Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 
William M. Owen House
Old Round Rock Post Office
and St. Charles Hotel
Historical Marker and
Historical Landmark

Circa 1870

8 Chisholm Trail Rd at Emanuel St.
LISTED IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER


2011

  Historical Mark Text
The earliest structure in this complex is the one-story stone building, constructed about 1853. It originally housed a mercantile store and the first permanent post office for Round Rock, both operated by Thomas C. Oatts, the town's first postmaster. Built on the pioneer road from Austin to Georgetown, it was part of Round Rock's early development. The two-story home was built about 1870 and for many years was the residence of Dr. William M. Owen, a prominent local physician and businessman. Both buildings reflect the style of other area structures of the 19th century. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1982
 



 
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GPS Coordinates
Latitude:
30.515081, - Longitude: -97.690025

 



 

William M. Owen House - St Charles Hotel
Old Round Rock Store-Post Office and Complex
Historical Narratives By Crystal Sassa Ragsdale

 The two, stone buildings complex in Old Round Rock, Williamson County is composed of the old general mercantile store and the first permanent post office, a one story structure and the adjoining two story William Owen house. They have been welcome landmarks for well over a century, from the beginnings of this frontier settlement. The structures are of the prevailing vernacular style of architecture characteristic of mid 19th century Texas. They are located on the once heavily-traveled, main road that connected Austin, the state capital, to the north part of the state. They were witnesses to the thousands of longhorn cattle that forded nearby Brushy Creek from the late 1860s through the mid 1880s as well as to the hundreds of cowmen who traded in the town's general merchandise stores.

 Thomas C. Oatts was the builder and owner of the store and first postmaster of Round Rock in 1851. [1] Re-built the structure which served as the first permanent post office. 1853 It is located on the high, north bank above the creek. The area lies on the east side of U. S. Interstate 35 at Texas Highway 79. [2] The house was probably built more than a decade later.

 Both buildings embody elements of the particular vernacular style and construction characteristic of Anglo-American architecture of mid 19th century Texas. They are an integral part of the old town's group of almost a dozen remaining buildings in an area along the old Austin to Georgetown highway, [3] the section through town was recent­ly designated Chisholm Trail Road. This group of buildings clusters along the road for about a mile in a half-mile-wide-strip. The area is now (1981) protected by Round Rock Historic landmark ordinances, [4] is being rapidly encircled by commercial development. The old mesquite and live oak and brush covered environment is being rapidly destroyed, paved and bulldozed and new roads encircle the historic area.

 From the time the Military Road was laid out during the time of the Republic in the 1840s, [5] "as straight as an arrow" [6] from Austin north to Indian Territory the road in front Of the complex has been used. In the 1850s the route became known as the Austin to Georgetown Road. Beginning in the late 1860s the stone ford at Brushy Creek just below Round Rock became the well-known crossing for herds going north to meet the Chisholm Trail in Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). [7]

 Round Rock was a prosperous trading center during these years with schools, churches and a variety of businesses [8] until the International and Great Northern Railroad bypassed it in 1874 and the new town of Round Rock was established south of the old settlement. Although cattle were still driven through the area the old town lost its commercial importance. However, for many years the highway continued to traverse the old town from Austin to Dallas and North Texas.

 Postmaster Oatts and pioneer settler and landowner Jacob M. Harrell are credited with naming the town Round Rock for the large anvil-shaped rock in nearby Brushy Creek. [9] At first Oatts had his store and post office near the creek, but after a particularly devastating flood destroyed his store and post office along with property owned by others in the settlement [10] then called Brushy.  He then moved to the north bank where he established his new business in 1853 and the post office was renamed Round Rock in 1854.

 Oatts's property assessment in 1855 was $3,589.00 [11] which might well have included his merchandise store and a dog run.; one story home and stage stop (now destroyed) at the rear of his property. This building and the store and, post office (the third in Williamson County) could possibly have adjoined the customary fenced wagon yard hostelry and livery stable that bay have been on the site of the present house.

 In 1851 there was a twice weekly mail route running each way. Within only a few years a mail delivery was increased to three times weekly, delivered by a two horseback [12] The hack driver took time at various places at a stage stop to deliver mail and seek out an eating place as he traveled from settlement to settlement, Travelers often needed a night's lodging and to hire transportation at the stops.

 Williamson County was created in 1848, two years after the Republic of Texas became a state. Round Rock was established in the early 1850s. However there was little rush for settlement of this frontier outpost. A decade later on the eve of the Civil War population for the entire country including 876 slaves was only 3,700.

