Texas Over Time: Waco’s Alico Building-Architecture and a Changing City

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of Meta Slider’s that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, street scenes, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Waco’s Alico Building

The 22-story ALICO Building, also known as the American-Amicable Life Insurance Company Building, was completed in 1911, and designed by architects Roy E. Lane and Sanguinet & Staats. When completed, it was the tallest office building in the southwestern United States. Additionally, its location at 5th and Austin Avenue was once part of the city’s central business district and the building was a vital part of the city’s economy. It even survived a catastrophic and deadly F5 tornado in 1953.

To remain economically viable, it needed to keep pace with the rapidly changing business climate of Waco in the 1960s. For example, structures such as Lake Air Mall were being developed in West Waco and others around Valley Mills Drive. Consequently, the city’s landmark ALICO Building received major exterior updates. The lower street-level façade and the recently constructed Alico Center and parking garage were all given a mid-century inspired design element. In 1964, Waco’s then mayor, Roger Conger, compared the groundbreaking to these facilities and modifications to “the historic groundbreaking for the Amicable building more than fifty years ago [1909].”

The closing down of a section of Austin Avenue to create the Austin Avenue Pedestrian Mall in the late 1960s also put the tall building and facilities at the front and center of one of the city’s many Urban Renewal Projects. However, this pedestrian mall project was short-lived and the street opened to traffic again in the mid-1980s. Adjoining structures with matching Alico Center façades were eventually pulled down. As a result, the building and its parking garage now stand as a lone reminder to this time when mid-century inspired architectural styling met a much older and traditionally designed skyscraper.

 

This Meta Slider shows the Alico Building in about 1926 and a recently taken image. Waco’s famous Old Corner Drug Store once occupied a portion of the building’s ground floor. The original design of the front and side facades are evident as well as the original design of the first few upper floors. Older image taken by Fred Gildersleeve (Waco Amicable Life Insurance Company records), The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and a recent picture by GH.

 

This Meta Slider shows a circa 1960 image by Windy Drum, (Waco Amicable Life Insurance Company records), The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and a recent picture taken by GH.

 

The structure’s upper floors remain virtually unchanged with the exception of the large red ALICO signs on both sides. On another side below the flag and above top windows, the letters A L I C O are placed. Recent photo taken by GH.

 

Research Ready: January 2019

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!Continue Reading

Texas Over Time: Waco Shakespeare Club Monument: “Immortal Be His Name”

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of Meta Slider’s that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, street scenes, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Waco Shakespeare Club Monument, Waco, TX

Along University-Parks Drive near the entrance to Waco’s Cameron Park Zoo lies an easily overlooked memorial that pays tribute to William Shakespeare (1564-1616), perhaps one of the most well-known and acclaimed writers in the English language. How and why is it there? In 1916, on the three hundredth anniversary of his death, the Waco Shakespere Club had it constructed and designed by Paul G. Silber, Sr. According to the Waco Shakespeare Club record’s at The Texas Collection, Baylor University, the organization began in the late 1890s at the Waco home of Kate Harrison Friend and her mother, Arimenta Harrison Friend, “conducting a private school guaranteeing their pupils thoroughness for higher grades.” Here, Kate Friend “…organized a class in the study of Shakespere for the single young ladies of the elite of Waco. Here so much profit and enjoyment was experienced, that on request, a class for young matrons was formed.” Thus officially forming the club in 1899.

Kate Friend also had the distinction of being internationally known as a Shakespeare scholar and authored several works on the subject. In 1900, she won a Shakespeare Association of America competition receiving a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom, Shakespeare’s place of birth. Waco’s Shakespeare memorial still stands as a reminder of the Englishman and “Miss Kate,” founder and director of the Waco Shakespeare Club, editor of Artesia, and animal rights advocate who loved his literary works and helped leave this lasting tribute to the betterment of her community.

Below are photos of just after the site’s construction in 1916, by E.C. Blomeyer, from the E.C. Blomeyer photographic collection #3880, and in 2019, by GH:

 

The memorial reads: “Shakspere! [SIC] Daign to lend thy face this romantic nook to grace where untaught nature sports alone since thou and nature are but one…1899-1916.” One side reads: “Immortal Be His Name, Waco Shakespeare Club, 1899-1916.” Photo by GH, 2018.
Women of the Waco Shakespere Club pose near Cameron Park in the 1920s. Waco Shakespeare Club records #745, Box 5, Folder 2.

