Williamson County
Texas History

 

  Granger City Hall (Farmers State Bank)
Historical Marker

Granger, Texas






Davilla and Willis streets
 
  Granger City Hall (Farmers State Bank) -
Historical Marker
text
Erected in 1908-09, this building originally housed Farmers State Bank, the second banking institution founded in Granger. The bank closed in 1926 and the building became the Granger City Hall in 1929. An architectural hybrid of the late 19th century Victorian era, it exhibits influences of Italianate, Moorish, and Romanesque design styles. It is one of the few remaining buildings that reflect Granger's prosperous economy during the early 20th century. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1994
 
 



Granger City Hall (Farmers State Bank)
Historical narrative by Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak

The prairie from which it sprang is no more....the world of its beginnings is long gone, yet, the edifice, today known as CITY HALL, still stands, majestic, at the corner of Davilla and Willis streets in Granger, Williamson County, Texas, where it began life so many years ago. Time and neglect have taken their toll on its countenance. None the less, it survives and continues to serve as the municipal hub of this township as it has since 1929 when it welcomed city government into its environs. (16) Although the structure, erected in 1908-09 to house the newly established Farmers State Bank, (12)(14), possesses great architectural merit, the building's primary claim to historical recognition lies in the 64 yearlong relationship it has maintained with city government. (16)

In the mid 1800s, the site of the subject property, Lot 20; Block 17 of the original town of Granger, was but part of the vast prairie that comprised most of central Texas at the time. A. S. Fisher owned some 2000 acres of this stark land that would one day become some of the most fertile farm acreage in the state of Texas. In 1884, deed records indicate that Mr. Fisher sold for "valuable consideration, received and acknowledged," one—half interest in 175 acres of this tract to one W. C. Belcher. Together they formed a partnership and platted a town to be called Granger.

Composed of 58 blocks, a city plat was filed on June 9, 1884, and is recorded in Vol. 34, Page 90 of Williamson County (2) court records. In the meantime, A. S Fisher sold most of his vast land holdings to Emzy Taylor who was involved with Fisher and Belcher as early as 1884. In February of 1885, this trio of Fisher/Taylor/Belcher sold the site of the subject of this narrative to J.B. Wright (3) for the lofty sum of $ 35.00. Five scant years later, on June 5, 1890, S. A Easely Jr. purchased the site from Wright for $ 175.00 (4) and on November 23, 1891 sold it to S. D. Davis and M. A. Goode for(5) $1500. at a hefty profit. In January of 1894, Davis sold his one—half interest to his partner, Goode, for $ 750. (6), his original investment. However, on May 1, 1897, Goode sold his entire interest, all of Lot 20 in Block 17, back to his old partner, Davis, for $1300.00. (7)

On July 25, 1908 the ownership of Lot 20, for $ 3700.00, passed from Davis to Farmers State Bank, (8) the entity that would begin the immediate construction of the subject property.

Farmers State Bank, organized in 1908 with capital stock of $35,000. Charter # 19165 filed with the Secretary of State's office on the 21st day of July, 1908(12), lists the names of 49 stockholders and a total share distribution of 350 @ $100.00 each. The original Board of Directors, those responsible for the construction of the subject property were J. F. Pope, J.T. Bernard, Geo. W. Haire, I. D. Denson, W. M. Hill, O. M. Breeten, Wilbur D. Your and Jos. Cervenka. (12) This was to be the second financial institution in this community because the First National Bank, located at the present site of the First State Bank, was already in operation since the turn of the century when it acquired the McDaniel Bank in 1902. This apparent need for another banking facility attests to the growth and prosperity of early1900s Granger. (1)

Attesting to the fact that the erection of the structure was immediate is a document, a Wall Contract, entered into between Farmers State Bank and J. M. Jarrell, the owner of adjoining Lot 19 in Block 17, on August 22, 1908. The contract states that the owner of Lot 20 had contracted for the construction of a two-story brick wall to be built between Lots 20 and 19, stipulates that it will be a party wall, 1/2 on Lot 19 and 1/2 on Lot 20 and that this wall shall be two stories high and sixty feet long. The terms of the contract set forth, in minute detail, a variety of stipulations....if the second party, Jarrell, ever used the communal wall, he would pay to the Farmers State Bank $201.00 if his structure was a one-story and pay an additional $204.00 if it was two stories high. If he should opt to construct a one story building, the Bank agreed to put iron shutters on any and all windows of the second story of its structure so that "same may be closed in case of fire". In the event Mr. Jarrell chose to erect a two story building, the bank agreed that its second story windows would be "closed up with mortar and brick" at its expense. If said bank failed to do so, Jarrell would retain the right to seal said windows and charge the bank for such costs or deduct them from the $ 204.00 fee due the bank for the second story use of the communal wall. Further minutae of the contract set forth that the mere enclosure of Lot 19 by fence shall not constitute "use of wall". Also, each gave the other liens on their respective properties to insure conformance to the contract terms. In addition, the contract is made binding on the "successors and assigns" in ownership of both parties. (10)

Thus protected from any and all contingencies at the very beginning of its life, the subject of this narrative, now CITY HALL, came into being.

