contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

810 South Fourth Street
Waco, TX 76706

(254) 753-5166

A foundation that preserves and showcases four historic house museums and hosts multiple educational opportunities throughout the year.


Lover's Leap

Historic Waco

Romantic tragedies like Romeo & Juliet can cause heart throb, no doubt, but we all know death as a result of unrequited love is better left in fairytales. In fact, our very own Lover's Leap in Cameron Park is probably the result of an Victorian American creation of a Native American love story. 

photo courtesy of Texas Escapes

photo courtesy of Texas Escapes

photo courtesy of Texas Escapes

photo courtesy of Texas Escapes

There are a handful of lookout spots named "Lover's Leap," but perhaps the most well-known is the one in Cameron Park. The stories surrounding each Lover's Leap location vary slightly, but they typically revolve around the suicide of at least one person in a couple facing a tragedy. One early version of the legend of Lover's Leap in Cameron Park told by Lamar West in 1912 says, "quick Wah-Wah-Tee and her lover, in the last embrace of love and death, sprang from the cliff into the maddened waves below, since which dreadful night it has been known as Lovers Leap."

Why are Native Americans the focus of this tragedy? Probably because Victorian Wacoans sought romanticized stories about their Native American predecessors, the Waco tribe. Many postcards and Chamber of Commerce brochures featured the legend, insinuating that it was something of a marketing scheme for Victorian Waco. 

Writer Ellis Harper Butler recalls his day putting together brochures for small towns in this excerpt from Harper's Monthly: 

"Lover's Leap was a good card, always," Butler writes. "There was always an Indian legend, and always the same one. If there was no legend we wrote one, and it was again always the same one. It was always safe to ask where Lover's Leap was when we struck a town, because there always was one if there was a side hill ten feet high. And it was always the same Indian lover and his dusky sweetheart and her cruel father that took part in the ancient tragedy."

In one Waco Tribune-Herald article, writer J.B. Smith explains that our local legend is echoed in the sentiments of some of Mark Twain's writing. "A man tells him of how the doomed Indian maiden, named Winona, jumps off a high cliff, while her disapproving parents stand below. She lands on them and crushes them to death but walks away and later marries her love. Twain praises this version as a 'distinct improvement upon the threadbare form of Indian legend.'"

In many ways, this perpetuated tall tale echoes many of the themes we all love about Shakespeare's tragedy: we are all aware of its fictitious nature, but there's something to be said for young love so pure it cannot be separated in death. 

Sources: Waco History Project, Texas Escapes, the Texas Collection Blog

King Cotton

Historic Waco

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

In April 1894, Waco was described by E.G. Senter, Managing Editor of the Fort Worth Gazette: "Waco has finally waked up. It has entered the Texas hurdle, not for second or third place but for first money and it is as confident of winning as a young Kentucky thoroughbred." This praise was earned primarily as a result of the economic boom that cotton brought. 

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Waco was an agricultural community long before the white settlers of McLennan County arrived, as the Waco Indians farmed a handful of different crops in the area, but the "white gold" really brought a new meaning to success for Waco. Cotton was farmed pretty immediately after white settlers moved to the area, although they were initially hesitant of the black, alluvial soil. Once farmers realized its nutrient-dense properties, they sought to implement the Southern plantation economy in Waco. That economic style didn't flourish as well here, due to the restrictions put on the number of slaves per farm prior to the Civil War, and there was no easy way to transport cotton once it was harvested. During the Civil War, production slowed, too, because most Wacoans left to fight for secession. 

The post-Civil War era really brought the industrialization of Waco. With the coming of the railroad and the construction of the Suspension Bridge, people and goods were moving much more quickly than they had before. Cotton created a hierarchy among workers, since there was only a certain amount of land that was able to be farmed, and owners of that land turned to sharecropping to succeed. The conditions of workers were probably still very poor, though, leaving the bottom of the hierarchy a very undesirable place. Overall, by 1894 Waco really lived up to the standard Senter described.

Waco is the largest interior cotton market in Texas, and probably in the South. Over 40,000 bales were hauled into the city by wagon and about 80,000 received by rail from small towns having no compresses. In all, about 120,000 bales of cotton were marketed from Waco in 1893. From reliable sources, we learn that the average price was 7 1/4 cents and that the average weight per bale was about 475 pounds. When we consider that most of this cotton was raise din McLennan and adjacent counties, the productive quality of the lands surrounding waco can be readily appreciated. The crop of 1893 was a little short, and the price below average, yet the large amount of money distributed here for staple prevented the people form suffering from the panic of last year.
— Cutters Guide to the City of Waco, Texas, published 1894

At the same time, annual fairs were on the rise, so the founders of The Cotton Palace looked to precedents like the "Corn Palace" in Omaha, Nebraska. Early in 1894, a board of directors was elected, and money was raised for the first annual Cotton Palace. The first Cotton Palace Exposition opened on November 8, 1894 and ran for about a month, and thousands of visitors attended. There were elaborate cotton decorations, a frieze inside the wall of the Coliseum depicting chariot races from Ben Hur, an eagle with a twenty-foot wing span crafted from red and yellow corn, and the stage curtain painted by a local artist depicting plantation life in the South. The Exposition featured demonstrations, fortune tellers, rides, and refreshments, and the first King and Queen of Cotton were crowned. Overall, it was considered a tremendous success. The plan was for the event to run annually, but in January 1895, the Cotton Palace building caught fire. 