 

The Founder and director of the Waco Shakespeare Club, Kate Harrison Friend, circa 1900, Kate Harrison Friend papers #202, Box 2 Folder 9

 

Close-up of memorial inscription, 2018, photo by GH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Ready: July 2018

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!Continue Reading

Texas over Time: Camp MacArthur

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

• Named after Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, the camp was opened July 18th, 1917, to train men demobilized from service on the Mexican border at the end of World War I. It was in service for less than three years when it was abandoned on May 15, 1919.
• As well as a demobilization facility, Camp MacArthur served as an officer’s training school and an infantry replacement training camp.
• Located in northwest Waco, local businessmen helped to create a 10,700-acre complex from cotton fields and blackland farms.
• The estimated cost was five million dollars and included a base hospital, administration offices, tent housing for troops, and other military personnel buildings.
• The first commander was Major General James Parker who formed the 32nd U.S. Infantry Division later known as “Les Terribles” for their “successful, tenacious attacks” on enemy troops in Langres, France.
• The camp’s capacity could occupy over 45,000 troops but never exceeded 28,000 troops at a time.
• After the establishment of Camp MacArthur, the large influx of soldiers helped stimulate Waco’s economy until the Great Depression. The military presence also heavily influenced Waco’s Cotton Palace Exposition with an exhibit of a “bullet-ridden German biplane.”

Works Cited
• Kelley, Dayton. “Camp MacArthur.” The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas. Waco, TX: Texian, 1972. 47. Print.
• Amanda Sawyer, “Camp MacArthur,” Waco History, accessed July 6, 2016, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/48.
• Stanton, John. “Camp MacArthur.” FortWiki. MediaWiki, 7 Feb. 2015. Web. 07 July 2016.
• Handbook of Texas Online, Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “Camp MacArthur,” accessed July 07, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qcc27.

See the still images in our Flickr set.

Research Ready: December 2016

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print materials. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

December’s finding aids
By Emily Carolin, Graduate Assistant, and Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

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Nan Allene Anderson’s photo album depicts life as a Baylor student pre-1910, such as this image of students working in the chemistry lab. (Nan Allene Anderson papers, 1906-1923, undated, Accession #2267, The Texas Collection, Baylor University).
  • Nan Allene Anderson papers, 1906-1923, undated (#2267): This collection includes a photo album that documents the Baylor University campus pre-1910, including photographs of sports, Burleson Quadrangle, and other images of campus and student life. Also included are two commencement addresses.
  • Emmanuel Henderson Civil War diary, 1862 (#3964): This collections contains documentation of a Confederate soldier through a small leather bound journal. Henderson served as a private in the 14th Texas Calvary in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
  • Helton family papers, 1866-1998 (#4004): The Helton family collection contains correspondence, items from World War I, and other materials about the family as they lived near Clifton, Texas and as various family members went off to war.
  • Thomas Mitchell Bartley Jr. photo album, circa 1920s (#3914): This photo album shows the voyage of Thomas Mitchell Bartley Jr., who sailed the western Pacific Ocean in 1929. He was a crew member on a cargo vessel and took pictures in the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal.
  • J.L. Walker papers, 1861-1949 (#4): The J.L. Walker papers provide a glimpse into the life of a Texas Baptist preacher, who was deeply interested in religious and secular history. Walker wrote extensively and the collection contains many of his writings on Texas history, Baptist history, and sermons. The collection is especially useful for researchers looking for background information on R.C. Buckner and the Waco Regional Baptist Association.
  • Emma Louise McDonald Harrison papers, 1947-1990 (#1607): Emma Louise McDonald Harrison was a local Waco woman and the first African American woman to serve on the Waco Independent School District. She was well-known in the community for her contributions to organizations concerned with civic improvement, education, health, medicine, and youth. Her collection includes photographs, clippings, correspondence, and other collected materials.
  • Lawrence Westbrook papers, 1933-1971 (#331): The Lawrence Westbrook papers provide a picture of life as a Works Progress and New Deal administrator during the 1930s and 1940s. His papers hold literary productions, most notably Westbrook’s The Boondogglers, which reflects on his work and the work of other members of the Works Progress Administration.

December’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

westAyer, I. Winslow. Life in the Wilds of America: and Wonders of the West in and beyond the Bounds of Civilization. Grand Rapids: The Central Publishing Company, 1880. Print.

In 1880, the American West was still a largely mysterious place. Ayer believed that Americans, many of whom travel abroad and have extensive knowledge of other countries, should have knowledge about the West. This volume, which also serves as a travel guide, describes many areas of the frontier. Click here to view in BearCat!

