CHARTER & ORGANIZATION:
- Year was 1987 when KHPF was chartered by City of Kilgore with Mickey Smith – Mayor, Rob Schleier- City Commissioner, and Ronnie Spradlin, Kilgore citizen, comprising the original board. The group elected Ronnie Spradlin as President before others resigned.* Nine citizens were appointed to serve on the board of the newly formed Foundation: Tom Brown – Legal Advisor, Amanda Pratt Nobles –1987 Main Street Director, Jimmy Dike – 1987 Ex. Dir., Kilgore Chamber, Joe White – Dir. of ETOM, Virginia Long – serving on Texas Historical Commission appointed by governor, Roy Rosson – accountant with BH&H, Sanny Sue Holland, Sue Brown, and Bobby Florence – citizens interested in history. Jon Spradlin with brother Ronnie designed the logo and stationary for the organization (used the star old Texan moviehouse and art deco downtown architecture emphasis for design).
- The board began their work with the city assigned mission: to preserve Kilgore’s unique history with the specific goal of restoring the downtown skyline of derricks. During the early ’90’s the board discussed naming their work with a City of Derricks/City of Stars designation and after a Southern Living article written by a native son, Gary Ford, the board’s choice went to City of Stars. This was placed on marquee of the old Crim Theatre when the façade renovation was completed in 1999. In 2004 the local Chamber of Commerce got name officially designated by the state.
PURPOSE OF THE ORGANIZATION:
- Organized with sole purpose of restoring the ‘30’s derrick skyline of Kilgore. (Jack Elder credited his wife, Winter Dickson Elder, for whispering idea to him at a Downtown Association organizational meeting in 1986. The Texas Historical Commission gave the Main Street designation to the city later that year. Other projects were accepted in subsequent years in order to continue preservation of Kilgore’s unique history.
PLAN TO RESTORE SKYLINE:
- Board developed plan of action to accomplish the purpose. The first step was the necessity to find a person or persons to do the work of restoration (Charles Miller of Gladewater has put up all derricks for KHPF); Secondly, all derricks were designed for a five point star to be placed on its crown; star was designed and welders found to make them. Plans were completed for galvanizing donated iron derricks along with an annual maintenance procedure written for yearly inspection of restored derricks.
- KHPF found that it had to have three things to restore a derrick:
- A derrick to tear down and move to Kilgore
- A site for the restoration of the derrick
- A donor to provide funds for all
*Founding board accepted the first derrick from Kilgore First National Bank erected 1987
and dedicated by Red Adair on a very cold February day of same year;
derrick deeded to KHPF (site not deeded) Do not know who erected this derrick.
- Main Street study by professionals was completed with a master plan design accepted for placement of derricks in downtown area. KHPF set a goal to try to restore fifty (50). Map of placement is included in architectural Main Street studies. During 2005 the goal of 50 restored derricks was reached.
- Plaques were designed using the foundation logo and foundry chosen to make them. Company in Bryan made all original until moved from area and orders were then submitted to Southwell, San Antonio .
- Search for derricks in various fields of the area was begun with contacts made to both independents and major oil companies who donated the parts and pieces of derricks that stood on leases in East Texas and Louisiana. First derricks were given by Mr. Eddie Galloway of Overton and Long Trusts. Later more derricks than the Foundation could afford were offered from Texaco’s North Caddo Field in Louisiana in the early ‘90’s. Generous citizens loaned money to secure derricks that were being cut down by hundreds in that field as well as supplied trucks for hauling the stockpile of derricks to a donated site. Arco and individuals gave others that hold plaques to denote donors. Most derricks are 87’ with the tallest derrick at 112’ donated by Sun to KHPF when Sun decided to take it down from Price, Texas Grisham location. It is the entry derrick for Synergy Park and owned by KEDC. There are many people to thank who helped to make the project a success from derrick donors to the many who worked to seek the lease agreements or donation of land for sites that are also marked with plaques. Beyond the original goal of re-erecting derricks, donors added leg lights to add the old original look to the skyline. Also, down and up lights were added to provide light for areas where derricks were placed.
- After two years of negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad, KHPF obtained the lease of railroad right-of-way on Commerce Street from Lantrip to South Streets in 1994 and with this lease had opportunity to reach the goal of establishing a corridor of derricks on both sides of the street to not only enhance the derrick project but also provide a sight similar to one of yesteryear when the trains stopped to view Christmas lights. The lease has restrictions on use and a requirement for a fence that was added to the entire length of the right-of-way.
