Williamson County
Historical Commission

 


EIKEL-PREWITT BUILDING
Historical Marker
Taylor, Texas


316 N. Main Street

 

 

 

Marker Text:

Albert Eikel (b. 1852) had this building constructed in 1893 to house the Eikel Hardware Company. The three-story, brick commercial structure was designed by prominent Williamson County architect Henry Struve. The building was purchased in 1923 by the Ira A. Prewitt Company and remained the home of that business until 1981. Prominent features include its cast iron pilasters and the paired, rounded windows. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1985

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Eikel-Prewitt Building

316 North Main Street, Taylor, Texas
Historical Narrative by Lois Ayres Selman

The Eikel Brothers Building was constructed under the supervision of Henry Struve, architect, and occupied by the Eikel Hardware Company until sold to The Ira A. Prewitt Company. [1] With the advent of post World War II industrial improvements, especially the cotton strippers, the manual aspect of cotton picking diminished and the hardware business fell victim to the shopping center. The Prewitt Hardware Company closed in 1981. In 1983, John B. Selman bought the building to be restored as the lead off subject of the Main Street Project in Taylor. It is used as the Home Office of TaylorBanc Savings, who will celebrate their 100th year of business in Taylor in 1985. 

Albert Eikel was born in New Braunfels, Texas in 1852. [2] His father, Andreas Eikel, was one of the colony of 50 who came from Germany with Count Solms-Braunfels and settled the town of New Braunfels in 1845. [3] Albert Eikel married Augusta Faust in 1878 and moved his family to Taylor in 1886, where he engaged in the hardware business. [4] One way merchandise was sold in Taylor: a wagonload with two men, white and negro, a banjo, plus various dry goods, hardware and so forth, was stationed at the corner of Third and Main where an auction sale was held. [5] 
 
Hardware stores abounded in Taylor in the 1880's. In 1888, Ira A. Prewitt came to Taylor and went into business with G. B. Randle in a harness, saddle and buggy shop at the present site of Melasky Drug Store. [6] He was a competitor of Albert Eikel and would eventually buy him out in 1923. 

On May 29, 1888, Taylor Savings and Loan made a loan to John G. Neyman for the purchase of the land upon which the Elkel building would be constructed. [7] Albert Eikel bought the parcel of land in 1888 for $1,000.00 cash and a $600.00 note. [8] In 1893 he had the Eikel Brothers Building constructed to house the Eikel Hardware Company. Albert had two brothers in Taylor during those years: Paul and Fred. [9] However, it was his twin sons Max and Paul whom he brought into the business after their education at St. Edwards University in Austin and training in accounting school in New York State. [10] 

The Eikel Building was constructed under the supervision of architect Henry Struve. Mr. Struve was a well known architect in the area and may have designed as many as two hundred buildings in and around Williamson County. Many of his architectural plans were recently uncovered with the death of Gussie Brieger, a builder and son of G. B. Brieger, a builder and contemporary of Struve's. [11] The plans have been temporarily housed and catalogued at the Taylor Public Library. [12] 

Taylor was first named Taylorsville for an official of the International and Great Northern Railroad. In the spring of 1876, The Texas Land Company bought the Taylor town site and advertised a sale of town lots to take place in June, 1876. [13] The I. and G.N.. Railroad was soon completed into Taylor and by the spring of 1882 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad was also built into Taylor and remained the terminus.  [14] 

In a radius of fifteen miles the soil is of black waxy prairie and rich beyond conception. This prairie, upon which Taylor is situated was wild and tenantless, but now has enter­prising and progressive inhabitants, while the country for miles around has been made to bloom under the thrifty hand of the intelligent immigrant. [15] Taylor is referred to as the "Garden City" in a narrative of two months' trip to the most prosperous and promising state in the Union-Texas. Woodcuts show five thriving businesses, among many, along Main Street. [16] It was in the spirit of these prosperous burgeoning times that Albert Eikel and Henry Struve began to plan the construction of a major building in Taylor. 

Struve was a man of style and prolific output in his work. He would drive his roan horse and buggy between his many projects including construction on the Taylor City Hall, the First Presbyterian Church and the Eanes Building and his family home on West Seventh Street. [17] There was an increase in the number of commercial buildings of elegance and permanence at this time, and he envisioned the Eikel Building as being among the best. Struve incorporated an eclectic building style popular in Central Texas in the late 1800s, which was a regional inter­pretation of the Italian Renaissance Revival. 

