Sunday, September 30, 2012

Circle Drive-In

A preface: one of the biggest problems with this blog was the fact that I fell into the "trap" that each blog post has to be a giant webpage-esque feature that was well worth the weeks I spent on it. Things like the Northgate post, the MSC post, and the Post Oak Mall post: those were all huge efforts.

Unfortunately, they took way too long to compile, and updates were a huge pain to do. As a result, they get dated quickly, and updates pile up. In fact, I remember combining several POM posts into the Post Oak Mall post (done December 2011), and now I'm actually considering breaking it back up again.

To combat that, there was a change of the way things were done around the blog. This was one of those first posts that had the new format.

The Circle Drive-In of College Station, Texas, located on the corner of modern-day College Avenue and University Drive. Still whispered about on the Internet and unrelated to the Circle Drive-In in Waco, mostly intact but now a flea market, the Circle Drive-In was so named because (like its unrelated Waco cousin) a traffic circle was nearby (which is now gone).




Picture credit: Historic Aggieland

Anyway, it disappeared between 1979 and 1983 (probably closed soon after the time Skaggs Shopping Center came into existence, which had a movie theater of its own) and was quickly forgotten. Two apartment complexes, Newport Condominiums and North Ramparts Apartments were up by the end of the 1980s and the rest became the "Mud Lot", a cheap dirt parking lot owned by St. Mary's, which disappeared in the late 1990s or early 2000s when half of it was converted to parking.

Whether you're parking at St. Mary's, exploring the ruins of Newport, living at North Ramparts, or (soon) The Stack: just remember: you're on the grounds of an old movie theater.

5/22/13 Update: Added information on the demo of Newport, changed to past tense on describing the post.
5/25/13 Update: Consolidated information on the Mud Lot

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Here's a look at another major neighborhood in town: Eastgate. Unlike Northgate, Eastgate hasn't quite gotten the "student saturated" appearance. Part of this is preservation of an actual neighborhood. The definition of Eastgate is the official, city-supported version, so we'll roll with that.

Here's a few things about Eastgate you should know. I covered Dominik Road a while back, so we'll go ahead and skip that. We're also going to skip the College Station City Hall and the first fire station, mostly on the basis that it's fairly well documented elsewhere (and we mentioned it here, which is where these things tend to wash up). The "Eastgate" businesses are mostly limited to a large area at Walton and Texas Avenue (though a few exist tucked in the back).

This was a proposal we got in the early 1990s, where Walton comes into Texas Avenue (originally, you couldn't turn left in or out of Walton--those parking lots were long yield lanes).

Unfortunately, this never happened, and all we got was some abstract art and a new stoplight.

But look at those businesses...a convenience store, only two familiar faces (Alfred T. Hornback's and Acme Glass), and no Layne's. Based on the placement of Eastgate Food Store, I'd put that at early 1990s or late 1980s.

Starting down the list, we have 101 Walton-103 Walton. 103 Walton was Robinson Pet Clinic in 1989 (but 103A, the space seems small enough so that there's no B...103 must be on the right). 101 was presumably Texcomm. Both are vacant these days.
The empty green roofed building, May 2014

105 Walton, which was a UtoteM since at least the early 1970s (and probably since Day One), became a Circle K in 1984 (if briefly) before becoming Eastgate Food Store in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After decades of being a convenience store, it became Military Depot, a retailer of military-related goods around '92-'93. A few pictures of the Military Depot facade...
You can barely make out the EAS here, I don't know if the shadow was from the military badge or not (probably)
Another view.

Valley Cycling (a 1990s business) was what I remember being in the "main" section of Eastgate at 107 Eastgate. This I do have a picture but it's only postage-stamp sized, and it's on my computer but I'm not going to dig it out right now. , as you may know, was where Textbook Solutions is now. Later, it became a vintage clothing/nostalgia-type store ("Left-Handed Monkey", which lasted...not very long. Blissful Wishes Bridal was here for a while, but eventually by the late 2000s, it was Textbook Solutions, which it remains today.

109 Walton wasn't always food related ("Wing Zone" being here in the early part of the 2000s, records indicate), and it's also where the "Guitar Shop" was in the diagram. Regardless, this is where Leaning Tower Pizza was here at 109 Walton for several years (Partners Food Delivery was here for several years prior apparently, back in the 1990s--but the tenant space for this one is largely drawing a blank). Primo Pizza & Rolls took over when Leaning Tower fell down in spring of 2013. Leaning Tower was an interesting place--it made a particularly greasy pie with a unique cheese mixture. It was also pretty grimy (that's why the pizza is piping hot). It had some garden furniture for an "eat-in" area and had "free delivery" that had a significant discount if you picked it up in store, which means it wasn't actually free at all.

