Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

M.B. Lockett Building
Historical Marker
Georgetown, Texas

circa 1885
remodeled 1896

  119 West 7th street 

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prior to 1896






M.B. Lockkett
9-5-1872



GPS Coordinates
Latitude  30.637661, Longitude -97.677901



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Marker Text
Located on the site of an 1840s store, this structure was built after the Civil War. In the 1880s it housed the mercantile firm of Rucker & Montgomery. Ohio native Melville Beveridge Lockett opened his store here in 1889 and remodeled the building to its present Victorian design in 1896. Prominent architectural features include cast iron columns, an elaborate pressed metal parapet, and a corner turret with a domed oriel bay.

 

 


 

 

 

 

M. B. Lockett  Building

Historical narrative Researched and written by..
Den K. Utley,  Historian Austin, Texas June1990

 

Georgetown is one of the premier cities in the history of the Texas preservation movement. An early Main Street city, it was also among the first participants in the Certified Local Government program. Its preservation accomplishments, attained through a coalition of city officials, the Georgetown Heritage Society, the Williamson County Historical Commission, and neighborhood leaders, serve as a model for other towns across the state. To visitors, however, the evidence of Georgetown's success is in the quality and character of its built environment as reflected in streetscapes that present an honest portrait of the city's history and evolution. Few communities in Texas have managed to preserve the percentage of historic structures found in Georgetown.

 

Central to the development of the Georgetown preservation movement were efforts to revitalize and restore the Courthouse Square, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the mid-1970s. Surrounding the 1910 Neoclassical courthouse, the center of government for Williamson County, the square is a notable collection of commercial buildings. Many represent the ornate styles of the late nineteenth century, although the presence of other styles and vernacular adaptations enhance the district's historical integrity. One of the most elegant of the structures is the M. B. Lockett Building, an anchor on the square's north side. While the detailing on its facade includes the date 1896, the structure's history is much older and more complex than the date indicates. The building may, in fact, be one of the oldest remaining architectural elements on the square. It is certainly one of the best examples of Georgetown's commercial development in the nineteenth century.

 

Georgetown was founded in 1848 near the confluence of the North and South San Gabriel rivers. Laid out along an early military road, the townsite was platted under the supervision of George Glasscock, for whom the settlement was named.     

 

Local historian Clara Stearns Scarbrough described the formation of the new town's commercial center:

 

Fifty-two blocks of land were staked out with a public common, comprising a full block near the southeast corner of the plat. . . . Narrow lots intended for a commercial district were drawn on the four blocks facing the common. . . . Appropriately, on July 4, 1848, the public had its first opportunity to buy the lots. [1]

 

The development of the Lockett Building site (Lot 1, Block 38) began soon after, even before the property was formally deeded for private ownership. By 1849, it was the location of a store operated by Andrew Jackson Mackay (also shown in records as McKay and Makay). A signer of the petition to form Williamson County, Mackay was also postmaster of Georgetown from 1849 to 1850. Businesses located on the square at the time included other merchants, as well as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, gunsmiths, carpenters, a tanner, doctors, lawyers, and surveyors. Josiah Taylor, who had operated an earlier store in the Shiloh community southeast of Georgetown, purchased Mackay's business about 1850. The land on which the store was located, however, was public property. Taylor obtained a title through purchase from the county, represented by Judge Greenleaf Fisk.  [2]

 

The first legal transaction to mention a store on the site was recorded in 1868. That year, Josiah Taylor, then listed as a resident of Galveston County, conveyed the property to the mercantile firm of Morrow and Price. The sale included four lots, "together with the stone store house and frame store." The new owners, Civil War veterans Captain Joseph Clay Stiles Morrow and Captain Francis L. Price, figured prominently in the early history of Georgetown. Successful businessmen, they were also leaders in a number of civic endeavors, including the establishment of Southwestern University. Morrow, the son-in-law of General Sam Houston, and Price, later postmaster and city alderman, established one of the largest mercantile firms in the area. In 1870, however, they dissolved their shared interest in the business, although they immediately collaborated on the opening of a Georgetown sawmill. In the settlement papers, Morrow sold Price his interest in several lots, "being the same on which are situate (sic) the store house and dwelling house facing on Brushy Street [present Austin Avenue] and upon the Public Square." [3]