 

 

 

Jackson, foundationAndrew Webster. A Sure Foundation. Houston: [1940]. Print.

This expansive 644-page volume contains biographical sketches and photos of African-American Texans. The author’s intent was that the people highlighted would “serve as an inspiration” for readers because he believed that studying the successful lives of others could help build a solid foundation for one’s life. Click here to view in BearCat!

nativeDunn, James Erle. Indian Territory: a Pre Commonwealth. Commonwealth Publishing Company, 1904. Print.

Published three years before Oklahoma became a state, this volume provides a brief history of the Five Civilized Tribes and also provides information about the resources, government, schools, customs, etc. of the Indian Territory. Also included are a number of images of Native Americans, including Quanah Parker, as well as photos of buildings, homes, and farm lands. Click here to view in BearCat!

Research Ready: September 2016

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

September’s finding aids
By Emily Carolin, Graduate Assistant, and Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Brazos Queen in front of The Brazos Landing Restaurant, Waco, TX
The Brazos Queen is seen parking in front of The Brazos Landing Restaurant on the Brazos River, Waco, Texas. While the Brazos Queen is no longer in service, this establishment is now Buzzard Billy’s. Myron Wood’s photography is very artistic and the contrast in this image makes it quite striking. Myron Wood photographic collection, #3873, Box 1, Folder 13.

  • Myron Wood photographic collection, 1979-1981 (#3873): Have you ever wondered what Waco looked like decades prior? The Myron Wood photographic collections contains photographs of Waco, mainly downtown, and smaller towns in and around McLennan County.
  • Jewish Federation of Waco and Central Texas, 1927-2006 (#2894): The Jewish Federation of Waco and Central Texas collection documents this organization’s extensive good works, including assistance to Jewish families immigrating to Central Texas, support to the Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem, emergency relief in Ukraine, and assistance to Israeli soldiers. Materials include minutes, financial ledgers, and administrative files.
  • Esther and Martha Leuschner papers, 1912-1987 (#2593): Documents the lives of two sisters: one a mathematics teacher at Waco High School, and the other sister, an employee in Baylor’s registrar’s office.  The correspondence, photographs, clippings, and collected materials provide insight into the lives of the Leuschner sisters, who were well-remembered for opening their home to Baylor students for recreation and entertainment.
  • Nina B. Glass papers, 1935-1965 (#1322): Materials include correspondence, programs, and notes about the personal and educational activities of a female pioneer in Texas education. Glass is credited with the founding of the first elementary school library in the United States.

September’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

  Weslaco: End of the Rainbow. Weslaco: Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, 1927. Print.

Weslaco: End of the Rainbow. Weslaco: Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, 1927. Print

This beautiful promotional highlights Weslaco, located in the Rio Grande Valley. Filled with photographs showing the richness of agriculture, from citrus fruits to cabbage, Weslaco: End of the Rainbow, also provides information about the dairy industry, water, and sporting opportunities. Click here to view in BearCat!

 

Montgomery, Cora. TexasMontgomery, Cora. Texas and Her Presidents. New York: E. Winchester, New World Press, 1845. Print. and Her Presidents. New York: E. Winchester, New World Press, 1845. Print.

Located at only eight libraries in the world, this exceedingly rare 1845 volume highlights President Mirabeau B. Lamar and President Sam Houston. Also included is an extensive account of several other leaders of the Republic of Texas. Click here to view in BearCat!
Wyatt, Kenneth. The Texicans. Amarillo: Trafton & Autry Printers, 1988. Print.
Wyatt, Kenneth. The Texicans. Amarillo: Trafton & Autry Printers, 1988. Print.

Bound in steerhide and leather, this oversized volume, containing 50 color plates, features Texas-centric artwork by renowned artist Kenneth Wyatt. Click here to view in BearCat!

From Belgium to “Rough-and-Tumble Waco”: The Academy of the Sacred Heart and The Sisters of St. Mary of Namur

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX, 1946
An exterior view of the Academy of the Sacred Heart at Washington and Eighth Streets in Waco, Texas. The buildings show the magnificent architecture worthy of such an institution. Photo by Fred Marlar on March 15, 1946.

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

On the corner of Eighth and Washington in Waco, Texas, once stood a Catholic school and convent that taught thousands of students during its years of operation from 1874-1946. This institution was the Academy of the Sacred Heart. It was given this name because the property it stood on was purchased June 12, 1874—the day of the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX, 1946, classroom (7)
Inside one of the classrooms of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX. Photo taken by Fred Marlar on April 4, 1946.

