Georgetown, Williamson County Texas
|711 Main Street
Shaffer Saddlery Building
UTM 14 R - east 0626810 - north 3389917
On site of cabin used (1848) as first county courthouse. This frontier saddlery, erected 1870 of hand-cut limestone by John H. Shafer, had living quarters upstairs. Since 1872 occupants have been attorneys, a newspaper, and many other tenants.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1971
Shaffer Saddlery Building, circa 1870
Set apart from other downtown structures by its small scale, rubblestone construction and lack of ornamentation, the Shaffer Building is one of the earliest structures in downtown Georgetown. Originally serving as a saddlery with residence above, the structure housed a print shop at the turn-of-the-century.
Building historical Narrative
Shaffer Saddlery Building historical Narrative
Georgetown Title Company, Inc. is a small but interesting two story stone building which is located on the east side of the very picturesque square in the center of Georgetown, Texas. This square, along with the entire city contains many original buildings and landmarks of the first people to settle in Williamson County and central Texas.
After the withdrawal of the Spanish missionaries from the San Gabriel Mission in 1755, this region so far as the white man was concerned, was practically turned back to the Indians until after the Mexican Revolution in 1821.
As late as 1832, only five white persons were living north of Yeguas, that is north of the present south boundary of Milam County. Major Ben Bryant at Bryant Fort on Little River, J. Mercer on South Gabriel and Merrill on Brushy Creek held the outpost of the settlements and all had their houses strongly picketed. At the time Merrill settled near what is now Round Rock, and for seven years, there was not a house between him and the Rocky Mountains.
In the 1840's the large majority of settlers within the future Williamson County, resided on the Brushy and the Gabriel, where "Wood and Water" were plentiful. Settlement in the prairie sections was not made on a large scale until after the introduction of barbed wire and advent of railroads.
The name "Clearwater" was first suggested as the name for the present county of Williamson but this name was deleted from the bill. Later the name of the "County of San Gabriel" was used in an act read in the Legislature of the State of Texas, February 3, 1848.
At the second reading of the bill on February 11, 1848, Mr. Willie moved to strike out "San Gabriel" whenever it occurred in the bill and substitute "Williamson".
The new County was named after Judge Robert M. Williamson who was a colorful character and the subject of many stories.
In the early part of 1848, the present confines of Williamson County had about 250 population and showed a voting power of 70. In the fall presidential election of that year the votes cast had increased to 120.
The development of Williamson County is indicated by the gradual increase in land value as listed below:
1849 $0.53 per acre
1859 2.43 per acre
1869 3.62 per acre
1879 4.20 per acre
Williamson County was placed in the Second Judicial District and the first court in the new county was held under the live-oak tree at the intersection of Church and Locust street on October 10, 1848, and adjourned after a two-hour session.
The 1849 and 1850 sessions were held in a 14 x 16 feet square log cabin situated where the Georgetown Title Company, Inc., now stands, facing on main street. This cabin was rented until 1851; then a larger temporary courthouse was purchased for use until one could be built in the square.
In 1848 Governor Wood appointed the commissioners charged with locating a county seat for the newly formed county of Williamson. On March 13, 1848, these men met under a large liveoak tree at the corner of what is now Ninth and Church streets in Georgetown. They were pondering the task before them and were discussing the possibilities of the site on which they were meeting.
About this time George Washington Glasscock came riding toward them on a grey mule. Upon seeing Glasscock they hailed him, and after the greetings usual to this frontier section, they said to Glasscock: "George, if you will give us all the land included between a line from this tree west to the river and a line from this tree north to the river, we will call the proposed County Seat "Georgetown". Glasscock pondered for only a brief moment and then accepted the proposal.
In 1851 Georgetown had twelve houses, one church, two whiskey stores and some other businesses.
On October 6, 1876, Southwestern (then called "Texas University") opened its doors. The population of Georgetown this year was about 500 persons. Today the population is far in excess of this and the city is still growing in size and population.
The plan of the city of Georgetown is simple and straight forward. It consists of a main square, in which is located the court house dated 1910, and a uniform grid system of streets around the square in all directions. Facing the square today are both the oldest standing commercial building in the County, namely Georgetown Title Company, Inc., (1870) and the most recently completed building, the First National Bank of Georgetown (1965).
As a result of the time period between 1870 and 1965, the buildings in this area are of many styles and design. One of the most unique, because of its simple surface treatment of heavy stone, is the Georgetown Title Company, Inc. building. It is obviously a very old building, reminding one of the Spanish missions and early Texas pioneer dwellings of the
1800's. It was made of heavy stone with thick walls, built to last.
The front of the building indicates the original division of the building; shop below and living quarters above. Originally it was built as a saddlery shop in 1870. The buildings on either side have been added at a later date, completely covering the side elevations. The rear of the building is a one-story wood frame structure added in 1907.
