Roughly 10 blocks of Palestine's Main Street District platted prior to the International & Great Northern Railroad’s arrival in 1872 are now recognized as historically significant.
The area, known as the New Town Commercial Historic District, joined The National Register of Historic Places last week, becoming Palestine’s fifth nationally-recognized historic district.
The official list deems certain structures worthy of preservation and supports efforts to identify and protect them. Included properties can receive preservation benefits and incentives.
Historic Palestine, Inc., a private nonprofit, commissioned the survey and application by historical architect Diane Williams of San Antonio at a price tag of more than $20,000 beginning in 2019. The first hurdle was approval by the Texas Historical Commission in 2020. The project then advanced to the national level and was officially recognized Oct. 6.
Timothy Triplett, president of Historic Palestine, Inc., said the National Register listing carries no restrictions for building owners but is meant to encourage restoration, if desired.
“The emphasis is to encourage protection and open up opportunities to restore historic properties,” Triplett said. “The National Register does not restrict improvements or changes made to buildings in the district.”
Building owners in the district can now qualify for grants and some tax credits for restoring their buildings, and may even find their property values going up.
“Now is the time to launch the project that you’ve always wanted to but have been financially constrained to do,” Triplett said. “As word gets out that we have this new historic district, that will spur investment in the district.”
The New Town Commercial district lies in a 16-acre area between North Tennessee, West Crawford, North Houston, and West Spring streets. Properties include privately-owned businesses, government buildings, churches, the Texas Theater and the Carnegie Library.
While most of the district’s buildings contributed to the district’s historic significance, some did not. The Vera Bank Building, for example, represents mid-century architecture yet contributes to the listing because it is more than 50 years old.
The contributing buildings represent a broad range of architectural influences — from Late Victorian and Late 19th and Early 20th century Revival styles to the American Prairie and Commercial architectural movements to the modern Art Deco, Miesian and New Formalism.
More than 20 structures and districts in Palestine and Anderson County are listed on the National Historic Register, thanks, in part, to Historic Palestine’s efforts. The other four historic districts include: the Michaux Park Historic District, the North Side Historic District, the Old Town Residential Historic District and the South Side Historic District.
Historic Palestine’s board members, who voted unanimously to support the project, include Triplett, Ben Campbell, Carolyn Salter, Chris Gouras, Karen Parsons, Laurnie Durisoe and Tom Thornton.
“I believe this will breathe new life into our downtown historic district,” Triplett said.