The academy had its origins in Namur, Belgium, through the Institute of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. The Cistercian Father Nicholas Joseph Minsart was one of the founders, and after his death, he elected Sister Claire (originally Rosalie Niset) to preside over the community in Belgium. In 1863, the now Mother Claire encouraged a group of Sisters of St. Mary of Namur to come to the United States to assist Catholic immigrant communities.

The Sisters of St. Mary set up their first house in Lockport, New York. Then, in 1873, at the request of Bishop Claude-Marie Dubuis of the Diocese of Galveston, a group of the Sisters were sent to Waco from New York, to start a house and establish a school. This would soon become the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX, 1946, classroom (8)
Inside one of the classrooms of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX. Photo taken by Fred Marlar on March 15, 1946.

On October 1, 1873, the school opened in a facility at Sixth and Washington Avenue. The first Sisters of St. Mary to begin instructing at the Waco academy were Mother Emelie, Sister Mary Angela, and Sister Stanislaus. Only three students attended that opening day.

Although it had a humble beginning, Dr. Carlos E. Castañeda states in Our Catholic Heritage in Texas that: “The Academy of the Sacred Heart…proved to be a most fruitful mission in Central Texas. Not only did it become a large and flourishing institution, but it led in rapid succession to the establishment of eight more schools in the State…” (The Sisters went on to establish several schools in various cities in north and central Texas.)

The mission initially was devoted to the education of girls, but the Waco academy made exceptions. It was a day school with grades one through twelve. Boys were allowed to attend until the eighth, and ninth through twelfth were reserved for young women. Only girls were allowed boarding privileges.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX, 1946, classroom (1)
Inside one of the classrooms of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Waco, TX. Photo taken by Fred Marlar on April 12, 1946.

Students from non-Catholic denominations were welcome, too. The 1876 Waco city directory describes it as follows: “…Its course of study is complete and comprehensive, and among its patrons and pupils are the representatives of the various denominations of the city and county. Its conduct and discipline are free from sectarianism…”

But by 1946, student enrolled had dwindled. Only six boarded that year, and this would be the last year of operation for the academy. On May 24 of that year, The Waco News-Tribune reported that “With the singing of the class song by 11 graduating seniors, Sacred Heart Academy…ended… an existence which began in 1873.” After more than 70 years, so ended a chapter in the ministry of a group of Sisters who came from New York “to open a school for young ladies in a rough-and-tumble Waco celebrated for its gun fights.” The photos that accompany this blog post were taken by Waco photographer Fred Marlar in 1946, so they likely knew these would be the final photos of the school in action.

After the academy’s closing, the building and site were sold and slated for demolition. This didn’t happen until July 1951, “when the last brick was carried away.” Consequently, the area at Eighth and Washington, where the academy once stood for decades, was brought down to be turned into a parking lot.

However, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur are still strong to this day. The order has spread throughout the U.S. and other countries during the 20th century, and still remains strong in the 21st. A recent quote from the Sisters states that: “Our early calling to Christian formation continues at the heart of our ministry.”

This “early calling” that brought them here to Waco in 1873, with their roots in Belgium, led to their passion to influence many in their mission work in faraway lands—even in a “rough-and-tumble Waco” of the 1870s.

Click the image below to see more photos in our Academy of the Sacred Heart album on Flickr:

The Academy of the Sacred Heart Catholic School, Waco, TX

Sources:

Begnaud, Sister St. John, A Little Good: The Sisters of St. Mary in Texas (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, 2011).

“Being Razed” The Waco News-Tribune, May 26, 1951.

Castañeda, Carlos E., Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1836-1936, The Modern Period, Vol. VII (Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., Austin, TX, 1958).

Kelley, Dayton, editor, The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas (Texian Press, Waco, TX, 1972).

“Sacred Heart Is Closed Up after 73 Years in City” The Waco News-Tribune, May 24, 1946.

“Sisters of St. Mary of Namur,” https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ixs05/, Accessed 27 April 2016.

Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Eastern Province, USA, http://www.ssmn.us/ourstory.html, Accessed 28 April 2016.

Waco, & McLennan County, Texas, 1876, Reprint-First City Directory of Waco (Waco, Texas: Texian Press, 1966).