Of brick construction, the two story building fronts Davilla Street at a width of 30 feet and stretches 60 feet to the south. Poured concrete forms the foundation of the outer perimeters and pier spot footings support the interior area. The architecture is an amalgamation of varied styles, featuring a 9 x 9 foot portico, vaguely reminiscent of a Greek stoa, on the northeast corner of the ground floor. This portico affords entry on the north from Davilla Street and from Willis on the east. Stone framed windows array both stories. As an added touch those on the second floor are enhanced with arched stone window heads. The "piece de resistance", however, is the adaptative Romanesque dome that tops this historically important structure. Such a dome also graced other buildings of that era in this community, including the Granger School which featured two of them. The dome atop city hall is the lone survivor of this particular design. (18)(19)

The wall release contract, recorded on 2-1-1909, indicates that any and all of its criteria had been met at that time. Sanborn Insurance maps of 1910, enclosed, attest to the fact that the building on Lot 20 was completed and insured as of that date. A photo, circa 1910, from the archives of the Institute of Texas Cultures, attached, further documents the existence of the subject property in 1910. (11)(14)(15)

This historic property began its life as a bank (12) and continued to be utilized as such a facility until 1926 when its ownership was transferred by deed to the First National Bank of Granger. The circumstances leading to this occurrence are a part of the records of the State Banking Commission, consisting of numerous letters and documents attesting to the fact that Farmers State Bank, in January of 1926, requested voluntary liquidation and was granted such. (13) We can only speculate, but it would seem plausible that the necessity to liquidate came as a result of the establishment, in 1924-25 of yet a third bank, the Granger National Bank (known as the Czech bank). In all likely hood Granger was not yet prosperous enough to support three banks. Subsequent to liquidation, as stated, the ownership and responsibility for payment of all deposits and debts of Farmers State Bank was assumed, by deed, by the First National Bank of Granger. (13)

Further data indicates that First National Bank retained ownership of the facility until 1929 when it sold the property to the City of Granger.(16) Seemingly, First National never utilized the facilities for banking purposes. In its contract of sale to the city for the minimal sum of $ 4001., payable $ 1.00 down and 4 promissory vendor's lien notes, bearing interest at a rate of 6%, payable on January 1st of each year, beginning in 1932 and continuing through 1933, 1934 and 1935, it was stipulated that the city, for a period of five years, would not "use, lease, sell or dispose of this property to any person, persons or corporation for purpose or in contemplation of using or operating thereon or engaging thereon a banking business of any nature or description". (11a)(16)

The city entered into this agreement upon the destruction by fire of its government offices on North Granger Street. Mayor and aldermen at the time were: S. D. Davis, Mayor, Aldermen: A. A. Spacek, E. M. King, R. R. Messer, J. D. Dusek and W. P. Young. (16)

In retrospect it would seem that divine providence had a hand in the circumstances surrounding the events of 1929 for the municipal facilities of the city of Granger continue to be housed in the subject structure. This building situated on Lot 20 of Block 17 of the original township of Granger, is still being utilized as "City Hall" in 1994. The cast of mayors continues to change, year by year. Some who have served in that capacity are:

W. H. Camp 1892; W. C. Reinhardt 1892-1895; J. W. Posey 1595-1897; J. F. Crocker 1897; I. N. Keller 1697-1900; S. D. Davis 1900-1904; R. T. Bland 1904-1906; L. E. Sheffield 1906-1925; S. D. Davis 1925-1929; A. A. Spacek 1929-1931; F. E. Martinets 1931-1939; A. A. Spacek 1939-1945; C. B. Rogers 1945-1951; Richard Mulholland 1951-1958; Louis L Bartosh 1958-1959; Edward J. Saida 1959-1961; Hubert Gorubec 1961- 1973; Arnold Zrubek 1973-1979; Dollie Hajda 1979-1983; Richard Steffek 1983-1985; Dollie Hajda 1985-1993; Denny Pickett 1993 - to present. (17)


However, the essence of the township continues. Each and every one of the city fathers listed above brought to the government their own priorities, their own dreams, their own visions, but the edifice that bears witness to all of these remains the same.

Such is the history of the association of this handsome structure with the municipality of Granger. The building, a lone survivor of what was once a prosperous community at the turn of the century, is one of the few, remaining edifices that once lined Davilla Street, in the early 1900s when cotton was king...when the railroad came and became a vital part of the town's economy when businesses flourished, east to west on a grand, bricked thoroughfare when operatic arias wafted from the halls of the Storrs' Opera House. (1)

The opera house is long gone as are many of the other grand buildings that lined the avenue, all victims of demolition and neglect. Only CITY HALL remains, a historic relic binding the present to the distant past of this community, a monument to an era that is forever lost. Ultimately, City Hall, for all these reasons, is deserving of recognition in the historical annals of the state of Texas.

Author of this narrative: Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak

Granger city hall footnotes -- PDF


 
 

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