Abilene Courts Project

A Unique piece of Abilene's history could be lost, but you can change that.

The previous owner of Abilene Courts officially donated the property to the Abilene Preservation League August 13th, 2020. However, Abilene Courts is under recommendation for demolition by the city, which means we must act now. The city does its job to protect its citizens from building hazards, we need to do our part to protect our architectural heritage from disappearing.

We need your support. Click on the tabs below to learn more about the Abilene Courts project. 

What is the Significance of Abilene Courts?

The Bankhead Highway was the nation’s first “all weather” coast-to-coast highway and served as a major travel and tourism route, resulting in a boom of family-owned roadside businesses across the United States. Tourist courts, the precursor to motels, were one such business.

Built in 1930, not only is Abilene Courts one of the last remaining original prewar tourist courts along the Bankhead Highway, but it is a rare subtype of a once common tourist court layout. The 2014 Bankhead Highway in Texas survey identified 51 NRHP-eligible tourist courts/motels along the highway in Texas, but only two with a “closed courtyard” configuration. Abilene Courts is one of those two, with the other being some 250 miles away in Pecos, TX, the Boulder Courts.

Due to Abilene Court’s association with the Bankhead Highway, which significantly contributed to our nation’s history, and its rare architectural value, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Abilene Preservation League deems it essential to be saved.

·        Registered in the National Register of Historic Places

·        Preservation Texas’s Most Endangered Places List 2014

·        APL’s Abilene’s Most Endangered Places List 2020

·        Located in Abilene’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zone

What is the APL's Plan of Action?

At this project’s inception, the APL remained transparent about the possible directions this preservation effort might take. As stated from the beginning, “the best-case scenario involves the APL completing [steps to abate and preserve as much of the structure as possible]. The worst-case scenario occurs if we can only save the North façade. In either case the Texas Historical Commission and the National Park service will maintain its designation as a National Register of Historic Places site.”  Some sites’ cultural or historical significance demand action regardless of the state of its disrepair.  The board of trustee of the APL agreed to accept this project despite the difficulties involved in its preservation,

Accordingly, our original goal for this project looked to save as much of the structure as possible. However, after meeting with several contractors, they determined that years of neglect, coupled with a major hailstorm, left the building vulnerable to the elements thus compromising the foundation. Further, the bulk of the rear structure contains asbestos in the stucco walls and other building materials which would prove nearly impossible to safely encapsulate. We discussed all possible alternatives other than demolition with contractors. Unfortunately, we cannot repair the rear of the building and we must remove this section. Despite this loss, this historically significant site can remain preserved for future generations. Its iconic front façade, the principal historic elevation, remains intact. The APL is determined to preserve this architecturally distinctive façade and we need your help. 

Completed Preservation Efforts:

  • Transfer of deed to the Abilene Preservation League

  • Removal of vegetation and debris that contribute to site hazards by the Men of Nehemiah Abilene

  • Regular mowing and maintenance of the grounds

  • Collection, cataloguing, and storing historical materials from the site in a secure location supplied by Walt Pfeifer

  • Hazards assessment by AML Environmental Contractors

  • Shoring the front façade to protect and secure it during abatement of the structure

Further Preservation Efforts:

  • The APL will install a fence around the building to provide a visual barrier to the property and protect the site

  • AML will remove all hazardous portions of the building to comply with the Board of Building Standards ruling

  • Brick masons will repair, repoint and protect the brick façade

  • A professional restoration company will restore the iconic neon marquee sign

  • The APL will apply for a Texas Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission

  • The APL will seek out protections to ensure the site remains preserved

Like the transfer of so many previously preserved sites, the APL plans to eventually place this property into capable hands looking to make this piece of Abilene’s heritage a part of their history as well. Your gift allows us to gently preserve what we can and carefully find proper stewards for this site following these efforts. The APL will fight for protections on this location to ensure new construction planned on the acre lot complements this historic edifice. 

Board of Building Standards (BOBS) public hearings regarding case # 17-009, Abilene Courts

The City of Abilene Code Compliance Office is responsible for gaining citizen compliance on health, safety, and quality of life issues in the city. This includes enforcement of building and housing code. The city created the Board of Building Standards (BOBS) to hear appeals concerning the Building Code and Housing Code and review building condemnation cases.

Abilene Courts was condemned by the city February 22, 2017. In September 2019, the Landmarks Commission discussed and took no action, turning the case over to the BOBS for a decision. Since October 2019, the case has been reviewed by the BOBS once every month. At any of these meetings, the BOBS may choose to vote for demolition of the structure. As previously mentioned, the APL officially took ownership of the property in August 2020. Changes in ownership do not alter or “reset” the timeline of a case. However, the APL’s intervention in accepting the donation delayed the demolition order.  This allowed the APL time to remove salvageable aspects of this important site and save the facade.

 The city provides videos rebroadcast and available online of every BOBS meeting for the public’s viewing. These videos will give you a clearer understanding of the urgent timeline the APL has been given to work with and why the APL made the its decisions regarding the preservation of Abilene Courts.

 You may find the videos regarding Abilene Courts here (click on each month to see that month’s meeting):

  • March 2020. The case for Abilene Courts begins at 21:10.
  • BOBS did not meet April, May or June due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • July 2020. The case for Abilene Courts begins at 37:17.
  • August 2020. The case for Abilene Courts begins at 17:38.
  • September 2020. The case for Abilene Courts begins at 2:09.
How can I get involved?

1) Although APL board and staff are pursuing grant opportunities, much of our success depends on the League coming together to save this important historic monument. Please consider a gift to preserve this unique piece of Abilene’s and Texas’ history. Our immediate goal requires funding that will provide results in a matter of weeks. The end goal of this project relies on partnerships with preservation-conscious developers prepared to build on this site in a manner architecturally consistent with its Mission Revival / Spanish Colonial Revival style. We look to incorporate preserved materials from the site in designs that complement this façade. A donor provided a challenge grant of $25,000 to encourage concerned citizens to engage in this effort. Won’t you join the APL and show how Abilene’s philanthropic spirit transcends our fears and anxieties to build a better community for us all? Every donation, no matter the size, helps.

There are several ways to donate:

  • Write a check to “Abilene Preservation League” with “Abilene Courts” in the memo line and mail it to:

Abilene Preservation League

Post Office Box 3451

Abilene, TX 79604

*this is the most cost-effective donation as there are no credit card fees. 100% of your donation goes to the project!

  • Click here and follow the directions to donate online

 

2. Share the information on this page with friends and family!

Contact information

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. There’s much to be done to save Abilene Courts, but when our community comes together anything is possible! Thank you.

Name: Morgan Paschal, Associate Development Director

Phone: (325) 676-3775

Email: morgan@abilenepreservation.org