By Candace Fountoulakis
H. G. Wells set his famous story The Time Machine amid Victorian England and futuristic societies only he could imagine. Most folks remember the novella, published in 1895, from the 1960 film version starring Rod Taylor. The main character, George, builds himself a fanciful contraption to travel through time. The machine looks like a cross between a sleigh and a roulette wheel, its single seat covered in red velvet. George was transported to other times at the push of a crystal topped shift stick. He watched the world change around him, intrigued by a dress shop window display across the street. The mannequin in the window puts on a fast-forward fashion show that prompts George to amazement at the whims of women’s clothing styles.
The shop windows of historic downtown Plano have watched seasons come and go; they have seen the hand of time script beginnings and ends; they have heard stories of generations young and old. Though views around them have been altered over the years, many structures are still standing strong.
LOUISE BAGWILL SHERRILL
The Louise Bagwill Sherrill building is another fine example of early 20th-century commercial architecture fully restored. A former bank, it became home to the Plano Star-Courier. Louise Bagwill Sherrill was the daughter of the newspaper’s owner and exclaimed that she was “reared in the Plano Star Courier office.” A devastating fire on January 4, 1911 destroyed many early records of Plano’s newspapers. The building that honors the Sherrill legacy is now home to medical offices and remains an iconic image in historic downtown Plano.
MATHEWS GENERAL STORE (EVENT 1013)
Adjacent to the Sherrill building is Event 1013, which is formerly the Mathews General Store. S.J. and Nancy Mathews came to Plano in 1893 and opened a store that sold dry goods and clothing including millinery made by Nancy and her daughters. It is one of Plano’s few 19th-century stores in continuous commercial operation. Today, it is event1013, a unique venue for parties, fashion shows and more with vintage charm and warm character.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK (A. R. SCHELL)
Crossing the light-rail tracks from the west on 15th Street, the A. R. Schell building shines like a beacon of Carrara glass. Last re-built following the Great Fire of 1895, the façade was remodeled in the mid-1930s for First National Bank. Since late 1957, the building has been owned and occupied by the Schell family insurance business. Third-generation Planoite Jamie Schell revealed that the building actually had two deeds, one for the foundation and first floor, and another for the second story and roof. A layer of dirt between the floors is still intact, an early attempt at fire protection.
The upper story was home to a fraternal organization, the International Order of Odd Fellows. The Order sold to the Schell family in the early 1980s when the building’s exterior was again remodeled to restore it to the post-fire brick. Unfortunately, removing a prior remodel would have destroyed the fragile brick and mortar work, so the decision was made to restore the 1930s style stucco. The view from the corner of 15th and Alex Schell’s place still encompasses the Interurban Railway Depot and Haggard Park’s greenery, but long gone are the horse-drawn buggies and cotton wagons that used to line up along the railroad to unload.
E. O. HARRINGTON (SHINOLA)
Drastic changes have occurred over the decades in the Harrington building, located on the northwest corner of 15th and Avenue K. The former furniture store and mortuary is now home to the revived brand Shinola, fresh from Detroit. Today’s iteration is a beautiful departure from the previous occupants. Cline photographed the E. O. Harrington building when it housed the ArtCentre of Plano, complete with the brick well inside the space still intact.
It seems most appropriate that the classic brands Shinola and Willy’s Detroit are revived in an historic building. Just outside the front door, blue and white tiles form the name E. O. HARRINGTON beneath your feet. As you step across the threshold, the flooring transitions to wood plank, polished to parade gloss. The merchandise has expanded from its cobbler origins, but shoppers will still receive that small-town welcome choosing stylish clothing, watches, leather goods and more.
PLANO LODGE 768
Designated a historic landmark, this two-story structure was built in 1898. Cline told the history of the building which was first the Moore House hotel, later covered in stucco in the 1920s. The rail tracks just to the west now carry DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) passengers, rather than freight cars carrying cotton. The repurposed buildings west of the tracks were home to an indoor skate park until recently. The lodge, owned and occupied by the Masons for nearly 100 years, boasts an impressive library and exhibits from early Plano and Masonic history in a first-floor museum.
Upstairs, the lodge members meet and plan their fraternal and charitable activities. The museum is open to the public Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1–4 pm. Photos from various eras reveal its changing exterior, but recently the view from its windows has been dramatically altered as well. Construction of Junction 15 Apartments and the demolition of McCall Plaza have created a very different skyline. A new stage for events is rising from the former site of a granite art installation, which was relocated to the grounds of Gladys Harrington Library.
SAIGLING HOUSE (The ArtCentre of Plano)
Before she tackled writing her Arcadia book, Janice Cline took it upon herself to research the 1907 brick two-story home located on the northwest corner of Haggard Park. Built by Charles F. Saigling, the house was one of the earliest brick homes in Plano with its furnace in the first basement in town. Charles’ wife, Celestine Saigling, donated land to expand Haggard Park and lived in the house until 1932. Janice documented the long history of the Saigling house in 2008 with the hope it would be preserved and restored.
Other resident owners included former Mayor Fred Miers and his wife Fannie Lee, first president of the Plano Garden Club, founded in 1947. The scrapbook presented by club members to Mrs. Miers at the end of her term included photos of the house as it appeared at the time. The garden club’s first project was to clean up Haggard Park, which was just beyond the Mier’s backyard. The house is now under renovation to become the new home of the ArtCentre and was purchased by the City of Plano to repurpose for public enjoyment.
Styles come and go, in architecture as in fashion. Awnings and windows change but historic downtown Plano thrives, inviting visitors back to a time and place when small town America was the norm. Our city may be all grown up, but it is uniquely rewarding to admire the past when we get to see it still standing.
Photos courtesy of the Genealogy Center of the Plano Public Library System
Historic Downtown Plano by Janice Cline
Janice Cline’s 2012 Arcadia book Historic Downtown Plano was, in her own words, a labor of love. Dedicated to her grandchildren, the publication under the Images of America series paid tribute to Plano’s early structures and history. Fond memories of early days in Plano for Janice included a trip to Weatherford’s Jewelers, which had a long-time presence in downtown and was the store where her wedding ring was purchased.
Arcadia has published several books about various aspects of Plano’s history, which can be found at local stores as well as online at arcadiapublishing.com. The format of the books relies heavily on photographs, with short histories and descriptions. In the chapter, “Mid-century Boom Leads to Preservation,” she describes, in detail, the buildings on Mechanic Street between the railroad tracks on the west to Main Street on the east. Those streets now are named 15th and Avenue K.