- The historic scene from old photographs included banners in lights spelling out MERRY XMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR that were placed between derricks. Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association preserved one original derrick at the World’s Richest Acre, corner of Main and Commerce. They had a wooden Merry Christmas sign on it for many years with holes for light bulbs. In the late 80’s the two organizations coordinated efforts to purchase a sign to read MERRY CHRISTMAS with sign placed between the KIBA derrick and KHPF derricks at the WRA Park. In ’92 KHPF sold T-shirts designed by Pat Hughes Watson to purchase a HAPPY NEW YEAR banner with green lights. In 2005 donation was made of new and historic MERRY XMAS sign to replace the deteriorated and heavy MERRY CHRISTMAS so that KHPF was now historically correct with signage
- When Kilgore no longer provided funding for a director for Main Street, KHPF accepted the downtown building lighting project that was begun by that program. KHPF was given remaining funds for their use as well as all drawings of historic Kilgore buildings by Tim McLaughlin, artist of these drawings…
- Lighting ceremonies began in the year of first restored derricks and held before Thanksgiving at the request of residents returning home for the holidays. Ceremonies continued each year culminating in fireworks displays and laser shows. Some were themed as ceremony 2005 that was well-attended to pay tribute to five groups celebrating anniversaries as well as recognize the 1930 Lou Della Crim well that began the boom in Kilgore. . KHPF has received much publicity on its endeavors of “Christmas in the Patch” (name given to lighting ceremony with other Christmas activities). Regional newspapers cover the event each year. There have been stories in Southern Living and Texas Highways. Joan Hallmark of KLTV-Tyler has interviewed locals for several news reports. CNN filmed the ’92 derrick lighting plus held interviews with former mayors that was shown nationally and Longview citizens reported watching the commentary while traveling in Europe.
- KHPF began derrick dedications at the first lighting ceremonies and continued events in cooperation with the Main Street Glory Days Celebration. Later individuals chose to organize their own at the well sites with dignitaries present to assist. On the tenth anniversary, 1997, dedication for ten (10) derricks was held at KHS Auditorium. List of all donors are in files of KHPF.
- Sign from Amoco was donated and placed near the derricks to north of depot… A Premier sign was placed in section in 2005. Other historic equipment was donated for placement on the railroad right- of-way. Amoco sign was later vandalized and removed. Local citizens donated and restored the Shell rock sign that was added in 2011 from Hwy 135 business that acquired it from Shell Oil office on Hwy 31 where it stood after being moved from entrance to Shell Camp.
- A local citizen donated funds to KHPF for building restrooms adjoining the derrick area on Commerce and adjacent to the KIBA depot. These have been used during downtown events with the City of Kilgore assisting with maintenance.
- Derrick Committee was assigned in 2008 the responsibility for developing a master plan for the railroad right-away to better use all of the property not going to be used for restoring derricks.
PARK AT WORLD’S RICHEST ACRE:
- Design of pocket parks was on master drawings of the Main Street team that visited Kilgore in late ‘80’s. Since derricks were being placed downtown, KHPF added this park to its derrick restoration.
- First steps were to acquire property by deed or lease on lots behind buildings in area known as WRA and joining KIBA fenced corner replica. Shelly Potter of Potter Associates donated her time to design the park. Two derricks were placed at one end with concrete stage area; bricks and paver sections were designed to make the area people friendly. Project was continued with completion of land acquisition, maintenance, and additions of tables, awnings, and benches to make the area a pleasant place for use. .
- All overhead lines were buried and sprinkler system and brick sidewalks were added as well as bricks and pavers were sold with names and logos to fund the work. There is much fill dirt on the site and walls of old buildings remain covered; therefore, all piping for electrical and sprinkling systems is installed in shallow manner prohibiting some use within the sections. Orginally the code of city required ingress onto the site from either end next to the buildings so chains mark that section. New fire trucks purchased in 2011 opened up this access for use of new power installations as city streetscape was completed on Commerce Street that added more lighting and plugs for event use.
- In addition to original plan, a donor provided a pumping unit under a derrick that sits on two original footers near the walls of a building to illustrate how buildings were torn down for wells to be drilled. Chain link fence encloses this area. Park committee worked to make this area into a garden of native Texas plants.
- Donors and membership drive with special brick purchases contributed funds to pour a semi-circular stage that was added to the derrick stage area at the north end of the park. Landscaping was done in the park in 2004. Tables under derricks and awnings were added in 2005 along with additional lighting added to light stage area. Combined electrical power upgrades were completed in 2012.
