Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

  New Town Round Rock
Historic District
Marker


118E. Main street
 
 

ROUND ROCK Marker Text

Permanent settlement began in this area in the late 1830s. By 1848, former Austin mayor Jacob Harrell moved here selling town lots near the stagecoach road crossing at brushy creek.  A post office named 'brushy creek' opened in 1851 in Thomas Oatts' store three years later, the name changed to 'Round Rock' for a distinctive limestone formation marking a natural ford for wagons. With immigration from several states and Sweden, the population doubled during the 1850s, bringing new stores, churches, fraternal lodges and grain mills. The first institution of higher learning, Round Rock Academy, began in 1862. After the civil war, the former trail and stage road became a prominent cattle drive route.

 

In 1876, the International Great Northern Railroad developed a new townsite east of the existing round rock .A commercial district sprang up along Georgetown avenue (main street) with construction of many limestone buildings. 'New Town' quickly eclipsed the established settlement, whose postal name changed again to 'Old Round Rock.' for months. The new site was the railroad terminus bringing lumber and flour mills, cotton gins, blacksmith and wagon shops, banks, hotels, restaurants, stores and schools. Round Rock challenged the state capital for economic control of central Texas, boasting six hotels to Austin’s five and serving as the retail hub for several counties to the west. The railroad also made round rock a more cosmopolitan place, bringing new residents from all over the U.S. and all around the world. Well-positioned for growth by its location on major transportation routes, round rock became one of the nation's fastest growing cities by the late 20th century. Two dozen commercial buildings in round rock's historic downtown were listed in the national register of historic places in 1983.





 
 

"New Town" Historic District, Round Rock, Texas

Narrative

 

The first land grant by the Spanish government in the area now known as the City of Round Rock, Texas, was made to David Curry sometime after he arrived in Texas in 1825. Further land grants to Wiley Harris, Jacob Harrell, and others were made following the establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1836. [1] The original town site began to develop in the Spring of 1848, when blacksmith Jacob Harrell moved from Austin to a site along the north bank of Brushy Creek. [2] Harrell subdivided part of his land into town lots along the Austin-to­-Georgetown stagecoach road and sold these lots to other settlers. [3] Two log cabin schools were built in the summer of 1848, and two mercantile stores, owned by Nelson Morey and Josiah Taylor, respectively, opened later that same year. [4]

 

The settlement's first post office, called "Brushy Creek," opened in 1851 or 1852; [5] in 1854, the name was changed to "Round Rock." [6] By then, the town was a stop on the stagecoach line that ran from San Antonio to Memphis, Tennessee, [7] and included an inn and livery stable, a tavern, a church, and several dwellings. [8] During the 1850s, the area saw an influx of immigrants (particularly from Sweden [9]) and Round Rock's population grew from 250 to 450 between 1850 and 1860. [10] The number of homes and businesses grew as well, with the addition of several stores and grain mills and a physician's office. [11]

 

Round Rock was located on Brushy Creek near a popular crossing on the road between Austin and Georgetown, now referred to as part of the Chisholm Trail. Between 1867-1873, the town was a way station for cowboys herding cattle north to the stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. [12]

 

In 1876, the arrival of the International and Great Northern Railroad led to the development of the "New Town" location, a mile from the original town site. [13] The railroad engaged the Texas Land Company to map 46 blocks of lots, covering 127.75 acres in the Wiley Harris survey. [14] A commercial district quickly sprang up on Georgetown Avenue (now Main Street), which ran parallel to the railroad line, and within a few years, many buildings in the 100 block of Main Street had been erected.15

 

The new site became the southern terminus for the railroad, driving the construction of lumber mills, flour mills, cotton gins, blacksmith and wagon shops, banks, hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Many of the businesses from the original town settlement relocated to the new location. [16] Over time, the original town, which had become known as "Old Round Rock," declined. The Old Stagecoach Inn closed for lack of business only a few years after the coming of the railroad, [17] and by 1891, the post office at Old Round Rock had closed as well. [18]

 

New Round Rock's commercial district expanded along Main and Mays Streets, and like many small Texas towns, it has experienced periods of vacancy as well as revitalization. The buildings have housed a wide variety of retail establishments, as well as offices, banks, pool halls, and saloons. The district's boundaries contain nearly the entire central retail area in Round Rock. Today (in 2008), the district contains restaurants, offices, and retail shops.