Both the original stone building and the later addition have been re-modeled many times throughout their history. At the present time, only the downstairs of the two story part and the lower half of the 16 foot ceiling rear addition are being used. The upstairs of the original stone structure has been floored, but the walls are still the original stone exposed. Many
names and dates have been carved into the stone during the buildings history, which can still be seen.
The plan which exists today is a result of remodeling finished in March of 1965. The exterior face of the building was restored as close as possible to the original effect of the building.
The interior was planned using up to date arrangement and details needed to house modern equipment and office use. There was no way of knowing what the original interior looked like
because of the many years of changes which had taken place.
The exterior facade is now painted only because the stone is too soft to sand blast to its natural color.
As one enters the building he first sees the receptionist and waiting room, behind which are three offices, a vault, work space, coffee room, dark room, two toilet rooms, and a storage room at the rear of the building. The storage room opens to the alley directly adjacent to the much-used post office. The front entry opens directly to the courthouse across the street which is also used daily by the Georgetown Title Company employees.
Exterior facade December, 1965
While the overall effect of the facade restoration is good, one desirable improvement would have been a more suitable style of lettering.
Georgetown Title Company, Inc.
II. History of the Building
This building in Georgetown, Texas, which is now being used as Georgetown Title Company, Inc., is the oldest standing commercial building in Williamson County, one of the largest counties in the state. It has witnessed the growth of Georgetown since 1870 when only 480 people were living in the area. It existed long before the present court house or any of the other historical buildings in Georgetown.
This small two story building has served many uses for many people. Originally it was built as a saddlery shop by John H. Shafer. The first record, which can be found to set the initial date of this building, dates September 10, 1870. It is taken from a hand written deed of sale from Emzy Taylor to John H. Shafer for the amount of $150.00 in gold. There is also a record, dated in June 29, 1871, in which Mr. Shafer took out a bank loan for $250.00 in gold. At this time Mr. Shafer put up, as collateral, a residence including one acre of land, and his Saddlery Shop, which is the building in question. In this document Mr. Shafer refers to the building as his "two story stone saddlery shop which he built." This set the date therefore at a period between September 10, 1870 and June 29, 10/1, According to present existing records.
Later in 1872, Mr. Shafer sold his
shop to the law firm of
during the period between 1872 and approximately 1884. The lawyers themselves changed from time to time but the firm continued under the same name. At one time, Mr. Coffee, now residing in Georgetown, was a member of the firm.
The law firm moved in 1884 to another location and rented the building to another party who used it as a cafe. The cafe did not last long because of its competition, a good saloon two doors south.
Later in 1884 the building was purchased by the Williamson County Sun, which is still the local newspaper in Georgetown. Between 1884 and 1892 the building was used by the Sun, then for a while by Georgetown Commercial, a printing office, then the Williamson County Sun once again. In 1907, Lee J. Roundtree, the owner of the Sun, built the rear addition to house the required printing equipment for his newspaper. Also during this same period an elevator was added to carry the type and printing material to the second floor.
Between 1910 and 1936 the building was used by the Sun and also, at different periods, rented to other businesses. An electrical store and an ice cream parlor were two of the many short term leasers. While being used as an ice cream parlor there was a fire in the rear of the building, which blackened the wood framing. This can be seen today in the upper half of the rear structure, which is not being used today.
In 1936 a photographer, Sid Cluck, rented and used the building as his studio. At this time plate glass display windows were added to the front of the building, later to be removed in the recent remodeling. Mr. Cluck rented the building until 1945. At this time he bought it from the Williamson County Sun and continued his business.
In March of 1950, Mr. John N. Ellyson, still working in the building, and his brother purchased the building to be used as Garentee Abstract Company. Their business went well and in 1954 they re-worked the roof trusses and decking in the rear half of the building.
In January of 1965, Mr. James A. Rehler became the new and present owner of the building. It is still being used as a title and abstract business but the name was changed to the Georgetown Title Company, Inc.
In March of 1965 the final changes, to present date, were made. The original appearance of the exterior was restored and the interior was redesigned for the adaptation of modern offices and equipment. The ceilings, for economical and mechanical reasons, were lowered to 8 feet, except for the vault, store room in the rear, and the entry-reception area at the front of the building.
The ceiling is now an acoustical hung ceiling with insulation above and lighting, cooling and heating dispersed from it. The upper part of the rooms between the new and old ceilings was left as before. The walls are wood paneling of different types throughout with built in desks and required furniture to match. The floors are of vinyl asbestos floor tile in the public and work areas and carpeted in the major offices.
All the rooms as shown in the plan were added in this latest remodeling, including the vault and two toilet rooms. The rear half of the building received a new concrete floor slab, but the front floor was in acceptable shape. As expressed earlier, the upstairs was floored and insulated but left unfinished, un-air-conditioned, etc., until future expansion requires its use. In the near future Mr. Rehler plans to rent this upstairs area to lawyers of Georgetown which will work with the Title Company.
It is quite interesting to note the change in value of the building since the original construction in 1870. The approximate initial value of the building was $200.00 Today
its value is approximately $17,000.00