Photos document Georgetown past and present
Donna Scarbrough Josey’s new book, Georgetown (Arcadia Publishing’s Then and Now series), offers rare, vintage photos of Georgetown locales juxtaposed with current shots. Time travelers from Georgetown’s late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries might easily recognize some sites. Basic bones of many buildings around the Square remain intact. Grand old homes like the Leavell house on College Street or the Sansom house on South Main Street affirm Georgetown’s enduring sense of place. Southwestern’s Main Building still anchors the town’s eastern flank, and the San Gabriel River still offers recreational fun. Old churches still stand, vital and welcoming.
These same travelers, however, might be mystified when they look elsewhere. Where is the regal three-story Grammar School between Austin Avenue and Main? How can someone access “Ship-Rock’s” heights on the South Gabriel as cars speed past St. David’s Hospital on a big road called I-35? Where’s the polo practice field that used to be there? What happened to expanses of ranchland along the long, unimproved highway to Lampasas? Can that commercial mishmash called Williams Drive really be the same area? Today’s residents can let imagination drift back over the past century, knowing that answers are at their fingertips to explore.
The Internet helped Donna find Johnny Brummett in Washington. His parents built the San Gabriel Motor Court around 1935, and the family lived there for several years. Unsurprisingly, Johnny had a great picture for the book. Donna’s connection with Bill Atlee was more circuitous. Back in the 1980s, a letter came to The Williamson County Sun from Colorado with some pictures that Bill’s father Luis had photographed. “Sleuth Donna” found the old address via Google, obtained a phone number, and connected with an Atlee relative visiting from another state. This woman suggested that Donna call Bill, who happens to be a writer and historian in Sun City!
Donna’s daughter, Grace, helped identify another stubborn mystery picture of a white-streaked monolith towering over a horse-drawn vehicle somewhere along the river. Grace contacted an out-of-town Southwestern alumnus “who always hiked the river.” His information, combined with other research, brought Donna practically into the backyard of longtime friends.
“Evolution of the Railroad District” was the hardest chapter for Donna because that area underwent radical changes over the years—residences, rail-based commerce, neglect, rebirth—and images were difficult to identify. West of Austin Avenue to “the ridge,” a geographic upheaval high above the South Gabriel, it now hosts the library, police station, Williamson County Annex, neat cottages, and parking.
Two other chapters of the book showcase roads and bridges, metaphors, perhaps, for Georgetown’s onward march. Donna opens her book by quoting diarist J. H. Kuykendall’s 1853 thoughts about the Georgetown area: “This is an admirable section and must soon attract attention.” And so it has.
Georgetown (Arcadia’s Then and Now series) by Donna Josey is sold locally at the Georgetown Visitor Center and The Williamson County Sun and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Donna can be reached through email@example.com.
Did You Know That…
Did you know that originally Ninth and Church Streets were Georgetown’s southern and eastern borders, with the South Gabriel River defining northern and western limits?