Several years passed, and it wasn't until 1910 that the Cotton Palace Association purchased the plot of land behind Padgitt Park, giving the fair grounds about twelve acres. The Cotton Palace Exhibition of 1910 opened on November 5 and ran until November 20. The exhibition featured a parade, addresses from the President of the Cotton Palace, Mr. Albert T. Clifton and keynote speaker, Senator Joseph Weldon Bailey, as well as "the Indian Ball," considered a prime social event, a flower carnival, and various exhibits. 98,000 people attended the Cotton Palace Exhibition of 1910, and it gave momentum for 20 years of Cotton Palace Exhibitions. 

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Waco was nicknamed King Cotton for its fortuitous cotton, and the crop really did rule a lot of life in Waco. Bankers gave loans against cotton crops, socialites attended events celebrating cotton, and everyone from plantation owners to enslaved workers survived based on cotton. In 1930, cotton prices fell as a result of the Depression, and the Cotton Palace Exhibition no longer took place every year, but a lot of what we prize as Waco's history today revolves around the "white gold" that put it on the map.


Sources: Barnes, Lavona Jenkins. The Texas Cotton Palace: Waco, Texas, Heritage Society of Waco, 1964.; Ames, Eric S,. Images of America: Waco, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.; Waco Tribune-Herald; Waco History



Historic Waco

The ALICO building is iconic for its towering height in the center of downtown Waco, but did you know Waco life revolved around its location even before our beloved skyscraper was constructed? 

Photo Courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Photo Courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Hundreds of years ago, a small pond filled the spot at the foundation of the ALICO. It was a watering hole for buffalo, which led local Native Americans to hunt on the site. Long-time Waco resident "Aunt Sophie" Bereal, who turned 90 the year the ALICO was constructed, had childhood memories of fishing at the pond. When building started, and the construction crew began digging the foundation, and instead of finding bedrock, they hit a "subterranean lake." Designers used this natural feature to their advantage and crafted an underground well system, which allowed the ALICO to subsist on its own water-source for many years. 

During the construction, the ALICO was something of a spectacle for locals, and photographer Fred Gildersleeve captured scenes of people gathering downtown for the entertainment. The story goes that people in McGregor were even watching the skyscraper with binoculars from their homes over 20 miles away! 

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

After it was built, the elegantly designed building was informally labeled the place to be by Wacoans and Texans from surrounding towns. Although the building was constructed by the Amicable Life Insurance Company, funded by Artemas Roberts and designed by architect Roy E. Lane, its beauty and modern features made it a coveted office space by all of Waco. The Old Corner Drugstore, home of the original Dr. Pepper, moved into the ALICO at one point, and there was an on-site beauty and barber shop for several years as well. Other professionals whose offices inhabited the ALICO include dentists, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and accountants. 

It's no wonder that the space was so coveted, as it was outfitted with elevators with bronze details, polished granite columns, and Italian marble staircases. The office spaces were given electricity in the form of chandeliers and other outlets, porcelain water fountains, and the hallways held gas lamps. No detail went unnoticed from the eye of Roberts or Lane, and they kept extensive notes throughout the process. 

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection Baylor University

The ALICO's builders were doing the building more favors than they knew by digging down over 40-feet when constructing the foundation. On May 11, 1953, when the tornado took a turn through town, the ALICO was left mostly unharmed, while buildings directly across the street were demolished. Thanks to its location, steel infrastructure, and strong foundation, the ALICO has survived for 107 years! 

Even today, the ALICO stands as something of a central figure for all of downtown life. The Waco Downtown Farmer's Market takes place in the shade of the ALICO every Saturday, a smattering of coffee shops and restaurants are within walking distance, and Historic Waco is just a stone's throw away! 

Sources: The story of the ALICO building: 100 years, 22 stories and 1 towering egoTexas Escapes, Waco History Project

Meet Our Curator

Historic Waco

In case you missed it, Jenni Opalinski, curator for Historic Waco Foundation, was featured in the Waco Tribune-Herald last month! She came to the Historic Waco Foundation from Midland's Museum of the Southwest, where she was the exhibitions and collections manager and registrar for seven years. She has a passion for history, the stories of the historic homes of Waco, and making those stories accessible to the community. We sat down with Jenni to go a little deeper into her job and are excited to share it! 

