Farmers State Bank Georgetown, Texas - Compiled by Clara Stearns Scarbrough
What is known in 1996 as the "old Farmers State Bank Building" is located at 716 Austin Avenue, originally called Brushy Street, Georgetown, Texas, on the north half of lot 1, block # 41, [in early records block #5]. The building faces east toward the Courthouse Square, and both the bank building and the Williamson County Courthouse are on a part of the original 173 acres of land donated in 1848 to Williamson County by real estate partners Thomas B. Huling and George W. Glasscock in return for the establishment of the county seat on that site and for naming the new town/county seat Georgetown. Huling, then serving in the State Legislature, chose to remain anonymous in the transaction Glasscock negotiated.
Georgetown at the end of 1848 consisted of only a handful of hastily built log houses. Slowly the village grew as the frontier crept across central Texas, but before much momentum developed, the Civil War and Reconstruction halted or greatly slowed expansion. Simple log and frame downtown buildings had to suffice until about 1880, but with the coming of Southwestern University in 1873, the completion of a rail line to Georgetown in 1878, and a booming cattle industry, what has been called Georgetown's first Golden Age began about 1880 and continued until about 1910. During this period, considerable commercial construction in the high Victorian style, punctuated and enhanced by other styles such as Neoclassical or Romanesque Revival, encircled the Courthouse and reached intersecting streets of downtown. Numerous fine period residences and such public buildings as churches and schools also flowered at this time.
The first recorded activity on the Farmers State Bank lot was on Dec. 23, 1875, when Albert H. Glasscock, son of George W. Glasscock, sold one-half of lot 1, block 5, to J. H. Turner for $400. Sometime before 1885, Turner erected a one-story wood store that appeared on the City of Georgetown tax rolls for 1885. It housed a saloon and billiard hall that remained in business until 1888. By then, limestone as a building material had become readily available to builders, and stone structures began to dot the four blocks around the Courthouse. Turner improved his property with a plain, two-story limestone structure which in 1894, housed a barbershop in the north half and a restaurant in the south half of the store; in 1900 it became a grocery store.
Evidence of Turner's improvement on the property is indicated by the price when he sold the store to A. S. Fisher for $3,340 on May 26, 1902.
Fisher was a young attorney in town and may have set up his office there, but he was on the move: records of his presence in other towns of the county may explain his sale of the building about five months later, Nov. 1, 1902, to another Georgetown attorney, Thomas P. Hughes, for $6,000. (While still in Georgetown, Fisher had received some notice in the community. The County, as a courtesy to the public, had provided a small public privy on the courthouse lawn, and Fisher, apparently not caring for that facility, was granted permission, for a price, to put up his own "stone house" nearby.) Judge Hughes sold the property on Austin Avenue, on Oct. 10, 1907, to S. A. Heard for $5,500. The building was vacant in 1910.
Near the turn of the century, several banks had been organized in Georgetown, one of them a private bank, established in December 1898, called Merchants and Farmers Bank. At that time, it was located at 800 Brushy Street (now Austin Avenue). On August 25, 1905, it was reorganized and incorporated as the Farmers State Bank, with A. A. Booty, president, and Dr. W. L. Mann, W. L. Price, Henry Lundblad, J. E. Humble, and Dr. C. C. Cody, directors. They continued the operation at 800 Brushy Street, often referred to as the "old Steele corner".
At a Nov. 4, 1909, board meeting, officials discussed and approved moving the bank's place of business to the Heard Building at 716 Brushy Street/Austin Avenue, in 1910. The president and cashier were "instructed to get plans for new fixtures and improvements to be made on the building." On Dec. 30, 1909, S. A. Heard sold the structure to the Farmers State Bank for $6,000. Five months later, on May 12, 1910, bank officials voted to enter into a contract with W. C. Whitney to erect a bank building for a cost not to exceed $9,200, and they stipulated that furniture and fixtures for it would be purchased from J. W. Muller Mfg. Co., Atlanta, Ga. The front portion of the structure was to be demolished and a new facade erected, but the back section would be retained. Construction began in mid-1910. By the time work was completed, the original $9,200 estimated cost reached about $20,000 according to the Williamson County Sun.
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Farmers State Bank
The 1910 project gave the Farmers Bank Building its present configuration.
It, along with about 50 other structures on and near the Courthouse Square, is intact in 1996 and is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places as the Town Square Historic District. At the time the bank's renovation was contemplated, a Courthouse was being constructed just across the street in an imposing Neoclassical style. It would become a focal point for the central business district and would be visible for miles around. In this setting and surrounded by numerous Victorian structures, the bankers, like the Courthouse planners, chose a Neo-classical design, a style often favored by banks of that day. These two structures are the only examples of Neo-classical architecture in Georgetown.
