I can't resist the sweet scent of lavender and there was plenty of it at The Lavender Festival* held over Memorial Day weekend. Although it was a typically hot Texas day, many had traveled to Gainesville on the interstate, then traversed a dusty backroad to reach the festival.
After winding our way up the long, narrow, dirt driveway, we squeezed into a parking spot on the grass. A field of lavender met us at the end of the path and we noticed people picking these flowers and placing them in a woven basket--the cost of doing so was $8.
A small cabin on the grounds held a gift shop and there I found lovely aromas wafting through the air in the form of soaps, oils, lotions, sachets and dried lavender flowers ($12 a bunch). Quite a line had formed at the counter, but I selected a few items and joined the throng.
After making my purchases we walked about, visiting the flea market area which had been set up beneath some shade trees underwhich about 35 different tables were arranged, where antiques, collectibles and vintage pieces were sold. We spied an old sewing machine table topped with a marble slab and brought it home for the patio (pic #3)--I just love it!
*There was no cost to this festival
The Sam Rayburn Home museum is actually about 35 miles from Gainesville. However, since I don't have a page on this particular town I am including it here. Bonham, Texas was an easy drive from Gainesville.
Mr. Sam Rayburn was a native son and one of Texas' 'best know statesmen*', serving 24 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, an illustration of how popular he was. Rayburn got a taste for politics when he was 12 years old afer hearing another Texas congressman, Joe Bailey, speak at a political gathering. He was hooked, it seems!
His home is nothing flashy or elegant, but a true picture of how an average man lived in rural Texas. Once over 100 acres, this site is now a little over 3 1/2 acres which is just enough space for his garage, where his old pick-up truck is permanently parked, a chicken coop, smoke house and small vegetable garden.
Sam Rayburn's home was like seeing a snapshot of rural life in the 1940's and '50's and we enjoyed our tour of his homestead.
*Sam Rayburn served as a minority leader for 4 years, a majority leader for 3 years and a speaker of 17 years until his death in 1961. He remains the longest serving speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives.
We obtained a walking tour map from the Santa Fe Depot, determined to find as many historical buildings as possible before it grew too dark. The Morton Museum was closed, but we're hoping to see it another time since we usually make it a point to tour a museum or two when we travel.
This building that now houses the Morton Museum was once Gainesville's city hall, fire station and jail. You'll find exhibits on the Civil War, baseball, outlaws, the Gainesville Community Circus and find many photographs pertaining to the town's history.
When a new fire station was constructed (after 1918) the building was used as a city warehouse, but it began to deteriorate after time, so plans were made to demolish it. The second story and bell tower had already been removed when concerned citizens decided it should be saved.
The Cooke County Heritage Society was formed and along with a generous donation from Granville C. and Gladys Morton, the Morton Museum was created and opened in December 1968. Hours are Tues-Fri. 10am-5pm; Sat. 12N-5pm; Sun.-Mon. closed.
After browsing through the Santa Fe Depot, be sure to travel upstairs to see the Harvey Girls living quarters.
Their quarters may seem austere, but they included all a tired girl required: a comfy bed, a stand for washing and holding a few articles of clothing, perhaps room enough for a small bedside table and an empty corner for a trunk. Ah, it must have felt good to put one's feet up after a harried day at the restaurant!
The depot operated until 1931, but for many years a dozen passsenger trains stopped every day bringing hungry people through the town. The Harvey restaurant filled the bill!
If you happen by Gainesville, try to stop at The Santa Fe Depot. A guide was more than happy to explain the history of the train station, which was constructed in 1902 and included baggage, express and passenger waiting areas. The Harvey House, which was a restaurant chain located in depots along the rail system, had a lunch counter in the two-story section of the building.
As you explore the depot you'll find vintage photos, a brief film on the popular Gainesville Community Circus and interactive maps. Climb the stairs to peek at the living quarters provided to the restaurant help, who were mostly farm girls from the area.
The restaurant dining room, kitchen and storerooms were housed on the ground floor; the basement held coal fired boilers which provided steam heat.
Hours are Wed.-Sun. from 11am-2pm.
South of the town square lies Gainesville's most prominent historic neighborhood. Guided by posted signs through the historic quarter, one is treated to a variety of Victorian and other architectural splendors. The well-to-do in the days of construction kept their residences close to the center of town and the action. Today's owners preserve the boast of living in a piece of Texas' history.
For anyone who has visited my other rural America pages, there tends to be a Carnegie library and Santa Fe depot on every one. No different in Cooke County and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the depot is cut from the same mold as other depots around the country. Though its use has been much curtailed with the national highway systems of the 1950s, the depot once stood as the main hub for passengers in and out of town.
This thoroughly modern-looking church on the main drag through town is actually fairly old. The first congregation gathered here in the 1880s and the church was finished in its present form some years later. Though Gothic in some aspects and with a large stained-glass window, the red brick somewhat loses the Gothic mantle but the church is still a prominent building in a town with few handsome churches.
A few blocks south of the county courthouse is the Cloud-Stark-Jones House, another listing on the National Register of Historic Places for its impressive architecture. Now part of a neighborhood of similar Victorian-era homes, this landmark would have been the second most prominent building in town at the time of its construction (1884) behind the courthouse. Today the home is vacant and not in use.
The center of civic life for many little towns in America is the country courthouse, often located in the center of town or even the town square. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places for Cooke County from the late 19th century, the metallic cupola of the courthouse on its hilltop is a prominent image even from the distant interstate. Much of county business is conducted here, and businesspeople daily traverse its grounds in the average workday.