 Agriculture was the main occupation, sheep and cattle raising with wheat and corn as the important crops. It was customary to exchange hides, wheat, flour and corn for dry goods and groceries. Oatts became a prominent merchant during the fifteen years he owned the store. His daughter married into the cattle-owning, Snyder family and in the 1870s he went up the trail twice and kept a diary. Written in highly phonetic: English describing his adventures. [13]

 Oatts remained postmaster until 1860 but continued his business in the store until 1867 when he sold his property for $1500 to Henry Harris. [14] Three years late in 1870, Harris sold it to prominent Williamson County physician and businessman..., Dr. Mitchell Owen and his wife, Sarah who had come to the area in 1847. [15]

 The house in the complex is mentioned as having been built by Harris, however it has also been referred to as the "Old Owen home." [16] Therefore who was the first owner- builder of the two men remains uncertain. However, c. 1870 would seem to indicate the time of the construction. Dr. Oven's real estate evaluation, was given, as $2500 - in the 1870 census which could include the cost of the large stone house. [17]

 The complex has passed through a number of owners since Owen's time. A grocery seems to  have been run in the store building until E McLoud's widow Lela sold the store and house to the James B. Rutlands in 1965 [18] The house has served as a lodging place at various times through the years.

 After 1900 the old tom became run down, its fine, old stone buildings neglected and allowed in some cases to fall into irreversible decay and ruin. From the 1940s however there has been a slow, often agonizing reclamation of the various structures. In the next decade Colonel William Ross Irvin began to purchase and restore a number of the old buildings.

In 1965 his daughter Harriet and her husband James B. Rutland continued Ervin work when they bought the store and house complex: and restored the neglected structures. George H. Murray, an  investor interested in historic preservation purchased the property early in 1981. He has leased the house to three doctors for their offices and plans to lease the store for some commercial enterprise.

 History narrative story written by Crystal Sasse Ragsdale


 2nd part

Round Rock Store-Post Office and Wm. M. Owen House Complex Description - - The two structure complex of store and post office and the Wm. M. Owen house in old Round Rock, Texas is aligned with an east to west, north to south orientation. The structures on a corner facing east on the old main Austin to Georgetown highway recently named Chisholm Trail Road, are bounded on the north side by Emanuel Street. The store-post office is located just off the north end of the front porch of the house. The single room, rectangular, stone store building is about 40' X 30'.

The 19' high load-bearing, masonry walls of local limestone are about 18" thick on a stone foundation. The rubble stone (incertum) walls were plastered on both interior and exterior surfaces. Now the stone is exposed.

The floor is made of large, smooth stones from nearby Brushy Creek. The ceiling is open to reveal the roof, supported by pine rafters with approximate 12" wide spacing. Two of the building's durable three doors are in the rear on the north and south facade. They are about three feet wide and barely six feet high. One opens to the south to the adjacent house. It is handmade as are the other two and has the decorative line of the edging plane on the two, vertical, chamfered pine panels. The north door, opening on Emanuel Street is heavily studied with nails on the exterior. The interior of these two doors is reinforced by two 2 X 4s. A removable 2 X 4 lumber cross bar is used across the center for protective closing on the street-side door.    
The strongly built double front door is 63/41 wide and high and has reinforcing diagonal timbers across each door on the interior in addition to a 2 X 4 removable wooden cross bar. This door is not original but is probably a reasonable duplicate. At the present time interior, louvered shutters are used at the two, small, double hung, recessed six-over-six windows on either side of the front door, replacing the original exterior solid, protective shutters.

A stone chimney pierces the high pitch wooden shingle roof at the rear (west) end of the building where a small fireplace is located. Originally a wooden porch extended across the east, front facade supported by two sturdy, boxed , wooden columns. It was probably removed by the A. E. Mclouds who operated the grocery store there in the mid 1950s and who made a number of changes in both store and house during their ownership. Except for the removal of the wooden porch and the interior and exterior plaster by other owners in the mid 1960s the building is in excellent condition. A narrow, unobtrusive wooden extension-lean-to was added to the rear (west) facade to house air condition equipment and lavatory facilities.

The second part of the complex is the two story house of four main rooms and a kitchen. It is set back some 15' from the front of the store and about 25' from the road, facing east.

The house is a rectangular block constructed of local limestone, coursed rubble that has been well described as "beautiful stonework." The structure is approximately 50' X 30' with wood frame, 6 wide wood frame galleries across the front (east) on the upper and lower level.