Primo Pizza, a Charles Stover concept, initially planned to reopen the restaurant with a new name and theme and a similar recipe (the recipes were bought along with the store), but instead revamped the recipes and made a more upscale carryout pizza that had pesto on every slice (this opened in late summer 2013). For whatever reason, Primo shut down in February 2014 due to underperformance, but the way it was worded indicated that the closure could be temporary. After all, the sign remained up!

The pictures I took in May 2014 revealed the restaurant was gutted.

Primo Pizza in better days, September 2013
Gutted PP, May 2014
Gutted PP, May 2014. This is where the counter and menu were. The kitchen was behind that wall. This configuration was intact for both LTP and PP&R.

So why did Primo close? Now, I don't know the reason why, but like with Sully's I can make a few guesses.

There's always a chance that Primo Pizza will reopen since Charles Stover still has the recipes and name, but it definitely won't be Eastgate. Here's Primo Pizza's webpage, archived in PNG form.

Further down the line we have Eastgate Hair Shop for Men, I'm pretty sure this hasn't been updated in years (111 Walton) and Oasis Pipes & Tobacco, which moved here from a spot on University evicted for the Plaza Hotel redevelopment and was reduced to rubble soon before the Plaza Hotel came down. The business (and the sign) transplanted to here, 113 Walton, but didn't last long either. There appeared to be some baking equipment scattered in the building. This may have been a holdover from Partners Food Delivery.

Looking inside Oasis, May 2014
Eastgate Barbershop and Oasis, May 2014
Oasis, a body piercing shop, and an apartment finder service, May 2014

119 Walton is called "To The Point" now and the older spot of Textbook Solutions.
123 Walton (no 121 Walton, apparently) is now "Aggieland Apartment Finders", and way in the back behind the strip mall area tucked away is Lost Souls Fixies (it seems pretty sketchy in the areas behind the center).

Over on the other side, we see Alfred T. Hornback's, May 2014. This popular bar (120 Walton Drive) was here for many years, and although not built as it, had a large floor with pool tables and country music. Eastgate was not a huge draw like Northgate was and it closed permanently in summer 2011 though remained open for special events. After DC (Dixie Chicken, not DC Comics) moved out of the building that later contained Blackwater Draw Brewing Company. There's also a small professional office next to it, but I didn't read it too closely (nor is it particularly important to this narrative).

More businesses, May 2014. Behind these is Crossfit 979. Acme Glass is a viable company that's been here for years, but The Event Company has been closed for a few years (wedding planners). The business at 118 Walton hasn't updated its website since July 2013. Acme Glass at 116 Walton does a good business, this one is pretty stable, the building next to it appears to be the old Greyhound station (114 Walton), but it seems vacant and used for storage (a visit in 2011 revealed a filthy but late 1990s era washing machine). I don't know when it went out of service, but it was a while ago. 108 Walton was Wilson Plumbing, but now is the home of Layne's.

Layne's, May 2014. The former Sully's is in the background (check that out here). For what it's worth, Layne's opened before the first Raising Cane's (in 1994 vs. Cane's 1996).

Behind these businesses is Eastgate Park, a place in four segments: it's the medians between the parking lot and Walton, and about four or so vacant lots on Foster. However, city records show that this has been parkland since the late 1930s. Abstract art was installed in 2000.

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg, I could also go into the story of Munson Drive, which you could find and read about on MyBCS but since I read a scrapbook of articles, when Munson expanded to Lincoln in the late 1990s, the residents of Munson got the city to put up gates to prevent people from cutting through their neighborhood, which upset everyone else but it took nearly a year of fighting and countless letters to the editor before the city voted to remove the gates (and because at the time, Munson was where all the well-off and politically powerful people were, giving them enormous influence in the city). Or Thomas Park, which had always been owned by the city (all 16 acres) since 1938, but it wasn't until the 1970s when it began to become an actual park. The flagship of this was Thomas Park, which wasn't developed until the late 1970s. According to the great but dated College Station 1938-1988, it mentioned one of its accessories being a "plastic bubble dome which allowed indoor swimming during the winter months."

Either this plastic bubble was impractical and/or fear of lawsuits from people asphyxiating in chlorine gas meant that it would be never be seen again, because I know that Thomas Pool is definitely never open in the winter months to my memory. But such a thing did happen, and you can see some B&W pictures here and here which I originally scanned for Project HOLD.

