ADVOCACY


 

As leaders of preserving historic places, we support and encourage like-minded individuals & organizations with the same goal. 

When historic areas are affected, the APL provides support and feedback to elected officials about the impact on preservation and the core of Abilene. Also, special grants allow the APL to help owners of historic homes who are in need. 

The City of Abilene started its historic preservation in 1985. They have direction over 136 historic overlay zones. To assist owners in the maintenance and rehabilitation of their historic properties, the city provides over $50,000 in property tax reductions.  

For instance, APL member, Carry Blanske directed a clean up of the Town West Neighborhood. The city of Abilene stepped up to help move out scrap for the neighborhood.

 

Dodge Jones Foundation 

Mrs. Matthews and the Dodge Jones Foundation, established in 1954 by her mother, Ruth Legett Jones, poured millions of dollars into downtown renovation beginning in the 1980s, when they rescued and restored the Paramount Theatre. The Grace Museum, the T&P Depot and right-of-way, and the Elks, Cypress and Compton buildings stand today as monuments to the vision and generosity of Judy Matthews and the foundation.

And for all that, she never sought recognition. Gradually, it came to her anyway. In 1999, a citizens committee selected Matthews and her mother as Abilenians of the Millenium. But Matthews and the foundation— named for her brother Dodge Jones, who died at a young age— were best known for many years as Anonymous. It wasn’t too long before everyone knew who Anonymous was.

Mrs. Matthews came by her philanthropic interests naturally. Her mother, Ruth Legett Jones, was known before she died in 1978 as “the quiet philanthropist” who had founded the Dodge Jones Foundation. She scrupulously avoided the spotlight. Judy Matthews’s grandfather, K. K. Legett, who died in 1926, helped establish Simmons and McMurry colleges, among many other Abilene civic contributions.

"It's easy to make a difference in Abilene," Mrs. Matthews told an interviewer. "It seems like there are so many things that we need."

The downtown facelift may well have been the showcase for her and the foundation. By the early ‘80s, downtown Abilene, like many downtowns around the country, was looking grim and deserted. Most of its retail business had headed out to the malls and strip centers, hotels stood vacant and vandalized, and buildings were boarded and decaying. The wrecking ball had already torn down several theaters and landmark sites, and it threatened to take out others, including the historic Paramount Theatre, once the pride of Abilene.

That’s when Judy Matthews stepped in, not only saving the theater but restoring it to its original grandeur. That led to numerous other downtown improvements, most significantly the Grace Hotel, which became the Grace Museum, and the T&P Depot, which houses cultural and visitor bureaus. Abilene gained a reputation statewide for its revived downtown. As foundation executive director Joe Canon says, there has been “a ripple effect that Judy’s interests have helped crystallize.”

“When someone asks how Abilene has been able to preserve so much of its downtown history,” said one downtown business owner, “I tell them there is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is Judy Matthews. The long answer is that she inspired a lot of other people to get involved in downtown preservation.” 

Glenn Dromgoole

Glenn Dromgoole is the author of twenty-seven books, the founder and chair of the West Texas Book Festival, and a co-owner of the Texas Star Trading Company in downtown Abilene.

Dodge Jones Foundation is responsible for the beautiful trees along the railroad track in Abilene. Courtesy of Steve Butman Photography.

Dodge Jones Foundation is responsible for the beautiful trees along the railroad track in Abilene. Courtesy of Steve Butman Photography.

The Swenson House 

The Swenson House was given to the Abilene Preservation League by the Swenson Family in the early 1990s. The APL has given life to the Swenson Legacy that lives on in the Abilene community. The house is now a Texas Historical Commission Landmark.

Swenson House Arbor & Driveway

The Abilene Preservation League appreciates the generous gift from Sue Stubbeman and her family which helped to provide a new driveway and sidewalks. They continue to give priceless treasures to the Swenson House including the beautiful replica of the original arbor built on the grounds of this historic home. Thanks to the Stubblemans' contributions, the community will continue to experience the beautiful Swenson home and gardens as they attend events.

The Swenson House Driveway 

The Swenson House Driveway 

Sue Stubbeman

Sue Stubbeman

The Swenson House Arbor 

The Swenson House Arbor 

Magee House

In 1903, Dr. J.D. Magee built his house and name it Rosethyme. Sadly, in 2008, it had a catastrophic fire and was scheduled to be demolished by the city.  The APL bought the historic home, which was on the National Registry, cleaned the debris, and reinforced the structure. The home was sold a few years ago and now the owners are continuing to restore it to its glory. This house is an example of a project the Abilene Preservation League accomplished- restoring historic homes and enhancing neighborhoods! Rosethyme has life again!

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Town West Clean Up Project 

APL member Carrie Blaschke lives in Town West Neighborhood and is a part of the Town West Neighborhood Association. 

The association was contacted by the Housing Authority because a retirement center was working to get the tax credits to construct the building. Since the neighborhood was in such disarray, they had to clean up the neighborhood before the retirement center could be built. The code enforcement officers began to give code warnings.   

After a series of neighborhood meetings, papers were signed and approved to build the retirement center. They had meetings before the clean ups, a 4th of July breakfast and a Christmas Party. The clean-up started after a long process of meeting. The pictures are of dumpster clean up, parties, and home before and after. 

Boyscouts 

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The Abilene Preservation League has been fortunate to have Boy Scouts from Abilene earning their Eagle Scout Badges in the Swenson yard. To name a few: Brandon Pope, Keagan Williams, Sean Butler, Karsten Goodman, Vincent Hau, Matt McLeod, and Hudson Beard.

Boy-Scout Hudson Beard, chose the old pond at the Swenson House as his project to become an Eagle Scout. The Swenson's ranch hands originally installed the pond in the 1920s. Over the years it became overgrown that most people didn't know that it existed. 

In fact, it had a tin liner, like a horse trough that had to be removed.  Then the concrete was smoothed out because it was so rough, they were afraid it might rip the liner. After the boys completed the project, Martin Jensen went in the house and got the statute that originally sat in the pond. The boys installed it and got it to work.  Of course, it went back in the house for safekeeping. The statue is taken to the pond on special occasions.

Hudson got his Eagle Scout badge with this project (all Eagle Projects take more than 100 hours to complete).  He played on the AHS State Campion football team, graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Chemistry and he is now a 3rd year medical student at the UT San Antonio Medical School.  Pond consultants on the project were Tim and Colette McCloskey.

Big Country Master Gardeners   

The Big Country Master Gardner’s Association is a group of local residents who love to learn and teach others about gardening. They worked on three flowers bed in the Swenson formal gardens with all their knowledge and hard work. The Swenson House Committee and the APL are extremely appreciative of this organizations gardening achievements.