The design of the house as well as the floor plan was popular in Texas during the years of early statehood (mid 1850s) through the 1880s. It is similar to the Captain Nelson Merrell house c. 1870 in the Round Rock vicinity, though not as large. It also bears a resemblance to the Colonel Joseph H. Polley house near Sutherland Springs, Wilson County.

The house is bilaterally symmetrical featuring a central entrance flanked by a pair of large, double-hung, six-over-six windows facing the galleries. Cut stone sills are used for both windows and doors. Window lintels are rugged, flat arches of shaped voussoirs with sturdy, key stones. The same style was used on the three fire places openings.

The exterior, double door of the second floor leading to the porch is original. It is handmade of heavy 1/2” thick, chamfered planed panels reinforced with three 1" thick crosspieces. Each of the doors, upstairs and down is framed by 4 clear glass side­lights over solid mood panels at the bottom about a third of the way from the floor. The main entry door is a single modern factory-made piece.

The symmetry of the front east of the house is maintained on the north and south facades with one window identical to those on the front, on each side of the two chimneys on both floors. A small, double hung, six-over-six window is adjacent to the third chimney on the south facade in the one story kitchen in back of the dining room. A lumber board and batten 1960s extension (also, one story) has been built from the original shed-roof kitchen across the rear, west, façade.

Except for this recent addition all the walls are of load-bearing, masonry set on stone foundations. The steep pitch roof is covered now with composition roofing, although an earlier picture shows wood shingles. There is an 18" overhang.

The six, tapered, cedar columns on the galleries are original. The simple, squared balusters of the first floor railing were copied to replace those on the second level, removed in the 1950s when the McLouds enclosed this gallery for a sleeping porch. The gallery was restored to its original open plan in the mid 1960s.

To secure necessary stabilization of the north facade chimney tie rods were run "through the house. These were fastened to the north wall by two parallel 9" iron bands that extend across the chimney and adjoining wall. One band is some 24" below the roof and the lower some 7' above ground level. The five rods are secured to the bands with fives five pointed star scutcheons. The lower rods are fastened to the ''inside wall of the core stairwell; upper rods extend through the attic to a band across the chimney on the south facade.

The main entrance opens onto a shallow hall that provides a narrow entry to the two downstairs rooms and to the stairs leading to the second level. Immediately adja­cent to the entry on the north is a room running the width of the house. The room could have been living room/bedroom as was customary in those days during the time Dr. and Mrs Owen and four of their seven children occupied the house.

Boxed wooden ceiling beams were added in the 1960s to hide the tension rods. As an interior brace for the bands, small; stone brackets and a wood beam were added at the ceiling along the north wall.

Originally the west door in this room that opened to the outsider now leads into the frames kitchen extension. The original wide, door sill is considerably worn, showing that this was the continually used rear entry and the only other being through the small kitchen door.

The shallow, stone fireplaces in both lower rooms have simple, cedar wood mantles to replace the originals removed when the fireplaces were covered, along with the walls, in the 1950s. Across the hall from the living room is an identical room to the south, the dining room with an entry to the kitchen.

The narrow, lean-to kitchen, about 6' wide and about 20' long has its own small, shal­low cooking fireplace with 'a 12" raised stone hearth and no mantle. A low door on the west leads to the outside. A modern kitchen has been installed here within the old walls with no structural changes involved. A lavatory and storage have been placed in the new extension.

All windows in the main block of the house are set into 22" deep solid, stone walls and only 20" above the floor for draft ventilation. The floors and ceilings are all of 6", 7", and 8", random width pine. Only on the second floor do the rooms have the ori­ginal doors of 8' wide h" chamfered pine boards, painted the popular rose color of the period.

Entry to the two upstairs bedrooms is from the narrow, stairway hall that also  leads to the front gallery. There are no fireplaces in these rooms or evidence of flues. Each room has a pair of tall windows facing the gallery and onion each side of chimney.

Stone braces similar to those in the living room below have been added at ceiling level in the north bedroom. Partitions for closet space and bathroom have been added to the west end of both rooms; but there has been no structural change. Cornice moldings in all four rooms of the house are of 8" wide pine. In the two bedrooms however, an additional thin molding trim adds refinement. Plaster that once covered the interior walls through the house has been removed changing the character of the house with the pre­vailing natural, rough texture and color of limestone.

A story concerning the house is that at one time and another it was a stopping place for travelers and that one of the upstairs rooms was used for women and the other, across the hall for men.