What excites you most about being curator for HWF?

The most exciting thing about being curator for the Historic Waco Foundation is the opportunity to share my love of history with the community. History Museums can sometimes be portrayed as old, stuffy, antiquated and not relevant to events occurring today. I feel that it is my job to help make history more approachable and easily presented. With technology and all that is available on the internet, museums have a unique challenge to be relatable to the younger generations and to ensure the information being presented is as true as possible. I enjoy sifting through research, confirming sources (both on the internet and in print) and re-crafting the information for visitors. What I love most about historic houses and sites - is when you stand where history happened - it comes alive!

What is something most people don't know about your job? 

I think most people have a stereotypical picture of a curator's role in a museum, and that is nowhere near what I do on a daily basis. My specialty is collections management and museum standards. To the layperson this means proper storage and archival materials, detailed record-keeping and paperwork about the objects in the permanent collection. My goal is to take care of these artifacts so they will be around for the next generation.

If you could live in any era of history, what would it be and why? 

I feel honored to live in the current time frame because of all the modern conveniences - running water, internet, world-wide travel, telephone & stability - however, I would love to be able to travel to different historical eras and cultures. Tudor England has always held a fascination for me. I love the dresses, the chivalry, the drama! - but I would not want to live there permanently with all the backstabbing, threats and lack of adequate medicine. Visiting the Great Wall of China in person made me want to see the wall being used as a fortress. If only I could travel back to ancient Macedonia and follow Alexander the Great on one of his campaigns. Possibly to even visit Cleopatra and aid in her pursuit of Marc Anthony (pre-snake of course!). In doing research about the families that lived in the houses - I would love to come to Waco during their lives, meet them and discuss their motivations and passions. As a historian - picking one era of history is like a mother picking a favorite child - it can't be done!

Can you give any hints about the exhibit you're working on now? 

I spent several hours yesterday researching a few things for the upcoming exhibition. This research included a 19th century game, pier mirrors and the history of pocket doors. How's that for a teaser?!

Independence Day in American History

Historic Waco

Did you know that John Adams insisted July 2nd was actually Independence Day? 

The vote for American Independence took place on the 2nd, so he sent word to his wife that July 2 "will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great Anniversary Festival," and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” 


How was July 4th actually celebrated? 

On July 4th, 1776, colonists held "funerals" for King George III, celebrating with parades, concerts, and bonfires. George Washington doubled his soldiers' rum rations on July 4, 1778, and a few years later, Massachusetts was the first state to declare it a holiday. It wasn't until 1870, however, that the U.S. government made the 4th of July an official national holiday, and 1941 was the first year the government offered a paid holiday to all federal employees. Many celebration traditions remain unchanged since the Civil War, though. Music, parades, baseball games, watermelon eating, greased pig chasing, military drills, and orations of the Declaration of Independence mark some post-Civil War era festivities. 


So what about fireworks? 

Many historians believe we have China to thank for the marvelous display of pyrotechnics! By the Renaissance, fireworks had made their way to Europe, most prominently displayed in Italy. European rulers also used fireworks to commemorate important events. John Adams' letter to his wife might even predict the use of fireworks across the nation with his prediction of "Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other." What part of the nation are you illuminating this July 4th? 

Connect with us on social media to let us know! 


Thanks to: for quotes and picture

Peaches Two Ways

Historic Waco

Happy Summer Solstice! Nothing says summer in Texas like farm fresh peaches! If you have the opportunity to wait until Saturday for the Waco Downtown Farmer's Market to buy your peaches, I highly recommend it! 


Historic Waco's bookstore houses Waco Cotton Palace Cookbook - A Legacy of Gracious Dining, which is where the first recipe comes from. It's a Southern Peach Pie, and it's a match made in heaven with a scoop of homemade vanilla! 

Southern Peach Pie

Pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie

4 cups fresh peeled and sliced peaches

3/4 cup sugar

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Make pastry for a double crust pie. Place sliced peaches in a mixing bowl. Blend the sugar and flour. Add to peaches. Put the peach mixture in a pastry lined pie plate. Mix the lemon juice and almond extract together and pour over the peaches. Dot with cubes of butter. Add top crust and seal edges, then make 4 or 5 slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 425°F for 40 to 50 minutes. Serve cold or slightly warm. 

If you are a traditionalist, a good ole' Southern Peach Pie might satisfy your peach craving, but if not, you may want to mix it up with our second peach recipe: peach crisp! It's great for dessert or breakfast, over Greek yogurt or with ice cream! 