That's all for now...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Buildings of Luther Street and Wellborn Road

What a strange journey it's been for this post. I originally wrote this post way back in June 2011. After trying to bump it and the like, and realizing that were tons of errors, I figured "forget it" and removed it from the blog. But that was a while back, and I've had this in the "blog boneyard" for a bit. Then I posted it in fall of 2012, complete with a rewritten part with help from Grover Fugate, whose comment is reproduced here.

But it still just wasn't that good, and I had to fill in for something. Furthermore, Fugate's comment was far out of date--this was the 1940s that he was referring to, and I just wanted to know more about when the crossing was closed. I also wanted to know more about the Chinese food place at the corner of Luther Street and Wellborn. What I saw on a 1940s architect's map was that the place where Twin City Mission resale shop is now was a place called "Hrdlicka Café" (which I really can't be sure if I'm pronouncing correct: is it "Herd-lick-ah?"). I updated it again in July 2013 but still found errors: specifically, how Amtrak wasn't accessed through Luther Street West, so we'll get to that later.

For several months, I had a newspaper article on the closure of the crossing at Luther Street West and Wellborn, but removed it again. However, something interesting along the way, specifically how Henry Mayo wrote something for the official city blog on the same subject. It shed some more light on Hrdlicka's restaurant (the italicized paragraph below are from before this blog post came about), plus had a few other treats in store. The picture captions aren't italicized.

Now, what of this Hrdlicka Café? I got a comment from Grover Fugate in the original version of this post (seen below):
1 comment:
Grover Fugate said...
Yes Luther extended over the railroad. That road led to the dump. Right across the railroad was a beer distributor on the left. On the right was a National Guard building.
Right past the NG bldg was a place that made charcoal for a while. Maybe two hundred yards back was a pond that we played around as kids. You can get in touch with me via Anne Boykin. I would rather answer your questions via phone or a personal meeting. Ed Hrdlicka was my Grandfater. I lived in his house with my Mom and Dad. The house was right in front of the railroad crossing.
June 19, 2011 3:46 PM

Indeed, in the 1970s, there was a house there, owned by one Jack Fugate, at 801 Wellborn Road (it wasn't Wellborn Road then, it was Old Highway 6, but the addresses haven't been renumbered). Indeed, he married Marilyn Hrdlicka in 1943 and settled down to the "home place" in College Station, which was likely where her parents were (Jack grew up in Houston Heights). According to the obituary linked above (Jack passed away in 2005), he established "several businesses, including a printing company, a mom and pop store with a washateria next door". It was likely during this time that Hrdlicka Café became a small convenience store: the Piknik Pantry (marked as "2" on the map below).

The laundromat and printing press listed were listed as "803 Luther" on the directory, and it was likely the building (also gone) that was behind the Piknik Pantry.

At some point, the Piknik Pantry changed hands and started serving Chinese take-out as well. Piknik Pantry survived well into the 1990s even as Fish Richards and the other businesses of Fugate's disappeared from the corner.
See below regarding "1", 803 Wellborn.

By the 1980s, the (now gone, unfortunately) house at the corner of Luther Street and Wellborn (labeled as "1" on the map) was converted into a restaurant. This was Fish Richards Half-Century House, serving a variety of good meats and good wines.

Notice that I had mixed up 2 & 3...#3 is the convenience store.

Piknik Pantry & Chinese Food (name confirmed from old phone books and directories) was where my dad picked up this for work several times, and it was (possibly) the first Chinese food I ever had. It probably wouldn't pass modern Brazos health inspections today, though.

At some point prior to the 1990s, there was a dive bar in that area ("The Peanut Gallery"), just south of it.

Apparently the reason that Fish Richard's closed was due to a divorce by the couple that owned it, but the building burned down soon after nonetheless (though some ads in the final days of FR's mention that Fish Richard's was looking for a new place). The other interesting aspect is that the Amoco station seen above was the Piknik Pantry and had a different facade at the time. Should I be surprised it had pumps at one time?

Here's an update regarding the building 1, referred to 803 Wellborn even in 1980 (confusing, right?). What was once the printing press and laundromat was home to Fish Richards Bakery, which sold a variety of baked goods all day, every day (except Sunday afternoons). I read somewhere (but lost the source) that this was the original supplier for Subway when it came into town in the early 1980s. Ad can be found here.

Feel to free to leave comments on anything related in this post.

EXTRA NOTE 11-13-13: Looking through directories revealed there was another Chinese restaurant owned by the same owner (Sing Lee, 3030 E. 29th Street)

Updated June 2014 with additional information about Fish Richard's and the bakery.

Minor Update in February 2019 in preparation for revamping the page