This is a very, very old post that I'm finally posting again after putting it away for a few years. I originally posted this after the fall 2011 Texas Reds Festival (and it's a good thing too: summer was especially brutal), where I saw the newly revitalized Queen but was disappointed about the redevelopment plan, ate some steak and fried Oreos, etc. (but no beer or wine). The map I was intending to scan (different blog standards at the time, you see) had gotten so much powdered sugar on it I declared it was a loss and threw it away.
My opinion about Downtown Bryan has changed somewhat. At one time I felt it was too sanitized and cartoonish but even those have gotten some wear into them like breaking into a pair of tennis shoes. It's certainly better than the alternative: crumbling into decay and ruin, as it was circa 1990.
Sadly, I have no pictures of how it was and how I remember it in the 1990s. Fortunately, I do however have a music video of "This Old Porch" sung by notable country-western singer (and TAMU alumni) Lyle Lovett.
This video is from Lovett's official site and contains several pictures and an interview (it's part of a three part series called "Trucks, Tortillas, and Tombstones")
There's a bit on the beginning where he's interviewing someone (didn't catch his name):
"...But Bryan fell on hard times, like so many downtowns and towns of all sizes in the '60s when the shopping centers began to spread, same kind of thing happened here......Several attempts have been made by people who said 'well, we could rescue this place, look at these fine wide streets down here, this would be a pleasant place to shop, live on a...make a kind of historic district out of it' but there's really not enough population to do the kind of things they've done in Denver and even in Houston to some extent. And so, it just gets worse.....It just isn't happening. It's not likely to happen now.
Bryan did ultimately did "rescue" the downtown, by sinking tax dollars into it. And though they weren't able to truly revive it as it was in its "glory days", it managed to coax in new shops and businesses. Boarded-up buildings, empty storefronts, and peeling paint were ultimately done away with, but it seems like some of it has been lost (at least they never did convert it to a pedestrian mall at any time. I felt a bit nostalgic watching this: not because I actually lived in that era, but the downtown like I remembered it. The Palace Theater, in particular is featured prominently: the withered curtain still intact, with a shot of the fire escape next door. I remember that fire escape. I was at a Mexican-themed festival there years ago, and rather than watch the dancers on stage, I was drawn to it. There was something about it, some vaguely spooky and depressing feeling that was later seen in things like desolate old malls and Detroit buildings.
That's what today's post is about.
Starting in the late 19th century or early 20th century (as a live theater, it was acquired by Morris Schulman in 1926 and started to show movies. Sadly, Schulman never got to see the theater empire that the Schulman name would become, as he committed suicide in the backstage of the Palace Theater in 1935. His widow would later acquire the Queen, and ultimately pass the business on to Bill Schulman, who passed away in May 2013, even though by that time business had passed on to his sons and the Schulmans pulled out of Bryan-College Station. The Palace, along with others in downtown Bryan, closed in the mid-1980s (at the latest).
Anyway, the Palace Theater was somewhat butchered in the renovation: apparently, the Palace is outdoor because the roof collapsed in 1986, but today the Palace exists even less: only the marquee is original (at best).
See how many things you can spot that are distinctly different: where Stafford Main Street looks like the original building was destroyed, leaving only the facade, there's "Discount Trophies & Engraving" with some greenish tile: the facade was changed (restored or completely redone) for its current incarnation of EarthArt (DT&E appears at 4:35). You can also catch a glimpse of the late missed Los Norteños restaurant.
Here's a few modern glimpses from summer 2013 (my pictures): here, here, and here.
Hopefully you find this post interesting, as it's been sitting in the "back room" for years (it was originally published as "Downtown Bryan: At the Bottom of the Night"). There's more coming that will be from storage from the old CSR&R or was haphazardly put in the Texas Avenue post.