Peach Crisp

4 cups peaches* (or any other fruit - fresh or frozen)

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup nuts, chopped

1/2 cup almond meal

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together oats, nuts, almond meal, syrup, and salt with a fork. 

Pour peaches into an 8 x 8 pan, and then layer the topping over it. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or up to 10 minutes longer if topping and peaches are frozen, until fruit is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden. 

Recipe courtesy of: Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist - She uses blueberries in her crisp recipe, but the alteration with peaches is just as yummy! In her book, Shauna Niequist focuses on stories and connections, and while they're not historically based, we find her discussions about people and life, centered around food, to resonate with us.

Tag Historic Waco in your peach recipe pictures on Instagram and Facebook to let us know how they turn out! 

Celebrate the Fall Equinox with Some Pumpkin

Historic Waco

pumpkin ice cream pie.jpg

Today marks the fall equinox or the official start of autumn. You can now legally drink your pumpkin spice latte with abandon. Americans have long had a love affair with the orange squash. One of the first pumpkin recipes was printed in the early 1670s. The recipe was similar to today’s mashed sweet potatoes. Diced pumpkin was cooked in a pot for a day and then mashed with butter and spices. Colonial women continued to find new ways to prepare pumpkin when in the 1800s sweet pumpkin dishes began to appear.

“Kitchen Delights from Then and Now,” a collection of recipes that was published by Historic Waco Foundation in 2001, contains a number of pumpkin recipes, including this one for pumpkin ice cream pie.


½ gallon vanilla ice cream

1 16oz. can of pumpkin

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups crushed gingersnaps

Soften ice cream. Mix pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix with ice cream. Line pan with crushed gingersnaps and top with ice cream mixture. Garnish with more crumbs and freeze. Add a dollop of whipped cream before eating.

The Hollywood Glamour of the 1930s can be Seen in Today's Evening Wear

Historic Waco

September means fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan. This is the time of year when designers release their new looks for the upcoming season, in this case spring 2018. But very little in fashion design is truly innovative. Looks are borrowed from past decades. For example, look at the evening dresses worn at most formal affairs and you will notice that swooping backless dresses are very much in vogue. What might surprise you is that the backless look was all the rage in the 1930s.

This 1931 Chanel gown, which was worn by Gloria Swanson, would not be out of place at a formal event today. (photo from Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle).

This 1931 Chanel gown, which was worn by Gloria Swanson, would not be out of place at a formal event today. (photo from Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle).

After flapper look of the 1920s, which celebrated a straight, boyish figure, the clothing styles of the 30s once again were designed for curves. Although Paris designers, such as Chanel, still wielded great influence in U.S. design, the fabulous fashions of Hollywood and such stars as Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers and Carole Lombard were even more instrumental in determining the styles of the decade. The backless gown became a signature of the era.

The start of World War II saw another change in women's fashion, including innovative designs from American fashion houses and rationing which reduced the amount of clothes purchased. 

Football Season is Here! How well do you know the history of the game?

Historic Waco

Football season is here! We love this time of year, especially cheering for our favorite college teams. But do you know much about the history of American football? I consulted to find these tidbits about the game. 

Throwing the football first occurred in 1895 and the forward pass was formally adopted as a legal play in 1906.

In 1905, more than 432 U.S. cities had some form of an American football team.

The halftime show emerged in 1907 in Champaign, Illinois.

In 1909, a touchdown worth 6 points and a field goal worth 3 points was adopted.

Some 350 schools suspended football entirely for the duration of World War II. These included Harvard, Princeton, Oregon, Stanford, Florida, and Mississippi State.

Jack Lummus, who played for Baylor, received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for valor during WWII. Photo courtesy of TSHA.

Jack Lummus, who played for Baylor, received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for valor during WWII. Photo courtesy of TSHA.

Twenty-three NFL players would lose their lives during World War II. Two professional football players—Maurice Britt and Jack Lummus (of Baylor)—both earned the Medal of Honor.

John Hill Westbrook was first African American student to play varsity football in the Southwest Conference when he entered the fourth quarter during the Baylor vs. Syracuse game on September 10, 1966.

Alabama has won the most national championships since 1935, with 10. Notre Dame is second with 8.

Baylor's Bob Darden to Discuss Black Gospel Music at Fall Lecture Aug. 24

Historic Waco

Baylor’s Bob Darden is renowned throughout the U.S. for his work on the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. A digital collection of the genre, which can be found at Baylor’s Moody Library, was part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Bob will share his expertise on this fascinating topic at “Music That Matters: The Enduring Power of Freedom Songs,” at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum. The free lecture is hosted by the Historic Waco Foundation.