The iron used in the seven columns across the front exterior of the building were the product of the Pullis Brothers Iron Company of St. Louis. [18] This company was well known to the iron trade of the country and enjoyed sixty years of business until hit by a cyclone in 1896, causing a suspension of business. [19] The cast iron colonnades with turned capitals inside of the building still remained the only iron posts in a downtown structure as late as 1931. [20] 

The interior of the building housed a manually operated elevator, [21] which was electrified in 193422 and replaced by John B. Selman for TaylorBanc Savings when the building was restored, in 1984. There is a "repository" or balcony at the second floor level overlooking the main floor. The windows were of wired glass and the roof of composition. [23] The interior brick on the north and south walls is of a common variety locally produced by the now defunct Taylor Brick Company, at one time situated southwest of the city on what now is colloquially known as Brick Hill. [24] The exterior brick is of a deep red color from a wood mold and is dry pressed. The floors on all levels are of long-leaf pine planking. When the third level floor was cut open to provide an atrium effect and light from the existing wired glass skylight, the planking was discovered to run horizontally against a vertical pattern on all other parts of the three floors. The restoring builders thought that a skylight effect may have been original to the building and sealed up at an earlier time. At the third level the original chamfered columns have been retained. The plaster, which covered the brick walls has been removed and the yellow common brick has been cleaned and retained. 

The hardware store was equipped with a cash cup catapulted system, on the first floor, strung overhead, which would send the customer's money from the point of sale to the bookkeeper's office at the rear of the store. [25] The three story brick building, designed by Struve for Albert Eikel, is a landmark edifice that has been a significant hardware store in the community from 1893 until 1981. The four bay south facade incorporated double-hung single light sash windows shaped to fit the arch hang in each opening. The build­ing is crowned by a pediment with cornice flanked by finials with suspended wrought iron. Its' restoration has captured the hearts of Taylorites and brought downtown Taylor alive after a fifteen year pause. [26] It is serving as an incentive to other downtown building owners. The good luck that the building had only two owners over its' ninety year existence, and never a renter or sub lease nor ever a fire made is an enticing subject for restoration. 

In the lot behind the Eikel building a tin shop, two barns and ten small buildings stood in 1898. Albert Eikel bought the entire lot in 1900, and by the time of his bankruptcy sale to Ira A. Prewitt in 1923, there was a storage building behind the hardware store with about the same amount of floor space as the hardware store but fronting on Porter Street. It had a tin roof and was regarded as two stories. [27]

 Albert Eikel retired from business in 1907 and returned to New Braunfels, leaving the Eikel Hardware Company in the hands of his twin sons Max and Paul. Paul married Hattie Dixon and Max married Edna Woodward. Both brides were the daughters of prominent land holders in Taylor. Max remained childless, but Paul had four children: Albert, Faust (Jon), Paul and Harriette Maude. [28] The brothers brought the Studebaker Auto‑Mobile Agency to Taylor, a logical step in progress as Eikel Hardware had sold the Conestoga wagon. [29]
 
In 1888 Ira A. Prewitt came to Taylor and went into business with G. B. Ramdle at the present site of the Melasky Drug Store and in that same year, Mr. Prewitt married Delia Valentine of  Rockdale. [30] The young couple moved to Rockdale briefly and then returned to Taylor when Mr. Prewitt was employed by Taylor Hardware Company and in 1890, he and James F. Blane pur­chased the Wilkenson and Peyton Company on West Second Street. Six years later this company purchased the Taylor Hardware Company on Main Street. [31] In 1900 Mr. Prewitt purchased the Blane interest and later in 1918, he purchased the Hoch Hardware Company. [32] The Ira A. Prewitt Hardware Company was incorporated in 1918. [33] In December of 1923, George W. Prewitt, George P. Prewitt and Louis D. Prewitt bought the Eikel Building from the bankrupt estate of Albert Eikel for the sum of $23,751.00. [34] Ira Prewitt died in 1929 [36] and his heirs have held the Ira A. Prewitt Hardware Company in the family until its' dissolution in 1981. [37]

