More than a dozen East Texas history buffs got a look at some of the city's oldest and least recognized landmarks Monday night.
“They show an important part of Tyler's history,” said Gayle Mapes, who serves as the historic preservation director for the city and a planning technician. “They show where (the city) was, where it is and where it's going.”
Among them, a reportedly haunted grocery store at Broadway and Gentry and one of Tyler's oldest standing homes, built in 1848. The buildings represented broad cross-sections of architectural styles and uses, Mrs. Mapes said, including the Progress Cleaners building at the Rusk Street and Bois D'Arc Avenue intersection, the Kidd Oil Co.'s original office. Homes, like the one build of petrified wood at Donnybrook Avenue and Rix Street, peppered the list with interesting family histories.
The Camp Ford Historical Association is focused on preserving the site of the largest prisoner of war camp west of the Mississippi river during the civil war, but they often try and branch out to explore other areas of the city's past, said Program Director Kevin McCall.
McCall said encouraging residents, even those who are members of the association, to take an active interest in the legacies standing around and in the city, is important not only culturally, but economically as well.
Officials “also realize that we have let some of the jewels of the past disappear,” he said. Recognizing the potential for historical history and taking advantage of it by preserving it makes for a “historic economy” in an area, he said.
Mrs. Mapes said she agreed that trying to keep the relics of Tyler’s youth around for other generations to appreciate is a challenging but rewarding task.
In May, the city will have a way for people to see that first hand, she said, with the airing of a 1950s tourism movie made about the city.
“Almost everything in that program is gone,” she said.
For a home or building to be considered historic, it needs to be at least 50 years old, she said. Many of Tyler’s homes are approaching that age and she said the idea behind presentations like Monday’s are to try and combat what stripped the city of what is now missing from the video.
She said the number of buildings with historic designations has grown significantly over the years, and is between 80 and 90 buildings. As more become available to get the designation, she said it’s important to remember future generations and provide them the opportunity to explore the area’s history.
To learn more about the Camp Ford Historical Association, which hosts monthly meetings, visit campfordhistoricalcenter.org.