“Black gospel music is significant in Waco for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that Jules Bledsoe, the noted African-American opera singer, was born in Waco and returned to his hometown regularly,” Bob said. “Bledsoe, though best known as the original singer of “Old Man River’ from ‘Showboat’ on Broadway, was a ground-breaking performer and was the first black man to sing with a host of major symphonies and operas in the United States.

“He was also instrumental in that he continued to perform the old ‘protest spirituals’ throughout the 1940s and sang them regularly on national radio programs at a time when that just wasn't done.”

Bob also points to the fact that Waco was the home of Word Records Inc., at one time the largest religious music label in the world. Word had a number of the best-known gospel artists on its rosters, who visited town regularly, including the legendary Shirley Caesar. Additionally, even before Word, Waco was a regular stop on the Gospel Highway, with major artists singing at St. James United Methodist Church and New Hope Baptist Church, he said.

“Growing up in the Air Force -- which was integrated with its founding -- I was surrounded by the gospel music of my friends and their families,” Bob said. “It became the soundtrack of my life. I was gospel music editor for Billboard Magazine for nearly 15 years, and I've been writing about it for a long time.”

The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project is the world’s largest initiative to identify, acquire, catalogue, scan, digitize and someday make available America’s fast-vanishing legacy of vinyl from gospel’s golden age.

Bob’s recent books include “Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume II: From the Sit-Ins to Resurrection City” and “Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume I: The Influence of Black Sacred Music on the Civil Rights Movement.” He also is the author of “People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music.”

A dynamic teacher, Bob has won numerous awards at Baylor, including the 2016 Outstanding Professor for College of Arts & Sciences for Teaching, the 2016 Diversity Award (with the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project) and the 2011 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year honor.

What About Waco Documentary Premieres July 6-7

Historic Waco

Waco has gotten hip with visitors streaming in to shop, dine and tour various landmarks. But how many folks, even current residents, know the fascinating history of the city. A new documentary, What About Waco, will explore well-known topics from a new light. The documentary will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 6, and Friday, July 7, at the Masonic Grand Lodge at 715 Columbus Ave. A reception with cash bar will begin at 6:15 p.m. The evening is presented by the Historic Waco Foundation and KWTX-TV.

What About Waco was written and directed by Chris Charles Scott, a Baylor alumnus who was awarded the 2016 Documentary of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The documentary has four separate episodes that focus on particular aspects of Waco’s history. 

“I was nervous about not finding topics but anxious about if they would be interesting to Wacoans,” Chris said. “I was worried that some of the topics we selected, like the Bridge and the 1953 tornado, were played out in the city. But digging through the history, I found that most residents knew surface-level facts about the city’s most notorious and infamous events but there were these beautifully intriguing stories that wove themselves through these topics.” 

“A Bridge over Troubled Water” is the dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Waco Suspension Bridge. This episode will begin with the story of Waco’s founding along the Brazos, investigate the city’s decades long “lover’s quarrel” with that river, and celebrate and indict the Waco heroes and villains who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the bridge.

Part 1 and 2 of “About Three Years in Waco,” looks at the end of the Gilded Era that marked some of Waco’s greatest and most horrific times.  Between 1916 and 1918, the community witnessed the construction of a massive army base, the end of legalized prostitution, the public extra-legal lynching of a teenager, and a sky full of revolutionary Jenny biplanes. This intriguing episode will spotlight, sex, murder and war, three things looming over Waco during a pivotal time.

The documentary concludes with “A Mighty Wind.” The story of the devastating 1953 Waco that killed many and ravaged the city of Waco is not unfamiliar to the town’s residents. But if you think you know all about the tornado, think again. A Mighty Wind will the hidden stories found in the rubble of the storm’s destruction.

“Each episode has controversy and tension,” Chris said. “This was deliberate in that we did not literally white wash this town’s darkest incidents. This is not to shine Waco in an unpleasant light, but to actually shine a light for Wacoans to address some of these tensions that still linger in the city today. My hope is that this series, like the suspension bridge attempted to do, will bring the two sides of Waco closer to understanding one another.”

Chris relied on several folks well-versed in either local history or film making. MCC professor Bradley Turner, an MCC professor, served as head consulting historian on this project. 

“I chose to join this project because I believe that it provides a fresh insight into both popular and unpopular historical topics, through a highly interactive medium, which connects to our city and helps its people experience its colorful past in order to further appreciate its current renaissance,” he said.

What About Waco was produced by local businessmen Hobby Howell and Matthew McLeod.

"Waco's diverse culture and rich history have always fascinated me. Like many Wacoans, I've been saddened by recent media coverage which largely ignores what makes Waco so great. When the opportunity presented itself, I was happy to support a project which cast a positive light on Waco and sought to tell the interesting stories that made Waco what it is today," Matthew said.