 

OVERVIEW

The "New Town" Historic District encompasses a two-block area of East Main Street (the 100 and 200 blocks) plus the Masonic Lodge at 107 South Mays Street. The 25 structures within the district are small, mostly one-story commercial buildings dating to the last quarter of Texas Historical Commission Subject Marker Application "New Town" Historic District, the 19th century. The district is comprised primarily of limestone ashlar masonry construction, and with one exception (the Nelson Hardware building), these structures represent the work of local builders.

 

The limestone and lime-sand mortar used in the "New Town" buildings likely came from two local quarries: the Austin White Lime Company, founded in 1888, and the Round Rock White Lime Company, established in Austin by William Walsh in 1879 and expanded to Round Rock some time later. Walsh eventually moved the entire company to Round Rock in 1896 to take advantage of a superior grade of limestone there. [19]

 

The changes to the district's historic architecture are common to other downtown buildings in the state. Fires damaged several buildings in the early part of the 20th century. Some exterior storefronts have been altered with the application of paint, brick veneer, and stucco, as well as the modernization of display windows and doors. Canopies over many storefronts have been removed and/or replaced.

 

The historic district is listed on the National Register and is designated as an historic landmark district by the City of Round Rock Almost all (22 of 25) of the structures within the district are categorized as "contributing" due to their historical and architectural integrity.

 

One of the most unusual businesses in Round Rock's history was a broom factory. Will Oatts (son of Old Round Rock's first postmaster) established the Oatts Broom Company in 1876 and moved into the building currently at 100 East Main Street in 1877. Oatts sold the company in 1890 to S. L. Landrum and Will Steel. The new owners introduced mechanized equipment (although the manufacturing process remained labor-intensive) and dispatched Landrum's brother C.U. Landrum as a traveling salesman. One of the company's handmade braided brooms, made by Harry William Chambers, won a gold medal at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. The Round Rock Broom Company relocated to the south side of the railroad tracks in 1912 and closed several years later. Several former employees continued to make brooms in Round Rock through the 1970s.[20]

 

SIGNIFICANCE

The "New Town" historic district in Round Rock, Texas, exemplifies the rise of commercial development following the arrival of the railroad. As throughout much of central Texas, the Round Rock town site and local economy was based on residents' ability to buy commodities, sell their wares, communicate and travel via railway lines.

The district includes Italianate and local vernacular architecture, reflecting both a popular style of the time for commercial buildings as well as the efforts of local builders and craftsmen. The vast majority of buildings within the district are historically significant and retain a great deal of architectural integrity, including original front facades with few insensitive alterations. Most of these commercial structures were built during the initial development of the city in the late 1800s, and all remain viable and in use today.

 

DOCUMENTATION

"Historic Round Rock Collection: An Ongoing History," undated binder of loose-leaf materials produced by the City of Round Rock Planning Department. Photocopied.

Specific sections referenced for this document include:

 

Section One: A Chronological History

Chronology, 2-16

 

Section Three: Old Town

The Story of Old Town, 1-8

Round Rock and the Chisholm Trail, 9-13

Section Four: Main Street

The Railroads of Round Rock, 1-12

 

The Story of New Town, 13-22

 

Section Five: Historical Places and Architecture

Architecture, 11-23

 

"Round Rock Commercial Historic District," National Register of Historic Places nomination, prepared by Ruth Parshall in November 1982 and approved by the State Historic Preservation Officer in April 1983. Photocopied.

 

Scarbrough, Clara Stearns. Land of Good Water: A Williamson County, Texas, History, 3d ed. (Georgetown, Texas: Williamson County Sun Publishers), 1980.

 

Thompson, Karen R. and Jane H. DiGesualdo. Historical Round Rock, Texas. (Austin, Texas: Eakin Press), 1985.

 

1 Karen R. Thompson and Jane H. DiGesualdo, Historical Round Rock, Texas (Austin, Texas: Eakin

Press, 1985), 20, 24.

2 Clam Stearns Scarbrough, Land of Good Water (Georgetown, Texas: Williamson County Sun

Publishers, 1980), 113-114.

3 Thompson, 240.

4 Scarbrough, 113-114.

5 The establishment of the first post office at Brushy Creek is alternately given as May 27,1852

(Scarbrough) and May 27,1851 (Thompson).

6 Scarbrough, 418. Scarbrough, 145.

8 Scarbrough, 310.

9 Scarbrough, 168-169.

10 Thompson, 66.

11 Scarbrough, 311.

Texas Historical Commission Subject Marker Application "New Town" Historic District, Round Rock, Texas

12 Thompson, 26.

13 Thompson, 67.

14 Thompson, 75.

15 Thompson, 75-78.

16 Thompson, 226.

17 Thompson, 231.

18 Scarbrough, 312.


 
   
     

 

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