Glimpse of the Past: Historic Architecture…Key to Heritage Tourism

The Reporter, Hillsboro Texas, Thursday, December 17,  2015

According to the Texas Historical Commission, people who enjoy traveling to locations that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present are “heritage tourists.” Tourism in Texas is a $65 billion industry with 220 million visitors and 63 percent report that they “seek travel experiences where the destination, its building and surroundings, have retained their historic character.”

Hillsboro, with its historic 1890 Courthouse, Historic Downtown district, and Historic Residential District, is an excellent example of a community with historic treasures, poised to benefit from heritage tourism. For the first time in recent memory, the City of Hillsboro, Main Street Program, and Hillsboro Heritage League all are working in tandem to develop pride in Hillsboro and to promote heritage tourism. This past weekend the HHL sponsored a successful revival of its long-popular Tour of Homes, and plans now are underway for the 2016 Home Tour.

A well-known architectural treasure is the David-Fowler House at 130 Corsicana street, home to Tom and Judy Fowler since 1979. This magnificent edifice was constructed c. 1898 by local banker, land owner, and Surveyor Edward S. Davis (1854-1919). Davis was the son of wealthy Tennessee native Robert Arthur Davis and was born in 1854 on the family homestead about 4 miles from Waxahachie. Edward S. Davis moved to Hill County in 1881 and located on a 1,000 acre farm/ranch given to him by his father. Davis was a civil engineer who served as Hill County Surveyor for many years. He was active in Farmers National Bank where he served as president. Davis was first married to Agnes Turner (1866-1906) and then to Eula Ellington (1878-1949). E. S. (Buddy) Davis and wife Isabel Hunt Davis raised two daughters in the home, Diane and Suzanne, and the ownership passed from the Davis family in 1960.

The Davis-Fowler House was featured in Texas Homes in 1980, and the article revealed that “...the house was distinguished by its rich interior woodwork….Exterior detail is dominated by an octagonal turret with windows on upper levels and a veranda surrounding half the house. Two porticos top the front entrance, with a second-floor balcony between the porticos. Leaded glass (and etched) windows overlook the veranda, and the staircase is decorated with stained glass….The staircase, which includes [two] landings, is intricately carved in curly pine with paneled insets underneath the rise…. Four upstairs bedrooms, an unfinished attic, and seven fireplaces with carved oak mantels complete the original design.” 

Research by architectural historians conclude that the design is one from Nashville architect George F. Barber (1854-1915) who developed a widespread mail-order blueprint business. Architectural designer Matthew Coates suggests that architecture and design resonate on a far deeper level than just visual beauty. He believes that our spaces influence us and our experiences can shape our behavior, outlook, and culture. “The power of architecture is something to be appreciated and respected…”

Restoration of the Davis-Fowler Home and hosting of the Tour of Homes by the Hillsboro Heritage League suggest that Hillsboro appreciates the value of historic preservation and significance of heritage tourism.

CAPTION: Tom and Judy Fowler recently have completed restoration of the veranda on the historic Davis-Fowler House at 130 Corsicana Street in Hillsboro, Texas. Corey Hoskins and Emmett Keith of Grandview were the artisans engaged by the Fowlers to complete the historic repairs on the Texas Recorded Historic Landmark. The house was built c. 1989 by local banker Edward S. Davis and has been home to the Fowlers since 1979.

Historic Architecture... Key to Heritage Tourism