- The work on WRA Park continued with addition of benches, derrick awnings, tables, and both doggie and trash receptacles placed according to revised drawings of this pocket park. The planter box at the entrance on Commerce Street was designed to hold a life size oilfield worker/driller sculpture when funds become available. Landscaping of the area will be an ongoing project with addition of flowers, shrubs, and roses that were original to the block. Bricks and pavers will continue to be sold and installed as a means of funding for this park.
- KIBA provided a gate for handicapped use on the north fence of their corner and a sidewalk was installed in 2008 to link that gate.
- Accident did damage to the original derrick in 2012 and one leg had to be repaired to stabilize
SECOND PROJECT – SAVING CRIM/TEXAN BUILDINGS:
- Preservation of two old movie houses began in 1988. Each had holes in the roofs and had been nesting ground for pigeons. KHPF and Main Street received a State Preservation Grant that year and paid matching funds (obtained with a raffle of a side of beef donated by Leon Gibson with tickets sold by the Kilgore Lions Club) for professional study to be done by a team who were all members of the League of Historic Theaters. Team members included the competent group of Killis Almond (restoration architect who did the 1894 Opera House in Galveston and many others), Maureen Patton (Managing Director of the 1894 Opera House in Galveston), and William C. Linstrom (Assistant to Executive Director and Production Stage Manager of the 1894 Opera House). The purpose of study was to provide KHPF with the steps to be used toward saving the two structures from demolition. This plan was followed throughout all work done on the buildings.
- KHPF celebrated the year of the Crim in 1989 (opened in 1939) by sponsoring a showing of a movie, Boomtown, in cooperation with Four Star Cinema. A reception followed to celebrate the June 21st anniversary. Lease was issued to KHPF for both buildings from KISD, Gregg County, KC, and City of Kilgore with City acting as Trustee. That lease remained in effect as long as KHPF continued work on the buildings which terminated in 2007..
- Roofing supplier contacted KHPF with donation of materials to put a new roof on the Texan. Contractor was paid for all labor to put the Texan building in the dry, and KHPF paid for total project (materials and labor) of the Crim roof through fund-raising endeavors of concerts, galas, and raffles until bills were all paid in 1993.
- Texas A & M University Department of Architecture completed a study in summer of ’91 when students used the two former studies along with interviews of local citizens to design the buildings for reuse as well as draw a master plan for the historical corridor of park, derricks, and theater buildings. This plan has been the focus of the work that has followed with vision that area will someday look like the model presented at the end of that study.
- Work of the students for KHPF was valued at $35,000.00 by Killis Almond, theatre restoration architect, who was team member of the professional study. KHPF followed this plan when it acquired railroad right-a-way and worked for over three years to acquire adjoining property at corner of Commerce and South ($5000.00 donation from local citizen used to purchase this lot) as in plan..
- Texas Historical Commission representative made site visits to the theatres to give recommendations and document work to be done since the Crim Theatre is a building with eligibility for the National Registry. THC and Main Street assisted in getting Tom Clark of LeedsClark, to be the project manager for the theatre project. KHPF fund-raising endeavors were used to complete an environmental study on both buildings by ERI of Tyler, structural engineer study by Bucher, Willis, and Ratcliff of Tyler for cutting opening for rear overhead door, installation of overhead door, and clean out of the Crim by Oak Hill Construction. Open house for the cleaned out buildings was September 1993.
- City of Kilgore gave KHPF 2/7th hotel/motel tax funds for use on the buildings in January 1994. Money was then available to continue work on repairs to the buildings. Funds used on the Crim for repairs to the rear wall that was falling down and both buildings were secured and painted. Cost analysis for restoring the façade was next phase of work. All façade restoration has been completed and that includes the repair of the porcelain sign – C R I M, addition of neon strips on upper sections (all color matched from scraping walls and all neon color from old tubes), re- building of the marquee and adding all neon on it, replacing the marquee soffitt and adding all new electrical outlets and bulbs, repairing or replacing broken marble to front of building, repairing and buffing sidewalk, replacing ticket booth glass, and repainting front doors to original design. Damaged lobby area has been repaired. (Has been featured in Texas Highways, National Trust articles, all regional newspapers and on a personal Christmas card.)
- Work on the Texan began with planning in 2000 and repairs started in 2002. City funding was cut to 1/7th of hotel/motel tax money that caused a time lapse before work could begin while accumulating monies. First steps were to have an environmental study before removing debris from previous owner, complete repairs to carrera glass on front that was found in St. Louis, clean and paint as well as replace all electrical and neon to large star on upper section, acquire original doors, get a structural study for building for attaching marquee sections, secure a design for signage complete with neon according to update of latest environmental studies, complete abatement to ready building for cleaning, complete demolition of walls and debris of last tenant, and replace soffitt and add neon to that area. Flagpoles and neon of the original design from Texan of 1944 (original building burned in 1942) were not added to the upper front roof area due to need for additional abatement before stabilizing that will be more cost effective if completed at time of interior renovations.
