Sunday – May 3, 2015
Fort Davis, Texas
We visited the quaint, sleepy little town of Fort Davis, Texas this afternoon. The town is located five miles south of the Davis Mountains State Park on Texas Highway 118.
We had a late lunch at the Fort Davis Drug Store, Hotel and Restaurant, established in 1913. What a marvelous experience! The food was delicious and the early American western atmosphere was mesmerizing. There are two levels within the store: downstairs is the drug store and restaurant, upstairs is the hotel and an art gallery. Walking into the store immediately takes the visitor back to what it must have been like in the early 1900’s.
A walking tour of the town takes the visitor to some interesting historic landmarks:
- Fort Davis State Bank
- The Hotel Limpia – established 1884
- Jeff Davis County Library
- Fort Davis County Courthouse
- Memorial to Hometown Heroes
The Jeff Davis County Library is a historic building that was vital to the development of Fort Davis. Imagine arriving here in 1873 and finding a small adobe store and saloon owned by Whitaker Keesey located at the northeast corner of this property. Later during the 1880’s, this area replaced the Overland Trail and military fort as the center of town. With the closing of the fort in 1891, this location continued in importance. The Keesey building served as the general store, temporary jail, bank, telephone exchange, and post office. Business was successful and by 1906, it was necessary to expand the store: the rock structure that now serves as the county library was built around the main structure so there was no interruption in business.
In 1908, Whitaker Keesey and his brother Otis sold the business to a group of stockholders at which time it became known as the "Union Trading Company." It evolved into a store with merchandise that included guns, ammunition, windmills, coffins, lumber, and hardware. The Union Complex contained a general store, stable, post office, gentlemen’s club with bar, machine shop, and feed store, and had the first electric company and telephone exchange in the area. With all this activity the Union Trading Company became the largest mercantile in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend area, slowly becoming the social center of the growing community.
By 1950, it became known locally as the "Union Mercantile" up until the time that artist Donald Judd purchased it in 1990. Four years later, the Jeff Davis County acquired the building. It then underwent a gradual program of careful preservation and restoration for adaptive use as a library, opening to the public in 1999.
This imposing structure resembles the "Alamo-Style" of architecture. It had a loading platform on the north end, a coal chute, and the original freight elevator that is still used today. A state medallion and recorded historic landmark plaque were awarded in 1965.
The magnificent architecture of the Fort Davis County Courthouse encompasses the entire town square, welcoming visitors to Fort Davis, Texas.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.