Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West
Gerald Moorhead, FAIA, with James W. Steely, Willis C. Winters, FAIA, Mark Gunderson, AIA, Jay C. Henry, and Joel Warren Barna
University of Virginia Press, 2019
The second volume of “Buildings of Texas” continues the comprehensive survey of the vast architectural history of the state and once again invites the reader to leave the well-trodden paths and take a few back roads. Appropriately conceived for the expansive geography covered and the weight of the hardback book itself, “Buildings of Texas” is written and organized as a driving tour. Straightforward narratives, clearly labeled maps, and nicely shot black-and-white photographs lead readers easily along.
Volume Two follows the state’s settlement from the piney woods in the East through the North Central prairies and plains, to the Panhandle and Southern Plains regions, before arriving at the Pecos Mountains in the West. The discussions of the four regions are organized by county, and each is anchored by at least one urban center (Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, and El Paso). These geographies experienced later settlement than the south, central, and coastal areas covered in Volume One. Introductory essays detail how the small towns grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, eventually leading to the high-pressure development cycles of booms and busts that shaped the planning and building of cities and towns during the 20th century. Sidebars cover additional topics such as early federal fort planning, the prevalence of mail-order plans and homes, and the development of the hotel industry across the state.
True to the authors’ promise to feature both the canon of high design and more vernacular structures, representation of the 21st century ranges from starchitect-designed buildings of the Dallas Arts District to roadside TxDOT rest areas.
“Buildings of Texas” accomplishes what it sets out to do. It is handy, both as a field guide and as a quick reference for researchers accustomed to relying on an index rather than the table of contents to quickly pull the date, architect, and basic details of a building. But like all field guides, the point is really to get readers out to experience the material for themselves. The book works well kept in your car — in case you happen to be in a new place and want to know a bit about a particular building, or, alternatively, you just want to be able to consult it on random occasions to find architectural gems worth a long or short drive.
And, as the authors say, happy trails.
Catherine Gavin is the communications director at Page in Austin. She served as the editor of Texas Architect from 2012 to 2015.