Hobby echoed this sentiment. "Waco's history is rich and has been told in different ways. As a fourth-generation Wacoan, I could not pass up the opportunity to help tell stories of our past with such a talented documentary film maker who brings a fresh perspective and new information that his research has revealed," he said.

Tickets to the documentary premiere are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


Downtown Waco in the 1940s was a vibrant place. (photo courtesy of the Texas Collection).

Downtown Waco in the 1940s was a vibrant place. (photo courtesy of the Texas Collection).

Texas during World War I

Historic Waco

Uncover hidden truths about Texan’s lives during WW1 in our blog post, “Texas during WWI.” Then, join us on August 25th,  2016 at 6:30 pm to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1 with our free fall lecture presented by Steven Sielaff. He will present a multitude of first hand, recorded accounts from Waco citizens who lived through the Great War that detail the many changes and challenges the conflict brought to our area. 

How to Make a Piggy Bank

Historic Waco

After a fun and successful week of Summer Camp, we wanted to share one of our favorite crafts with you! The campers loved using their imagination and creativity to create their own piggy banks! Thursday our campers explored  Economics and Agriculture. They enjoyed a petting zoo, made their own money, and created duct tape wallets. By integrating these themes together, our campers learned how agriculture and economics go together like peanut butter and jelly! We thought a piggy bank would address both topics in a cute and fun way for the campers and by the end they learned about saving money and facts about pigs!  Below are the instructions on how to create your  very own piggy bank with your kiddos out of a water bottle! A perfect activity for the summer!! 

(Note: For this craft we used Craft Smart Satin Acrylic Paint in the color Pink Chiffon..We found Acrylic paint worked the best when applying the paint to the water bottle)

Fixing Up Waco One Landmark at a Time: The Silos

Historic Waco

    If you don’t know who Chip and Joanna Gaines are then you must live under a rock or have no connection to the outside world. Chip and Joanna Gaines are the hosts of HGTV’s television show Fixer Upper. Over the past few years they have charmed their way into the hearts and homes of America with their amazing, head turning house transformations. Their comedic and heart-warming personalities each week make you feel like you have gained two new best friends and give you the feeling like they are visiting you for an hour in your own living room. 

    In their process of transforming one home at a time, they have also managed to transform the city of Waco during this process. With Magnolia Market being a major Waco tourist attraction, in addition to the other components of their brand drawing people in from all over the world (and yes I mean world); the Gaines continue to bring new life, imagination, and inspiration to the community. In the spring of 2015, Chip and Joanna undertook one of their biggest fixer uppers known to date; the renovation of the Silos, located at the corner of Webster and 8th Street, as their new location of Magnolia Market. With this new business venture that ranges from their store front, food trucks, open lawn and games concept, and their soon to be bakery, Flour, opening this spring; the Silos have become one of the most recognizable structures and locations to not only the community of Waco, but everyone who passes through. 

    When people visit the Silos, what they might not know is that Magnolia is not the beginning for the Silos; but a mere continuation of its own long-lasting history in Waco. Behind the rust and the chipping paint lies the story of what is often times referred to as the “white gold” of the South and how the buildings the Gaines Family have incorporated into their story, have their own historic tale dating back to before the 20th century, allowing the stories of our past to be in our present. 

Texas Collection

    During the 1900’s, in the state of Texas, cottonseed was the second cash crop in comparison to lumber. The benefits of cotton not only helped the state of Texas but allowed Waco to flourish after some difficult times in recent past years. Before the Great Depression, Waco was known as the “King of Cotton.” It not only raised the economy but it also provided employment and at the time put Waco on the map.    In 1910, J.T. Davis took an empty lot of land and established the Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company. This complex went from being dirt and gravel and transformed into an economic explosion. The location for a company like this was ideal. This open area of land allowed an entire complex to be constructed along with having the railroad adjacent to the property bringing in even more shipments of cotton from local gins; increasing production, money, and business for Waco. 

 The Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company employed over 75 men and purchased thousands of tons of cottonseed from local farmers providing opportunities for the community. The complex and business continued to flourish until the Great Depression which began the decline of the cotton industry. From an open lot in 1893 to an entire complex consisting of two 120 ft. metal seed storage tanks, an office, warehouses, and all the other necessary structures seen in 1926; the Silos transformed the Waco landscape. Between a fire in the 1940’s and a flood which lead to damage; the business changed ownership during the 1960’s. During the 1990’s, the Silos remained vacant until the Gaines purchased it as part of their own business vision. 

