Ogee is consulting on multiple historic tax credit projects in downtown Ennis, Texas, which is a National Register Historic District. Just 35 miles south of Dallas, Ennis began as a cotton producer and railroad town in the late 19th century. A wave of reinvestment in the city is transforming Ennis into a charming destination in central Texas. Read on to learn more about its history and our current projects.
Ennis was established as a railroad station in 1871, during a time when the Houston & Texas Central Railroad were founding communities to link railroad lines. By the late 19th century, Ennis had become a regional hub of cotton production and shipping, and the town prospered as entrepreneurs and businessmen opened businesses to service the local market. One of those businesses was the Ennis National Bank, located at 110 W Ennis in 1883. Until 1917, when a new facility was built, the bank occupied the first floor, while the second story was leased for offices. Since that time, numerous businesses have occupied the Classical Revival building, which features a corner turret, corbeled brick parapet, and the original cast iron storefront. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1983. Currently, an Italian restaurant occupies the first floor. As part of a historic tax credit project, the second floor will be rehabilitated as apartments.
Not all the early businesses in Ennis were so high-dollar and high-style. The building at 105 W. Ennis is a one bay-wide, two-story building constructed in 1884 as a one-story building. The second story was added a few years later. This skinny building began as a tiny liquor store and bar, conveniently located just steps from the train depot to quench the thirst of travelers. By 1890 it served as a bookstore, followed by several more retail operations up to the present.
By 1890, Ennis had grown to a population of 3,000. Cotton production was a major contributor to the growth in the region, making Ennis a center of trade and commerce for both agriculture and the railroad. Success from the railroads and cotton are still visible in the residential areas of the city, which contain elegant homes for the upper-class and Folk Victorian cottages and Craftsman bungalows for the middle- and working-class (many of these are now contributing to a residential National Register Historic District).
The expansion of the cotton industry combined with the support and growth of the railroad enabled Ennis to gin and ship over 150,000 bales of cotton in 1920. This prompted the Ennis Chamber of Commerce to adopt the slogan, "Where Railroads and Cotton Fields Meet."
A cotton broker's office occupied the second floor of 116 W. Knox for decades, while the first floor housed a grocery store, followed by various iterations of clothing stores. An advertisement for the cotton broker is still visible on the upper floor windows, which have been preserved under plywood for years.
As is often the case in commercial historic districts, trends of the mid-20th century result in dramatically altered storefronts. 116 W. Knox received a drastic stucco alteration in the 1950s, covering up its beautiful masonry ornament. Thanks to historic tax credits, the building will receive an exterior restoration involving the removal of this stucco and the building will appear much like it did when constructed in the early 20th century.
We're thrilled to be a part of the revitalization of Ennis. In addition to multiple historic tax credit projects jumping off soon, the Ennis Economic Development Corporation is embarking on a master plan to transform downtown Ennis into a pedestrian friendly shopping and entertainment destination. Read more about the plan here, and stay tuned to learn more about our historic tax credit projects.