- Work continued with installation of original 1944 front doors, demolition and replicating front sidewalk in cooperation with the City of Kilgore, and replacing wooden trim and glass to ticket booth and poster cases. Conduit was laid under concrete pour for electrical supply to lampposts with outlets installed on north and south of the building and to middle of Kilgore Street…
- Next phase to be determined. KHPF recognizes city for re-roofing Crim in 2008 and notes need of work on Crim south wall as well as further interior clean out and demolition in both buildings with building abatement per studies. (City cleaned out building in 2012 for a Halloween event.) KHPF, in 2005, completed the original charge to save the buildings from demolition; City of Kilgore in 2008 moved property from KHPF lease back under City. KHPF will continue to cooperate with Main Street and City toward preservation of the historical integrity of the buildings into the plan of a Theatre Arts Conference Center.
MINI DERRICKS ON CITY SIDEWALKS:
- Original idea presented at a Long Range committee meeting in ‘93 to have additional lighting for Christmas since talks with Swepco would not allow the original look of lights across streets. Welder sought and first reproduction done and sold. Leg lights and stars to top these added later to add to Christmas lighting in downtown area.. Information of all memorials or honorariums and donors are in the files of KHPF. These mini or sidewalk derricks were connected to downtown building lights and all maintenance fell to the same committee chair to be sure all was ready to be turned on at KHPF lighting ceremony. Electricity for these derricks and building lights that were added during days of Kilgore being a Main Street City continued to be covered by building owners per block. KHPF was responsible for all maintenance/ bulbs until city streetscape completed 2008 when the mini-derricks not needed for additional Christmas lights since strings across streets were added. Future of placement fell to KHPF to find a new location. Vacant lot at Commerce and South Street was chosen with design completed by Shelley Potter of Potter Associates in 2011. Derricks will be re-furbished by donation of local citizen and placed in rows on this lot with completion time frame dependent on fund-raising endeavors that were begun by Leadership Kilgore Class 2012 with Cake Chase, 4k run and 1k walk…
MEADOWBROOK HISTORIC DISTRICT:
- Project had purpose to single out a neighborhood of houses built after the boom. Yard signs recognize owners. Signs are decorated for July 4 and Christmas holidays. Tour of homes to benefit the project was held on first Friday afternoon of December for many years but changed to Saturday in 2007. Funds from the tour have provided brochures of information about the homes in this area and added stars and derricks in the median of Oak and Brook Drive. Highway signs have been placed on 259 and old street signage complete this work on streets in this neighborhood.. KIBA lights the nearby Shakespeare Garden each Christmas season with stars and fence lighting.
OLD POST OFFICE BUILDING:
- KHPF began work to acquire the old post office building to house a museum of local history as well as preserve the WPA murals (4) on walls of the lobby when the U. S. Postmaster issued plans for a new post office to be built in Kilgore. Murals were removed and restored by post office department; murals were put in custody of KHPF who made arrangements with Kilgore College for them to hang in the lobby of the East Texas Oil Museum for enjoyment of tourists. KHPF has furnished printed information in the ETOM lobby for distribution to tell story of these murals.
- The Post Office Task Force Committee of KHPF worked many months toward acquiring the old post office building. When given the opportunity for acquisition, local citizens gave donations totaling $40,000.00 in two short weeks and worked with the City of Kilgore to complete this purchase. KHPF provided the money for the purchase and holds the long-term lease on this property. Plans continue as building is renovated for use as a local history museum and be home for KHPF. The building had water problems in its basement, and that phase of work is on going to keep the building in the dry. Some items have been donated to be included in this museum. In 2008 renovation began with all interior and exterior windows re-furbished and the postmaster’s office and lobby re-painted along with lead paint removed from rear walls by Leeds Clark. Longview business donated workers to strip and re-paint all exterior grates. Lobby floors were cleaned and polished and postmaster office floors re-finished. Building was named the Old Post Office History and Art Center. In 2011 Museum Arts met with sub-committee on use and was contracted to proceed with drawings for interior design of building and Total Engineering did construction drawings in 2013. The old post office building is located at the South end of the historical corridor. Concept as a building for use by community was approved in 2012.