Documenting Women’s Service: The Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood in Waco

Rodef Sholom Sisterhood yearbooks, 1951-1952, 1972-1973
Each year, the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood published yearbooks that included officer and member lists, event calendars and activities completed that year. Their records at the Texas Collection include yearbooks from the 1950s-1990s. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, Accession #3159, Box 1, Folder 10 and Box 3, Folder 2.

By Casey Schumacher, Texas Collection graduate assistant and museum studies graduate student

Did you know that The Texas Collection has more than 20 collections documenting the Central Texas Jewish community? We recently completed processing of the Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, and in honor of Women’s History Month, we thought we would spotlight this organization that has played a major role in the growth of McLennan County’s oldest and largest Jewish congregation.

Waco Rodef Sholom Sisterhood ledger, 1960
The most thorough records in the collection are meeting minutes and ledgers. The Sisterhood kept excellent financial records, which demonstrates their ongoing commitment to financially support the activities of their congregation and its Religious School. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, #3159, Box 1, Folder 12.

As early as the 1850s, Jewish settlers came to the Waco area but had no organized congregation to celebrate festivals, holy days or worship services. After the International Order of B’nai B’rith established Eureka Lodge No. 198 in 1873, forty families in the Waco area formed the Rodef Sholom congregation and began raising funds for the construction of a synagogue. Usually, when we think of early leaders of Temple Rodef Sholom, we think of Sam Sanger, Isaac A. Goldstein and Louey Migel. However, construction of the synagogue was a congregational effort, and the Jewish women of Waco certainly played their part.

In 1879, the Rodef Sholom Ladies’ Hebrew Society (LHS) decided to host a ball to raise funds for the new synagogue. The ball was a great success and thanks in part to the LHS, the first synagogue was dedicated in 1881. The LHS was not finished with their work, however. They continued to support the growth of the congregation and raise money for congregational events. In 1922, the women of the LHS joined the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and changed their name to the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood.

The construction of the first temple clearly demonstrates how women played an important role in the early history of Rodef Sholom. The Temple has constructed two other synagogues since the LHS held their ball, and the women of the temple have been consistently involved. Today, the Sisterhood’s primary mission lies in organizing cultural programs for the congregation and supporting the temple’s Religious School. Obviously, the commitment of Rodef Sholom women has not wavered over the years.

Waco Rodef Sholom Sisterhood art exhibition and auction flyer, 1974
Carrying on the mission of the original founders, the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood continues to host community events, including bake sales, freezer sales and cultural programs. This flyer for an art exhibition and auction is one of many advertisements produced by the Sisterhood. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, #3159, Box 3, Folder 4.
Female leadership at Rodef Sholom reached new heights in 2012 when Laura Schwartz Harari became the temple’s first female rabbi. In addition to a distinguished career in education, Rabbi Harari serves as the President of the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference and is a regular instructor for Baylor University’s Lifelong Learning Program.

The Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records at The Texas Collection consist primarily of the Sisterhood’s membership, financial and publicity records from 1960-1990, although there are records from as early as 1919 and as late as 2005.

From General Tire to the BRIC: The Demise and Rebirth of a Waco Manufacturing Facility

General Tire & Rubber Company's Waco, TX, c. 1950
General Tire & Rubber Company’s Waco, TX, main building, with manufacturing spaces behind it, late 1940s or early 1950s. The Waco plant was dedicated on November 13, 1944, and was built in conjunction with the Defense Plant Corporation for wartime production. The first tires constructed there were for the U.S. Army and Navy. Thomas E. Turner, Sr. papers #2200, box 12, folder 5.

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

General Tire & Rubber Co. came to Waco in late 1944, the company’s second plant after its Akron, Ohio, headquarters. The plant was originally constructed to supply equipment for the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, and by January 1945, production began. According to William O’Neal, General Tire’s president, the new Waco location (off Business 77, near Orchard Lane) was established on acknowledging that “the war has dissipated the old idea that all manufacturing had to be done in the north, that the south could hope to be no more than an agricultural area.” O’Neal was guided in his decision to bring the company to this area by Congressman W.R. Poage of Texas.

General Tire and Rubber, Co., Waco, TX, 1960s
This image shows the main front of the General Tire and Rubber Plant, Waco, TX, mid- to late-1960s. General photo files: Waco–Businesses–Tire And Rubber Companies–General Tire And Rubber Company.

Products coming out of the Waco plant included truck tires for the U.S. Army and Navy, and other rubber-based equipment such as rafts and specialized balloons for wartime use. After the war, once it acquired nearly full control from the U.S. government, the Waco plant began switching from military production to consumer and industrial based products. In November 1945, the first passenger car tire was built and soon after, 2,500 were made daily. By 1954, the plant doubled in size, and 6,000 passenger car, truck, tractor, and farm service tires were being built daily.