The Owen house, called the St. Charles Hotel in recent times is one of the few remaining two story structures on its original site among the single story structures in this Old Round Rock historic zone. It is in good repair and a fine example of simple, frontier, vernacular architecture somewhat rare in its being two story and in the fine quality of the workmanship of the stone work.

Round Rock's first permanent post office was housed in Thomas C. Oatts's mercantile store built in the manner and style of the period of the 1850s, its stone Walls made to be plastered, its floors of smooth, creek stones chosen for their durability The immediate area is now being rapidly and surely engulfed by house developments and commercial buildings located on local streets state roads and a national high‑way. A large extensively paved shopping center, the first of more to come, is adjacent to the vulnerable) open space surrounding Old Round Rock.

The two structures of the complex show the development that took place in a frontier community located on a main highway. Each building makes its own statement of the historic past. The store and post office and the Owen house with their several neighbors have become a small island a 19th century settlement of mellow, Texas limestone.

 William M Owen House end notes and old photos.pdf


Narrative # -2
The two-structure limestone complex consisting of the first permanent Round Rock post office and the adjoining Wm. M. Owen House are examples of middle nineteenth century vernacular architecture. The one-story, solid-wall post office of rough cut was built about 1853. The large, two story rectangular Owen House has both the refinements of rough cut construction, and of galleries running across the first and second stories of the east (front) facade. It was built about 1870. Except for the removal of the post office front porch (for street widening), the appearance of both buildings is but little changed.

The complex is aligned with the cardinal directions, and is situated on a corner facing the old Austin-Georgetown Dallas Highway, renamed locally "Chisholm Trail Road." It is bounded on the east by Emanuel Street and is located on the north bank above Brushy Creek, in an area east of the U.S. Interstate 35 at its intersection with Texas Highway 79.

The one-room post office, facing east on the corner, has a load-bearing limestone wall on stone foundations. The original interior and exterior plaster has long since been removed as it deteriorated. A stone chimney pierces the high pitch, wooden shingle roof at the west (rear) facade where a small fireplace is located. A wooden porch supported by two sturdy, boxed columns extended across the east (front) facade originally. It was removed about 1950 when the street was widened. A narrow, unobtrusive wooden addition was built at the rear in the late 1960s to house air-conditioning and lavatory.

The flooring is of large, smooth stones from nearby Brushy Creek; the ceiling is open to reveal the pine rafters of the roof. The sturdy, carpenter-made door on the north is of thick pine boards heavily studded with nails on the exterior, and with an iron, closing security bar inside. The three-bay east facade displays two medium-sized, double-hung windows with six-over-six lights on each side of the double entry doors.
The two-story Owen House, located only four feet from the south side of the store, is set back some fifteen feet from the front of the store and 25 feet from the road, facing east. It is built of rectangular blocks of local limestone and coursed rubble, and is described locally as being of beautiful stone work. Wood-frame galleries extend across the upper and lower stories of the front facade.

The house is symmetrical, and features a central entrance. The gabled roof is presently covered with composite shingles. Double doors upstairs and down have fanlights flanked by a pair of double-hung windows with six over-six lights facing the upper and lower galleries. Cut stone sills are used for both doors and windows, while the window lintels are also of stone. The flat arches of all openings are of shaped voussoirs. A similar style is repeated on the three fireplace openings. Symmetry is also maintained on the north and south facades, with one window identical to those on the east facade occurring to each side of a chimney at each end of the house.

There are four large rooms, two upstairs and two down, on each side of the shallow stair hall, and a small lean-to kitchen addition, with chimney, on the west (rear) facade to which has been added a frame extension for storage and lavatory.

A narrow stairway in the hall leads to the two large upstairs bedrooms in which storage units and a single bath have been installed. The two lower rooms are identical in size to the bedrooms. Each lower room has a fireplace with a replica of a simple Texas-style mantle of the period. The kitchen cooking fireplace has a built-up hearth. Cornice moldings in the four rooms are of pine painted white. Plaster that once covered the interior walls has been removed, leaving the natural color and texture of the rough limestone exposed.

For necessary stabilization of the north chimney, tie rods are fastened to two iron bands extending across the entire north wall. The rods reach through the house to a similar band on the south wall and to interior securing bolts.

The two-story gallery across the east facade of the Owen House is a recent restoration based upon an examination of similar forms on other houses of the period. The tapered columns of the second floor porch were retained, however, from the original design. According to historic photographs of the house, the gallery had been remodeled more than once before the house was acquired by the present owner.