 Ira A. Prewitt had four sons: Ira Cecil, George Peyton, Louis Dupree and James Porter. He was active in Taylor life and served as vice-president of Taylor Savings and Loan Association and president of the Board of Education for ten years. He was also a Baptist Deacon and a member of the Knights of Pythias.38 His son J. Porter Prewitt was elected to the Taylor City Council in 1959. He was a president of the Rotary Club and the Taylor Country Club and was on the Board of Deacons of the Presbyterian church. [39] George P. Prewitt was active in the management of the company until 1952 when ill health forced his retirement. [40] He had been on the original Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors in 1925. [41] Ira Prewitt's grandson, and the last Prewitt to operate the hardware business, was Louis Bond Prewitt. His fond memories of growing up in the family owned business were of the third floor harness-maker's shop. A Mr. Vann smoked Bull Durham and always had a cigarette in his mouth. He left for California in 1936-7 where he worked in a saddlery making saddles for the cowboy movie stars like Tom Mix and Ken Maynard. Mr. Fisher was a saddle-maker and Mr. Kincl, later of Kincl Hardware Company, was one of the first harnessmakers.42 During cotton season, this was a busy place with store hours from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm. On the off season, during January and February, the harness-makers made knee pads, lined in felt, for sale to the cotton pickers. A tree trunk, brought into the shop, was used to cut out the knee pad pattern. Prewitt's would have 2,000 pair of knee pads in stock for the June harvest. [43]

The first and second floor were used for sales. There were hardware items, such as paint, appliances and garden implements; house-wares would include dishes, gifts and cooking utensils. In the 1930s the sale of birdcages was very popular. The first floor had large cup hooks along the ceiling and beautiful cages were displayed. A Mrs. Langston had a local aviary and enjoyed a brisk business. [44] After World War II, Taylor boomed with migrant workers coming for cotton picking work. Prewitt's sold as many as 140 dozen hoes and 4,000 cotton sacks a year. [45]

 With the mechanization of the cotton industry and the ascent of the shopping center as a catalyst in merchandising, downtown Taylor faded as a center of commerce. In October of 1981, a group of interested citizens convened to save downtown Taylor from steady deterioration. [46] The primary object was to rescue the old Taylor National Bank Building from the wrecking ball and the offshoot was the establishment of the Taylor Conservation and Heritage Society.47 The Ira A. Prewitt Hardware Company closed for business that same year and the building stood idle until May of 1983, when Louis Bond Prewitt sold it to John B. Selman. [48]

 The new owner hired the firm of Danze and Davis Architects to prepare plans for the restoration of the building. The original facade has been restored to its' natural brick, after at least forty years of having been painted white. The east and west windows were rebuilt and the white paint removed; two windows on the north third floor level have been re-opened and four additional windows added to allow the offices at that location to have natural light. The marking on the pediment of the building was thought to read "Eikel Bldg.", but when the paint and residue of the years was cleaned away it read "Eikel Bros." A trace of Williamson County Tax records shows two obscure brothers of Albert Eikel. [49] The recessed entryway was brought out to line up with the facade and the floor was filled in with concrete to gain additional floor space replacing the elevated display windows at the right and left of the entry. Inside, a new stairway to the left front was built to bring the building up to safe fire standards. The rear stairs at the right were redesigned and the common brick walls on the north and south at the third level have been cleaned of their plaster and will remain exposed. The roof and studs of the building were in good condition and the skylight offers added light to the first floor with the removal of a large portion of flooring below it on the third floor. A great deal of charm is added by this modification, which enhances the third floor area and makes it a delightful place for receptions, displays and community events. 

The incorporation of the corner lot to the north of the Eikel-Prewitt Building, affords a drive-in facility to TaylorBanc Savings, including an automating teller machine. The upstairs offices overlook Main Street at Fourth and the site of the now razed City Hall designed by Henry Struve. 

The building interior has been adapted for contemporary use by the extensive upgrading of mechanical, electrical and structural systems, the addition of rest room facilities and a kitchen and use of modern day carpets and furnishings. John B. Selman has provided TaylorBanc Savings with a Home Office of elegance and function, and repeated the Eikel Prewitt restoration image in small branch offices in Round Rock, Pflugerville, Hutto and Austin. The red brick of Main Street-Taylor has become a logo for the third business to ever occupy the Eikel-Prewitt Building and is a significant birthday gift to the City of Taylor in celebration of TaylorBanc's 100th year of business.
 
 

     End notes pdf

 


 
 

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