2019 Abilene Preservation Awards
Institutional Architecture Honoree
On September 26th, the Abilene Preservation Leauge honored Church of the Heavenly Rest Episcopal at 602 Meander Street for the distinctive, uplifting and sensitively considered renovation and construction of Gerhart Hall. This celebration included a pleasant evening of docent tours, a delectable dinner, an award ceremony and an unforgettable presentation on “Home” by Jay Moore.
Originally known as “the little stone church,” Church of the Heavenly Rest Episcopal was established near the corner of North Third and Orange Streets in 1883, only two years after Abilene was founded. In the early 1950s, with a growing congregation, the church made the decision to move to its current home, where the Legett Mansion formerly stood.
Easily recognizable as one of the most beautiful buildings in Abilene, Church of the Heavenly Rest Episcopal was designed in the gothic style by famed architect Philip Hubert Frohman. Modeled after the Washington National Cathedral, the majestic church building is of a grand scale and has a structural system of outstanding masonry work, a corner tower and exterior walls composed of Lueders limestone. Additionally, the church incorporated many parts of the original “little stone church” into its structure, including the original stained glass windows, altar, pews, credence shelf and baptismal font. Stones from the original building are found in the walls of the crypt and walls outside the chapel.
In 2014, reflecting the church’s continual growth, the congregation started a capital campaign fund to build a fellowship hall names after Rev. Willis Gerhart, affectionately known as Parson Gerhart, the rector of Heavenly Rest from 1920-49. A seamless blend between the old and new structures on the property was important and the stone quarry from which the main church was build was reopened to build the walls of Gerhart Hall. Curtis & Windam Architects designed the new hall and the Crowe Groups contractors completed construction in 18 months. APL President, Josh Black, said, “Construction of this building and the subsequent adaptive reuse of the existing decades of campus shine light on the caring nature of [Church of the Heavenly Rest’s] members.”
On September 24th, the Abilene Preservation League recognized Barnes & Williams Drug Center at 701 Hickory Street for carefully caring for the facade or interior of a historic building, reflecting the ongoing spirit and identity of a vintage business. The celebration was complete with treats from Sweet Thyme Kitchen, a ribbon cutting with the Redcoat Ambassadors, which recognized 80 years of continuous operations, and an awards ceremony.
Barnes & Williams Drug Center was founded in 1930 in Breckenridge, TX by Mr. Jack Barnes and Mr. Paul Williams. In 1939, seeing the opportunity for growth, Mr. Barnes moved the pharmacy to Abilene, TX, making it the longest established pharmacy in the city.
The building which Barnes & Williams calls home was built in 1925 in the 20th Century Commerical style with Mission/Spanish Revival influences. The exterior walls are original stucco and the windows are original aluminum.
The pharmacy has long been tied to the loving hands of one family. In 1966, Larry Pittman purchased the pharmacy with his step-father, Sam Allen. Larry said, “One of the first pieces of advice that [Barnes] gave me when we bought the store in 1966 was ‘Larry, don’t ever move from this location.'” The advice has proven invaluable as the store has maintained its identity as a family-friendly corner drug store. Jean Fanning, a longtime customer, came to the celebration and said, “My parents came here. Of course, I came here too.” She went on to say of the current and past owners, “We’re friends. They’re my friends.” In 1989, Sam Allen retired and Barbara and Larry Pittman, Sam’s daughter-in-law and stepson, purchased the store, continuing operations. In 2019, Barbara and Larry Pittman passed operations on to their great-nephew and his wife, Tracy and Jordan Talley.
Neighbors and Historic Communities Honoree
On October 19th, the Abilene Preservation League recognized Town West Neighborhood, bounded by Graham, North Sixth, Grape and North First Streets, for lovingly preserving historic homes in a comfortable, compatible, caring community. Coinciding with the awards ceremony, the neighborhood hosted a Fall Front Porch Tour. This included a tour of 24 historic homes decorated for fall, entertainment from neighbors Lora Lynn Christensen, who skillfully played accordion, and the Catclaw Boys, who put on a fine performance, as well as, a time of fellowship and dinner.