The original Round Rock Post Office and the Owen House are intact examples of middle 19th century Texas vernacular architecture which reflect the early history of the community of Round Rock. Located along the stagecoach route from Austin to Dallas, these two structures are indicative of the character of the town prior to the coming of the railroad.
The adjacent Old Round Rock Post Office and Owen House are located on Chisholm Trail Road, the old stagecoach route which once served as the main street of the town. The two structures are rehabilitated examples of the simple stone buildings that were characteristic of the community in the previous century. The Post Office was erected by the first postmaster, Thomas C. Oatts, in 1823. The more imposing Owen House was built about 1870, and features a two story porch across the main facade. Those who lived and worked in these buildings witnessed the passing of the thousands of Longhorn cattle that forded Brushy Creek nearby, as well as the cowmen on their way up the trail who stopped to trade at the town's flourishing general mercantile stores.

Both buildings are an integral part of the cluster of a dozen or so remaining structures in various states of repair along the original Military Road. It was surveyed in the 1840s during the days of the Texas Republic. By the late 1850s, the route was known as the Austin-Georgetown-Dallas Road. Beginning in the late 1860s, the road was near one of the wide feeder trails for cattle drives that joined the main Chisholm Trail at the Red River, in Indian Territory.

Thomas C. Oatts and Founder Jacob Harrell are credited with naming the town of Round Rock for the anvil shaped rock in nearby Brushy Creek on whose banks Oatt's first post office and store were located. After a devastating flood he bought land above the creek from Harrell, and in 1853 built the present structure that became the first permanent post office. Within a few years mail was delivered there thrice weekly, and Oatts may well have provided a wagon yard (where the house now stands) for his mercantile customers, as well as a livery stable and hostelry (now destroyed). Yet settlements were sparse on the Indian-threatened frontier, and at the eve of the Civil War, the population of Williamson County was only 3,700, including 876 slaves.

Oatts remained postmaster until 1860, but continued his business until 1867 when he sold his store-and-post office building, and adjoining lots, to Henry Harris, who then sold the property three years later to Dr. Wm. M. Owen and his wife Sarah. The main house was perhaps built by Harris, although it is also referred to as the "old Owen home." Actually, the builder remains uncertain. In the 1870 U.S. Census, Dr. Owen's real estate holdings evaluation was given as $2500, which could include the value of his large home.

Round Rock was a prosperous racing center until the International and Great Northern Railroad bypassed it in 1876, and a new town was established south of the original settlement. Within a few years the old town lost its commercial importance, although the old Austin-to-Dallas Highway continued to be the main road, passing in front of these two landmarks until the 1950s.

Beginning in the 1940s, an interest in the "old town" was fostered by Colonel William Ross Irvin, who purchased a number of the neglected old structures for restoration. By this time, the post office and house had passed through a number of ownerships, and through the years the house often served as a lodging place for travelers. A grocery store was operated in the post office building by A. E. McLoud, whose widow sold the property to James and Harriet Irvin Rutland in 1965.

The Rutlands restored the post office and house and, in 1981, Harriet Rutland sold the property to George H. Murray. In late 1981, the house was leased to three doctors for offices, and the post office was offered for commercial lease.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Ledbetter, Mrs. Bernice. Telephone interviews by Crystal
Ragsdale, Round Rock, Texas, June and July 1981.
Mann, William L., Papers. Scrapbook (Williamson County). Box
31340. Barker Texas History Center, University of
Texas at Austin.
Oatts, Thomas C. Deed to Henry W. Harris, Williamson County
Deed Records, Courthouse, Georgetown, Texas, v. 10,
pp. 408-409, 2 January, 1868.
Scarborough, Clara Stearns. Land of Good Water. Georgetown,
Texas, Williamson County Sun Publishers, 1973.
Treadway, Mary. Deed to Tom Lindsey, Williamson County Deed
Records, Courthouse, Georgetown, Texas, v. 398, p.
115, 10 August, 1954.
Voigt, Miss Xenia. Telephone interviews by Crystal Ragsdale,
Round Rock, Texas, June and July, 1981.
MAPS: Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and
Confederate Armies 1861-1865. General Topographical
Map. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office
1865, Sheet XXII, Plate CLVII.
Colton's Atlas of the World, "New Map of the State of
Texas." New York: J. H. Colton and Co., 1856.
Cooke, William G. "Col. William G. Cooke's Map of His Route
to Red River and Return, 1840-41." Atlas F. General
Land Office, Austin, Texas, p. 15a.

 



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