About Our Building
From the inception of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in the early months of 2000, the idea of preserving a historic structure to house the museum was of utmost importance to our organization. The Board of Trustees considered several sites, including building a new facility on or near the now legendary Cardwell Flats, where in 1866 Crockett Cardwell gathered some 1,800 head of Longhorns to be driven to St. Joseph, Missouri. However, since historic preservation is an important component of our organization's mission, the search continued for an historical structure. Ultimately, in May 2002, the organization purchases the Knights of Pythias Hall (c. 1903). located in Cuero, Texas.
The United States Congress chartered the Knights of Pythias organization in 1864 to begin healing the wounds created by the Civil War. The first Texas Chapter was established in Houston in 1872 and in 1889 several prominent Cuero citizens successfully filed a chapter application. In 1902, the Knights of Pythias hired James Wahrenberger, who studied mathematics and architecture in Switzerland and Germany, (the first Texas architect with a professional architectural degree), and built the Knights of Pythias Hall, Jewel Lodge, No. 103.
The upstairs portion of the building served as the recreational, dining and ceremonial space, while the ground floor was one large open space, made available for lease which supplemented the ongoing costs of building maintenance. A photograph taken on January 26, 1910, (pictured with this text) shows wagons filled with cabbage waiting to be unloaded into the Moore & Sames wholesale grocery business, which operated out of the ground floor level of the building. Another photograph taken in approximately 1915 shows the tenant as the Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicles & Nagel Garage.
Located in the 300 block of North Esplanade in Cuero, the building comprises 10,000 square feet on two floors and features some of Wahrenberger’s creative use of fanciful brick work in Romanesque Revival style. Cuero’s Jewel Lodge produced two grand chancellors for the state organization. Mr. D.P. Blake served in the 1899-90 term and Mr. John T. Wofford served in 1910 (he died in office while serving as the leader of the state organization). In 1988, the Knights of Pythias Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Cuero Commercial Historic District. In 2003, the Texas Historical Commission awarded the property a Registered Texas Historic Landmark designation.
Proper Restoration of the Building
Considered to be an equally important component in the establishment of our Museum, the Board of Trustees selected one of Texas’s most respected preservation architects, David Hoffman, to provide a restoration master plan. Working with the Board of Trustees and a museum planning group, Hoffman developed an analysis of existing conditions, adaptive use feasibility, a plan for phased development, and cost determinations for building restoration. This master plan is our organization’s road map for restoring and converting the former lodge into a regional museum and educational facility. (See "New Team Members" update below.)
The Board of Trustees also selected The Douglas Group, a Houston-based museum planning/exhibit and environmental graphics design firm, to provide a concept plan for museum floor plans and project overview. The Douglas Group, with offices in Houston and Washington, D.C., has provided a written overview of the project with conceptual floor plans for each level of the museum. They have also produced renderings to guide our project team as it defines the anticipated journey of the visitor through the facility. The museum's storyline, the level of involvement for each visitor, and most importantly, the learning experience for the visitor, have all been developed by the Douglas Group with guidance from board members.
The Board of Trustees of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum knows the two master plans for the project will provide the solid groundwork for the successful development and planning for the museum.
New Team Members: Fisher Heck Architects
About Lewis S. Fisher...
Lewis S. Fisher
For another example, in the early 1990s, Lewis took an interest in the redevelopment of the urban area adjoining the King William historic district. This Texas state-sponsored Main Street Alliance project became known as SouthTown. Under Lewis’s leadership, the Alliance was able to secure funding for lighting, sidewalk improvements, and paving upgrades for St. Mary’s Street, its major corridor.
As a result of this collaborative effort, SouthTown residents and businesses now have greater leverage to support future improvements. Through the SouthTown project, they also have a brand name with which to promote local tourism tied to the area’s restaurants and galleries.
Lewis’s many other preservation leadership credentials include Past President of the prestigious King William Association. His service to the community has also included board membership on the Antiquities Advisory Committee of the Texas Historical Commission, and the San Antonio Development Agency.
Lewis and business partner Jim Heck founded FisherHeck Architects in 1982, and recently marked their 25th anniversary year in architecture. Their thriving practice has projects in San Antonio and smaller communities throughout the region.
To put it in his own terms, the architect says, “My greatest satisfaction comes from seeing people using and enjoying the urban spaces that we have helped create or restore.”
Several of the early phases of restoration work to the historic Knights of Pythias, Jewel Lodge is now complete. After stabilizing the building’s outer shell, providing upgrades to the facade and making needed repairs to window sashes, the next major milestone is to complete the public spaces that will house exhibits, displays, and other museum functions. Having successfully secured $1 million in federal funding from the Economic Development Administration and an additional $345,000 from a Save America’s Treasures grant, the CTHM is now ready to begin the work that will bring the project closer to becoming a heritage destination.
In December 2007, our preservation architect of record, David Hoffman, was obliged to resign the Museum project due to health concerns. Board member Tom Batts chaired the process of selecting a new architect, and after reviewing qualifications of four regional firms, the Board selected Fisher Heck Architects of San Antonio to continue the work so well begun by Hoffman.
Fisher Heck has a long and distinguished resume in historic preservation from saving local treasures like the Vance Ranch House, an Alfred Giles home, to the restoration and technical upgrade of the Mission Revival Atascosa County Courthouse (the only surviving example of its type). They also served as local architects for the major restoration of the San Fernando Cathedral, a landmark building in downtown San Antonio. We are especially pleased that Lewis Fisher, AIA, one of the founding partners of the firm, will personally oversee our project.
Depth of experience in preservation architecture was a key qualification chiefly because so many of our relationships with national, state, and local agencies and organizations depend on carefully maintaining the historic status of the building and close environs. The Board is confident that Fisher Heck will be able to help us stay within required guidelines, and will become a solid partner and invaluable resource in this very exciting next phase of the Museum’s progress.