ARCHIVES AND BOOKS OF HISTORY:
- Simultaneously with post office acquisition and accumulation of old photos, a committee of five worked with Caleb Pirtle, author and Kilgore native, to tell the stories of the history of the town combined with many old pictures accumulated by Terry Stembridge. They served as authors for the first book, Echoes from Forgotten Streets that was underwritten by generous donors and published in 2002. One thousand copies, 100 leather covers and 900 hardbacks were printed with all profits going to the post office renovation project. They wrote a second book, Visions of Forgotten Streets, that was published primarily of photographs with captions in 2007 with funds allocated to the building and again underwritten by contributors… In 2010 the third book, Life on Kilgore’s Unforgettable Streets, covering Kilgore in the 40’s through 60’s was written and published by Caleb Pirtle with photos from archive files. Slipcases were ordered to hold all three volumes. In 2011 an abbreviated first book, Kilgore Boom for the Ages, was written and published by Caleb Pirtle with soft cover, 160 pages, and affordable at $19.95. In 2013 archives were sent to Heritage Works in Atlanta, Georgia to be preserved in protective files and digitized for safe-keeping. Families continue to offer their photos to the KHPF archives as well as articles to be included in displays. Author Caleb Pirtle offered his website as a source of selling the books and photographs on the internet.
- This is an example of historical preservation where preservationists are never satisfied with what has been accomplished but still seeing another something on horizon that is yet to be saved for next generation.
DEAN KEENER CRIM HOUSE:
- KHPF was given the oldest house in town along with lot across the street in 1999. The family set up an endowment fund for use by KHPF with this property and gave mineral interest in 2011.
- House has been cleaned and decorated during two Christmas home tours. Some electrical repairs have been completed. The yard has been cleaned and trees have been planted. Some furnishings have been donated for this house museum.
- A grant was received from the Texas Historical Commission for an architectural study for the renovation and repairs on the house with Gerald Bratz, restoration architect, completing this study. House is located at the north end of the KHPF historical corridor. House was painted in 2005 and new picket fence added in 2006, the 130th birthday of the house. Trees were planted and an open house held Arbor Day, 2006. Survey of the property was completed in 2008.
- Cookbook, A Taste of History, was published in 2011 with proceeds going to the house.
CHRISTMAS TREE PARK:
- Park is located on property across the street from the Dean-Keener-Crim home. Two derricks have been restored at the site. A fence was positioned at the back of the lot with pickets donated by citizens in honor or memory of relatives and friends. The lot was donated with the donation of the house.
- Oil field equipment including a Lufkin pumping unit, Christmas tree units, and other equipment has been installed on this plot. Pipe fence was added and signage identifies equipment. Two donated benches sit under the derricks erected at either end of the park.
EDUCATION AND SERVICE:
- Encouragement of citizens to get involved and to be kept informed by programs being given to civic and social clubs throughout years of existence.
- Programs on local history are presented for local schools as requested. Students at KIS developed a web site in 2005 and have been a part of dedication ceremonies with essays and poems of local history.. The organization worked with the Junior Historians of the Maude Laird Middle School to promote their participation in local history until dissolved 2010…
- Participated in National Trust Preservation Week by sponsoring activities during month of May to promote and help citizens appreciate their heritage through historical preservation. KHPF was selected in 2011 by the Texas Downtown Association to receive its Downtown Partner Award.
- KHPF board members serve as volunteers in any historical preservation project or provide organizations within the community historical information as requested. Volunteers serve as tourism step on guides to tell Kilgore’s unique story and hold local history sessions with chamber leadership classes..
- KHPF board members have served with other committees as historic buildings were being renovated such as the school ad hoc committee on renovation of the Kilgore High School building and with the Friends of the Library to assist the City of Kilgore when repairs were made to the historic library building. Volunteers lend support as requested to any historic building project with contacts to the Texas Historical Commission and/or Gregg and Rusk County Historical Commissions on which former and current board members serve. They participate in marker dedications in both counties and had an integral part in the Driller Park marker dedication in 1998 that spanned both counties and the Eagle Scout project of the Gregg County Commission Marker for the Sabine River Derricks in 2011.
- Purpose is to reach out for membership to support KHPF projects. Membership campaign was begun in ’90 and lapsed in yearly campaigns until reinstated in 2005 with successful drive culminating with activities during Preservation Month in May. Levels of membership are available at various sums to include all who desire to be apart of preserving Kilgore’s unique history. Members are kept informed with newsletters, Boomtown Bulletin, and encouraged to get involved in preservation efforts.