    With the help of Sanborn maps, which are Fire Insurance Maps used during the late 19th and early 20th century, we can see how the area has transitioned over time.  Sanborn maps are like a giant puzzle. It takes a bird’s eye view approach of a town or city showing the footprints of structures and the layout of a city in a particular year. There are symbols on each structure which can tell you materials the structure was built out of, its use of space, and other important components used by fire insurance companies at the time. Now, during the present day, it allows you to examine the same area over a span of time indicating how the structures and areas have changed. By using these symbols, it helps to examine the overall building footprint of each structure and its transformation overtime. It enables you to play detective for a day and put the puzzle pieces together which can teach you the history of not only a particular structure but your community as well. 

     For the Silos, we have three maps that were examined; 1893, 1899, and 1926. Based on the maps (shown below) it shows that between 1893 and 1899 the structure on the corner lot (which today is being used as the upcoming location for Magnolia’s bakery Flour), was actually built in the 1890’s. The symbols on the map indicate that the structure's original use was a store built of brick with a shingle roof. If you have drove by this building recently, you might notice that construction has already begun on this building.  Joanna has brought the structure back to it’s original roofing material, the shingle roof. This allows the structure to be updated to today’s standards but still maintains the character defining features of the original structure.  The structure was one story high and constructed with reinforced concrete frame, columns, and beams; based on the 1899 Sanborn map. It also appears that part of the current Magnolia Market adjacent to S. 7th St. was also partially constructed during that time as well. It’s original use was a Planing Mill and Wood Working Machinery with the name The Burr-Lake Wood Manufacturing Company, as indicated on the map. When you jump to the 1926 map it is evident that a lot of construction and change has occurred since 1899 up until 1926. 

    What we can gather is that the two 120 ft. Silos were constructed during this time span of 1899 to 1926. The current Magnolia Market structure was built to the footprint we are familiar with today and was used as a “house” designated as a warehouse. It is listed as being a tile building with concrete pilasters. The front part of the complex where the store front is was 2-3 stories high at the time and the back part of the market was 1-2 stories. Where the games lawn, food trucks, and garden area are now located, originally had two other structures as part of the complex but have been torn down since the 1926 Sanborn map. Magnolia “Flour” during this time had a drive or passage way located on the left side of the structure (which has since been torn down) and was designated as an office with some other additions added on the back.  

    With the help of resources such as Sanborn maps, it allows us to see how these Waco landmarks have evolved but, at the same time, have not really changed that much over time. The beauty behind it is when people from the community and outside visitors, come to Magnolia Market and go inside to marvel at Chip and Joanna’s store and bakery; they can know that they are sitting within a piece of Waco history. And with the help of the Gaines, they have taken these historic buildings and brought them back to life again allowing people to enjoy it in a new found light. 


My House is Historic...Now What?

Historic Waco

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 2.05.26 PM.png


Do you live in an historic house? Well, if you answered yes to this question you will understand that it is always fun and exciting to learn about the history of your house and the people who lived in it prior to you. Often times when homeowners have an historic property, it is important for it to receive recognition regarding it's historical authenticity. When you are at this point, most likely you will hear the term "National Register of Historic Places." That sounds good right? To have your house on that list.  Sign me up! But wait! It's not that simple. What is it and what does it entail? Here are some guidelines and tips to see if your property belongs on the National Register!

The National Register of Historic Places was created in 1966 under the National Historic Preservation Act which identifies historically significant houses that are worthy of preservation. Today, there are more than 90,000 properties on this list and this list continues to grow. However the process to get a property on this list is a long and engaging process. One of the major components of getting your property listed is reviewing the significance of the structure and where it is located. Significance can be measured in 3 different ways: 1. Architectural Significance 2. Person (Did an historical figure live or visit the property) 3. Historical Event (Did a historical event happen here or near the location of the house) Each state has a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that reviews all the information within a nomination. Each SHPO reviews the nominations of the property based on the information provided by the community or individual whom submits the nomination. Depending on the significance of your property sometimes its the other features associated with the property such as surrounding structures and landscape that can be appropriate for the National Register too! Don't focus on the small..Think of the BIG PICTURE! 

Where to Start: Guidelines in Creating Your Own Nomination

  • Start at your SHPO. Often times these offices have previously collected information about your property which might provide a jumping off point to start your own research. 
  • Get the guidelines for creating a National Register nomination but speak to your SHPO, they might have additional requirements or be able to give you some helpful assistance. 
  • Go to your town hall to dig up some information about the property and land your house is on. 
  • Look at Sanborn maps! Sanborn maps are such a useful tool that most people are unaware of. Sanborn Maps are Fire Insurance maps that show the property outline along with the structure. They were often times upgraded overtime which allows you to not only see how your structure has changed but the area around it too! This can also be a great tool to know certain materials that were used, if the structure was always a house or even a store, and how the house's footprint developed. 
  • Consult with a preservation consultant who will be able to tell you what type of information you need for your nomination. This will help spearhead the type of information you will be searching for. 
  • Find historic images! These are often times tricky to find but can be gold if you do come across them! They are great to add in your nomination and can often times give a lot of clues for the description part of the nomination for what might be original or added at a later date.
  • Look at other nominations that have been done to see the language used as well as what type of information was included. This will help guide you during the process! 



