A unique piece of Abilene's history could be lost, but you can change that.
The previous owner of Abilene Courts officially donated the property to the Abilene Preservation League August 13th, 2020. However, Abilene Courts is under recommendation for demolition by the city, which means we must act now. The city does its job to protect its citizens from building hazards, we need to do our part to protect our architectural heritage from disappearing.
We need your support. View the sections below to learn more about the Abilene Courts project.
What is the significance of Abilene Courts?
The Bankhead Highway was the nation's first "all weather" coast-to-coast highway and served as a major travel and tourism route, resulting in a boom of family-owned roadside businesses across the United States. Tourist courts, the precursor to motels, were one such business.
Built in 1930, not only is Abilene Courts one of the last remaining original prewar tourist courts along the Bankhead Highway, but it is a rare subtype of a once common tourist court layout. The 2014 Bankhead Highway in Texas survey identified 51 NRHP-eligible tourist courts/motels along the highway in Texas, but only two with a "closed courtyard" configuration. Abilene Courts is one of those two, with the other being some 250 miles away in Pecos, TX, the Boulder Courts.
Due to Abilene Court's association with the Bankhead Highway, which significantly contributed to our nation's history, and its rare architectural value, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Abilene Preservation League deems it essential to be saved.
· Registered in the National Register of Historic Places
· Preservation Texas’s Most Endangered Places List 2014
· APL’s Abilene’s Most Endangered Places List 2020
· Located in Abilene’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zone
What is the APL's Plan of Action?
At this project’s inception, the APL remained transparent about the possible directions this preservation effort might take. As stated from the beginning, “the best-case scenario involves the APL completing [steps to abate and preserve as much of the structure as possible]. The worst-case scenario occurs if we can only save the North façade. In either case the Texas Historical Commission and the National Park service will maintain its designation as a National Register of Historic Places site.” Some sites’ cultural or historical significance demand action regardless of the state of its disrepair. The board of trustee of the APL agreed to accept this project despite the difficulties involved in its preservation,
Accordingly, our original goal for this project looked to save as much of the structure as possible. However, after meeting with several contractors, they determined that years of neglect, coupled with a major hailstorm, left the building vulnerable to the elements thus compromising the foundation. Further, the bulk of the rear structure contains asbestos in the stucco walls and other building materials which would prove nearly impossible to safely encapsulate. We discussed all possible alternatives other than demolition with contractors. Unfortunately, we cannot repair the rear of the building and we must remove this section. Despite this loss, this historically significant site can remain preserved for future generations. Its iconic front façade, the principal historic elevation, remains intact. The APL is determined to preserve this architecturally distinctive façade and we need your help.
Completed Preservation Efforts:
· Transfer of deed to the Abilene Preservation League
· Removal of vegetation and debris that contribute to site hazards by the Men of Nehemiah Abilene
· Regular mowing and maintenance of grounds
· Collection, cataloguing, and storing historical materials from the site in a secure location supplied by Walt Pfeifer
· Hazards assessment by AML Environmental Contractors
· Shoring the front facade to protect and secure it during abatement of the structure
Further Preservation Efforts:
· The APL will install a fence around the building to provide a visual barrier to the property and protect the site
· AML will remove all hazardous portions of the building to comply with the Board of Building Standards ruling
· Brick masons will repair, repoint and protect the brick façade
· A professional restoration company will restore the iconic neon marquee sign
· The APL will apply for a Texas Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission
· The APL will seek out protections to ensure the site remains preserved
Like the transfer of so many previously preserved sites, the APL plans to eventually place this property into capable hands looking to make this piece of Abilene’s heritage a part of their history as well. Your gift allows us to gently preserve what we can and carefully find proper stewards for this site following these efforts. The APL will fight for protections on this location to ensure new construction planned on the acre lot complements this historic edifice.
Board of Building Standards (BOBS) public hearing regarding case # 17-009, Abilene Courts:
The City of Abilene Code Compliance Office is responsible for gaining citizen compliance on health, safety, and quality of life issues in the city. This includes enforcement of building and housing code. The city created the Board of Building Standards (BOBS) to hear appeals concerning the Building Code and Housing Code and review building condemnation cases.
Abilene Courts was condemned by the city February 22, 2017. In September 2019, the Landmarks Commission discussed and took no action, turning the case over to the BOBS for a decision. Since October 2019, the case has been reviewed by the BOBS once every month. At any of these meetings, the BOBS may choose to vote for demolition of the structure. As previously mentioned, the APL officially took ownership of the property in August 2020. Changes in ownership do not alter or “reset” the timeline of a case. However, the APL’s intervention in accepting the donation delayed the demolition order. This allowed the APL time to remove salvageable aspects of this important site and save the facade.
The city provides videos rebroadcast and available online of every BOBS meeting for the public’s viewing. These videos will give you a clearer understanding of the urgent timeline the APL has been given to work with and why the APL made the its decisions regarding the preservation of Abilene Courts.
You may find the videos regarding Abilene Courts here (click on each month to see that month’s meeting):
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. There's much to be done to save Abilene Courts, but when our community comes together anything is possible.