The original two-story limestone, load-bearing masonry of the bank building was retained in 1910 except for the new classic terra-cotta facade, sometimes called a temple front. It is crowned with a wide pedimented gable and dentils, below which "Farmers State Bank" is carved in the stone. A small pediment above the front door echoes the larger pediment above. The recessed entryway leads to a single panel door with a false window above, both door and window framed by molded surrounds. Fluted, composite Corinthian columns, encircled by acanthus leaves and tympanum, flank the entrance. At each side of the columns is a wood-sash, double-hung window with 1/1 lights, trimmed with molded surrounds, and topped by decorated escutcheons. Egg and dart moldings are other classical features. The interior includes a ceramic mosaic tall lobby area containing tile flooring, marble wainscoting, and plaster walls.
The newly refurbished bank with its outstanding facade was opened about Sept. 5, 1912, when it advertised in the local newspaper that it was ready for business. Farmers State Bank announced in August 1914 that it had become affiliated with the Federal Reserve Bank.
After operating at the same place, (716 Austin Avenue), for fifty years, the bank and its assets were purchased by Citizens State Bank of Georgetown, and Farmers State Bank closed its doors on June 9, 1962. All banking and financial operations moved to the new Citizens State bank at 900 Austin Avenue, Georgetown. In November 1962, Citizens State Bank sold the Farmers State Bank building to Citizens Plaza Development Corporation for $4,450, and in February 1963, Citizens Plaza Development Corporation sold the old bank building to Ben Neuman for $5,000. (Neuman operated a clothing store adjacent to the Farmers Bank building.) It was not reopened for public use until Neuman sold it in January 1967 to Williamson County for $6500.
Minor, occasional housekeeping changes have been made in the building since its 1912 renovation, but the basic structure remains intact in 1996. It housed offices of the Williamson County School Superintendent and Williamson and Burnet County Opportunities, Inc., beginning in 1967. In February of 1970, a stairway, partition, and ceiling were added in the rear of the structure to provide storage space for county records and access to them. Late in 1975, the County Commissioners Court ordered the renovation of the interior with the addition of some wall paneling downstairs and extension of the false ceiling to the front of the building for additional county record storage. This work was completed by Feb. 1, 1976, at which time the Williamson County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture moved its offices there, remaining through 1994 when they were relocated. Shortly afterward, the Commissioners Court designated the building as space for the Williamson County Historical Commission to hold its meetings, store its considerable records, and, in a 50-year lease, the Court approved its use for a new Williamson County Museum which will operate under the direction of the Historical Commission.
Farmers State Bank
Building Restoration Timeline for the Farmers State Bank:
If walls could talk, chances are the home of the new Williamson County Historical Museum could tell us quite a bit. Indeed, the north half of lot 1, block #41 (in early records, block #5) located at 716 S. Austin Avenue (originally called Brushy Street) might recall the following milestones:
Albert H. Glasscock, son of George W. Glasscock, sells one half of lot 1, block #5 to J. H. Turner for $400.00.
A one-story wood structure erected by Turner appears on the City of Georgetown tax rolls for the first time.
A saloon and billiard hall which have been housed in the building cease operation.
A new two-story limestone structure houses a barber shop in the north half and a restaurant in the south half.
The existing structure becomes a grocery store.
Turner sells the property for $3,340.00 to attorney A. S. Fisher; five months later Fisher sells it for $6,000.00 to attorney Thomas P. Hughes.
Hughes sells the property for $5,500.00 to S. A. Heard.
Heard sells the property for $6,000.00 to Farmers State Bank, which was originally incorporated in 1905.
Farmers State Bank refurbishes the building and opens for business.
Citizens State Bank of Georgetown purchases Farmers State Bank and relocates it to 900 Austin Avenue; Citizens State Bank sells the building for $4,450.00 to the Citizens Plaza Development Corporation.
Citizens Plaza Development Corporation sells the property for $5,000.00 to merchant Ben Neuman.
Neuman sells the property for $6,500.00 to Williamson County which reopens the building for public use as county offices.
Williamson County orders renovation of the building's interior, adding partitions, wall paneling, and a false ceiling.
Williamson County moves offices of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture into the building.
Williamson County relocates the agriculture offices and assigns the building to the Williamson County Historical Commission (WCHC).
WCHC creates a non-profit 501(c)(3) museum corporation.
WCHC and WCHM board host successful fund-raisers and develop/present numerous temporary exhibits.
the old Farmers State Bank Building is renovated to become the new Williamson County Historical Museum.
WILLIAMSON COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM OPENS!