It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Historic Waco

It's that time of year again when everyone is getting their houses decorated and festive just in time for Christmas. Although decorations have changed since the Victorian era partly due to style, technology, and overall expenses however, there are some elements that remain the same from the Victorian Era. Decorations during this time were limited due to restrictions such as electricity eliminating the element of lights. However, people were still interested in having their trees sparkle so real tapered candles were used. Decorations for the tree were typically things that people had in their house that could be used as decorations. In earlier Victorian times, often times the tree could have been decorated with gifts that the children were receiving for Christmas. They also would decorate with items such as popcorn garland, cranberries, gingerbread cookies, paper ornaments, trinkets, dried fruit, and other types of small toys. Although the ornaments were not covered in glitter like today and were more on the simpler side,  a Victorian tree was festive and rang in the holiday season! 

Apples and Pumpkins and Pies...Oh My!

Historic Waco

Fall is here in Waco! It's a time of the year when people get festive with their decorations they use, the scents they surround themselves with, and what they are eating! Baking is one area that has not changed even since the Victorian times! Some staple fall ingredients that are found everywhere in today's society, women were also using during the 19th century in order to create delicious meals for their families. Today's blog post is going to focus on one of big ingredients for the fall and usually a crowd favorite....Apples!!! When baking with apples, the top 4 recommended  types of apples to use by Bon Appetite Magazine are Granny smith, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, and Pink Lady. We have found 3 recipes that all include some aspect of the apple in honor of this fall season. Although the recipes are not specific to which kind of apple to use, it comes down to personal choice. The three recipes mentioned here were found in Godey's Lady's Book, a popular women's magazine of the Victorian time. So grab an apple, start peeling, and create some of these classic apple dishes! 

Cider Cake

1 1/2 lb flour    1/2 lb. sugar    1/4 lb. butter 1/2 pint cider    1 tsp. baking powder    Spices as desired  

Cider cake is very good, to be baked small loaves. One pound and a half of flour, half a pound of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of cider, one teaspoon of pearlash; spice to your taste. Bake till it turns easily in the pans. I should think about half an hour.

Apple Snow Balls

Take a half a dozen fresh apples, cut them into quarters and carefully remove the cores from them: then put them together, having introduced into the cavity caused by the removal of the cores, two cloves and a thin slice of lemon-rind into each apple.  Have at hand half a dozen damp cloths, upon each dispose of a liberal layer of clean, picked rice; place each apple in an upright position in the middle of the grain, and draw the sides of the cloths containing the rice over the same, tying them at the top only sufficiently tight to admit of its swelling whilst under the operation of boiling-three quarters of an hour will suffice.  When released from the cloths they will resemble snow-balls.  Open, add sugar, butter, and nutmeg to the fruit, and serve them up to table.  The above will be found very wholesome and satisfactory food for children.

Fruit Cake

Two and a half cups dried apples, stewed until soft; add one cup of sugar, stew a while longer, and chop the mixture, to which add onehalf cup of cold coffee, one of sugar, two eggs, a half cup of butter, one nutmeg, one teaspoonful of soda, and cinnamon and spices to taste.  Sift in 2 cups flour to hold it together.

Past Fashion Styles on Today's Runways

Historic Waco

It is often said that fashion trends come back in style. With fashion designers in the process of introducing what is "in vogue" for the Fall 2015 season, it is always interesting to see what trends are coming back around. This year, a trend to watch is the "Poncho." A poncho is an exterior piece of clothing designed to keep the body warm, which is perfect for the fall weather. Looking back at Victorian style clothing, women of this era wore a similar style garment however it was not known as a poncho, but was known as a "Cape" or "Cloak." These stylish and essential fashion pieces were made from a wide assortment of fabrics depending on where you lived and your social class including wool, satin, silk, velvet, lace, and taffeta to name of few. They would often times be trimmed with fur, beading, ribbon, lace, Soutache cord, or braid and other type of cutwork. Designs typically were ornate and ranged from short to long styles depending on the time period. 

The image on the left, is from an 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue. The cape is listed at costing $9.50. The picture on the right is a modern style cape, today known as a poncho, however in this case it is referred to as a blazer from Urban Outfitters. It is apparent with the two images side by side, the overall shape hasn't changed much. Fabrics and decoration has been altered according to fashions trends and modern technologies in the world of fashion, however the concept is still similar. Keep your eyes out for more of Fall fashions and see if any other Victorian era fashion elements make it on today's runways.