By CHRIS GOURAS
In the latter 1800s, towns across the state were fighting for prominence and one way to ensure prosperity was the prospect of attracting a railroad.
Prior to 1872 the best way to travel to Palestine was by riverboat on the Trinity. From there, you could take a horse and carriage in to town. The lack of paved roads at the time made getting to Palestine an interesting journey to say the least.
Palestine's civic leaders would pay $150,000 raised though bonds and additionally give land to the railroads for their infrastructure.
The land next to the railroad was used for a depot, shops and offices. The land directly to the north of the tracks would be divided into lots and sold back to the city and its citizens for the construction of stores, hotels and civic buildings.
In July of 1872 The International Railroad arrived. In December of the same year the Great Northern Railroad would also run its lines though town.
The joining of the two lines forming the International & Great Northern Railroad would create a relationship between the I&GN and Palestine that would last till this day.
The Railroad management assumed that all the citizens would follow the example set by others and move to the new town close to the tracks.
However, the older families resisted this and thus created East Palestine and West Palestine or “Old” and “New” town respectfully; this decision would create one on the most unique towns in Texas. Its was also with the arrival of the I&GN railroad that would thrust Palestine into its “Golden Age “ of growth, and Downtown would become a visual and economical representation of Palestine's sophistication and importance as a major center of commerce in the region.
As well as the buildings that you currently see downtown, so many important and ornate buildings existed that have been lost.
These include our three story Municipal Building decorated with a bell tower, the Temple Opera House, and several prominent hotels, of which The Redland's is the last standing.
Palestine once boastfully claimed the title “The Queen City Of East Texas,” a title that's been forgotten, but not necessarily undeserving.
Our Downtown in still as important as it has ever been. In fact, many buildings downtown still have their original and ornate look, simply hidden and waiting to be rediscovered.
With the opening of new business and the restoration movement that has been continuing, Palestine may one day regain its title as “ The Queen City Of East Texas.”