued to flock to the pool and dances. By the 1990s the complex had fallen Today the building is still owned by the city and is once again restored.
© Text and images, Frank A. Mills, 2020
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