General Tire and Rubber, Co., Waco, TX, 1951
When photographer Fred Marlar took this image in 1951, General Tire & Rubber Company’s Waco facility was making more than 1.6 million tires a year. Company managers are shown here inspecting one of their famous bias-ply truck tires on the assembly line. General photo files: Waco–Businesses–Tire And Rubber Companies–General Tire And Rubber Company.

A very large surge in tire production occurred in 1955 when the company received a contract to make original equipment tires. Cars made by General Motors rolled off of the automaker’s assembly lines equipped with tires made in Waco. At the time, some models of General’s tires included the innovative tubeless design called the “Dual 90.” Other domestic automakers used Waco-built General products, and the plant ended up making millions of tires that rolled on American roads—and beyond.

By 1957, due to demand, the Waco plant completed a 40 percent expansion in production capacity. By 1984, after many years of continued success, the size of the plant had grown enormously, with building space covering “49 acres under roof on 139 acres of land.” (In 1944, the original area covered “233,000 square feet of manufacturing space.”)

When the facility in Waco celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1984, reference was made for the next 40-year celebration, but this was not to be. In November 1985, General Tire & Rubber Co. announced the closure of its Waco, Texas, plant, which had a staff of more than 1,400 personnel, an annual payroll of $42 million, and was responsible for $18 million monthly in expenditures into the the area’s economy.

After news of the closure, the number without jobs amounted to nearly 10% of Waco’s manufacturing work force. Following the news, an editorial in the Waco Tribune-Herald stated: “The announced closing of Waco’s General Tire plant leaves a cavernous void in Waco’s economy. It could be compared only to Baylor University pulling up stakes.” The last employees to leave the plant were 130 workers who remained at the General Tire & Rubber mixing facility, making bulk rubber to supply other General plans, until December 1990.

The Waco General Tire & Rubber Co. plant gave livelihoods for thousands of men and women throughout its 41 years in operation. However, sudden and drastic changes in the automobile industry, inability to adapt or replace machinery to keep up with changing tire designs and demands, and competition from imports, all contributed to the demise of what was once Waco’s largest manufacturing facility.

Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), Waco, TX, General Tire & Rubber Company (2)
Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), Waco, TX, General Tire & Rubber Company. Photo by Geoff Hunt for The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

The old General Tire plant in Waco remained mainly in disuse for many years, but the empty facility still had enormous potential. The company’s main building was heavily renovated in 2010 for use by the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). It now uses more than 300,000 square feet of the facility. Baylor University, Texas State Technical College, and leading industries utilize this space for advanced research in engineering, air science, quantum optics, and more. Students are able to experience some of the latest innovations in these fields and get hands-on experience in their fields of study—helping Waco continue to innovate and train a new generation well into the future.

See more photos in our General Tire & Rubber Co. album on Flickr:

General Tire & Rubber Co., Waco, TX

Sources:

“Industrial and Agricultural Development.” Annual Report Edition- WACO- The Hub of Texas: Official Publication of Waco Chamber of Commerce Waco, Texas (Waco, TX) Jan. 1944.

“Colorful Ceremony to Mark Dedication Of General Tire Plant Here On November 13th.” WACO-The Hub of Texas: Official Publication of Waco Chamber of Commerce Waco, Texas (Waco, TX) Oct. 1944.

“General Tire Officials, Newspapermen See Texas’ First Tire Plant Dedicated In Waco.” WACO- The Hub of Texas: Official Publication of Waco Chamber of Commerce Waco, Texas (Waco, TX) Nov. 1944.

”General Tire Plant Here Grew Out of War Needs” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Oct. 31, 1948.

“Rubber Plant Employment Five Times 1944 Strength.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Jan. 20, 1954.

“General Tire Completing 40 Percent Expansion, in Waco.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Feb. 10, 1957.

“Poage Recalls Beginning for General Tire Here.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Apr. 9, 1972.

“General Tire Celebrates 40 Proud Years in Waco.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Oct. 14, 1984.

“General Tire Latest in Series of Shutdowns.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Nov. 6, 1985.

“Waco’s Economy Suffers Blowout.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Nov. 6, 1985.

“Tire Plant to Close Division: Monday Last Day for 130 Employees.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Dec. 31, 1990.

“Tire Company was Force in Local Economy for Decades.” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), Oct. 23, 2009.