 

In 1876, F. L. Price sold the "2 story store" to P. J. Willis & Bro., a Galveston enterprise. The following year, the company deeded it to Emzy Taylor, the son of Josiah Taylor. Emzy Taylor was also an important Georgetown business leader. The owner of a private bank and a leading promoter of Southwestern University, he helped organize the town's fire and water departments, as well as the railroad company that established a tap line to Round Rock. He retained ownership of the corner lot only until 1881 , when he sold it to Rucker and Montgomery, a mercantile partnership.

 

J. L. Rucker, like Emzy Taylor, J. C. 5. Morrow, and F. L. Price, was actively involved in the support and promotion of Southwestern University. He also participated in a number of business enterprises, including the local railroad company and a drugstore. With his mercantile company partner, J. A. Montgomery, and others, he was an owner of the city's first water works. The Rucker and Montgomery general mercantile became one of the leading businesses of Georgetown following Reconstruction. Newspaper advertisements noted their "Mammoth Store" and urged shoppers, in the more honest language of the day, to visit their establishment "when you wish to buy Cheap Goods." Other advertisements, promoting the store's interest in buying "hides" and in selling "nobby" suits, showed the diversity of the

trade. [4]

 

In 1887, Rucker and Montgomery sold their store building to W. H. Walton, who deeded it two years later to M. B. Lockett. The new owner, Melville Beveridge Lockett, was born June 4, 1846, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents were the Rev. Abraham Lockett, a native of Virginia, and Maria Stout Lockett, of Ohio. When M. B. was very young the family moved to Arkansas, where his father, presumably a Methodist minister, worked as a "revivalist." He attended the Center Point Academy in Arkansas and, during the Civil War, served as a Confederate soldier in Company A of the 24th Arkansas Regiment. The nature of his service is unknown, but his obituary later noted: "He suffered many hardships at this time and his health became much impaired." [5]

 

Following the war, Lockett attended McKenzie College, a Methodist institution in Clarksville, Texas. Established by John Witherspoon Pettigrew McKenzie in 1841, the school was at one time "the largest college in Texas." [6] Lockett completed his collegiate studies at Johnson Institute, a school established in Hays County by Thomas Jefferson Johnson. Known by his students as "Old Bristle Top, "Professor Johnson had been educated in Kentucky by the Rev. Martin Ruter, later a pioneer of Methodist education in Texas. While enrolled at Johnson Institute, M. B. Lockett met the founder's daughter, Annie M. Johnson, whom he married on September 4, 1872. [7]

 

Lockett became a teacher in Burnet County, but soon left the profession to open a mercantile business in Bertram. He developed it into a successful operation, supplying "the needs of a large territory in that section. [8] In the late 1880s, however, he decided to open a new business in Georgetown, where his five children, all girls, would have the benefit of an education at Southwestern University. The school, then the leading Methodist college in the state, had been formed in the 1870s from a merger of several smaller schools, including McKenzie and Rutersville. [9]

 

M. B. Lockett chose the former Rucker and Montgomery building to house his new business. Photographs of the structure, taken soon after his purchase and before the 1896 alterations, provide the earliest documentation of the original store's design. The two-story stone building featured a hipped roof and a double-galleried front facade with Greek Revival detailing. Such styling would indicate an early construction date for the building, in keeping with the first mention of the "stone store house" in the 1868 deed.

 

Although there are evident differences between the way the building appeared before and after 1896, including the loss of the hipped roof and chimneys and the redesign of the primary facade, there are also important similarities. The scale and massing are the same, as are the window styles and ashlar stonework on the exposed west elevation. Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps also indicate similarities in overall dimensions. The first available map, dated 1885, shows a two-story structure with a one-story addition to the rear (see also historic photographs attached). It remained the same on the 1889 and 1894 maps. The 1900 map is the first to indicate a brick facade and the extension of the second floor to the rear, incorporating the earlier addition. The other dimensions and alignments remain the same. [10]

 

The extent of the 1896 construction, if it could be documented conclusively, would probably explain discrepancies between early photographs and the present design. There are differences, for example, in the number of windows on the west side, although new windows may have been added when the building was extended to the north. There may also be different proportions in window sills and lintels, but the dimensions of the openings appear similar.

 

Whether M. B. Lockett dramatically remodeled the early stone building or demolished it and built a new one in its place remains unknown. No documents or accounts uncovered in the course of the research on this project have revealed the extent of the work. The only reference to the project was included in his obituary, written a half century later. Mentioning Lockett's purchase of the Rucker and Montgomery store in the 1880s, it noted: At this location he built the present stone structure and in it conducted a successful business for many years. . . . [11]

 

Although new construction is implied, the article offers no conclusive documentation.

  

Regardless of the site's early history, the structure that now appears on the northeast corner of 7th Street and Austin Avenue reflects the ownership of M. B. Lockett, An outstanding example of Victorian commercial architecture, it features a Mesker Brothers storefront, complete with metal Corinthian columns on the ground floor. Second floor elements include an elaborate pressed metal cornice with brackets and a central parapet inscribed with the name of M. B. Lockett and the date 1896. The red brick background of the facade provides a dramatic contrast to the lighter stonework and painted metal sheeting. The most dramatic and dominant architectural feature is the second-floor corner turret, enhanced by a distinctive oriel window and a domed roof. A survey form, prepared by the Texas Historical Commission staff in 1970, compared the design to "Brunelleschi's Duomo." [12]

 

The design of the M. B. Lockett Building reflected its owner's stature in the community. An active leader in local commerce until his retirement in 1911, Lockett also made lasting contributions to Southwestern University, serving on the Board of Trustees and as chairman of the Executive Committee. He remained a devoted member of the First Methodist Church, where he was a steward and, for twenty years, teacher of the Men's Bible Class. His wife, Annie, died in 1935 and he died the following year at the home of his daughter, Mrs. W. C. Vaden. [13] In his obituary, he was remembered as "a keen and conscientious business man, a splendid citizen, always interested in and active for the welfare of the town.. . . " He was survived by his five daughters: Mrs. W. C. Vaden and Mrs. E. D. Love, of Georgetown, Mrs. Pearl Pegues and Mrs. C. A. Nichols, of Dallas, and Mrs. T. H. Cody, of Houston. He was buried in Georgetown's I. 0. 0. F. Cemetery, [14]

 

Ownership of the M. B. Lockett Building remained in the family until 1952, Over the years, it has housed a wide variety of businesses, including clothing, variety, and appliances stores and lawyers' offices. Currently, it provides space for a successful restaurant, Cafe on the Square, [as of 1990] and business offices. One of its owners, Linda Flory McCalla, is the former Main Street manager for Georgetown and the immediate past president of the Georgetown Heritage Society The owners' commitment to preservation assures the structure will continue as a dramatic symbol of a successful community program.

 

An Official Texas Historical Marker for the M. B. Lockett Building would honor one of the town's most important early leaders and would contribute to a better understanding of Georgetown's rich architectural heritage. A landmark on Georgetown's historic Courthouse Square since the nineteenth century, the structure is a significant reminder of the town's commercial development in the years following the Civil War. Today, it plays an integral role in continuing preservation efforts.

 

Researched and written by.. Den K. Utley,  Historian Austin, Texas

June 1990

MB_lockett_building_endnotes.pdf

 

 

 

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