Does History Repeat Itself, Successfully?
Bonham Daily Favorite, August 1, 1993
There is a cliche, maybe a trusim, that history repeats itself. After looking at the subject of this article maybe the readers will agree that to some extent history has repeated itself and perhaps it's time for history to repeat itself again.
Listen to the comments of Bonham citizens. Read read some of the letters to the editor in this newspaper. Read some of the editorial material published in these pages. Does Bonham have a problem or problems? The number one topic appears to be the economy and the state of retail business in our city.
Why are these problems present and is anything being done to correct them. Certainly the to-be-constructed prison facility should stimulate the economy. Will the economic benefits trickle down to the merchants? The new Highway 83 will certainly make it easier to hit the out of town malls for shopping.
What do we need? We need a revitalized and beautified downtown area. We need to bring in the unusual and the sought after. We need to bolster our own longtime businesses and then people will went to come to downtown Bcalum.
We already have excellent tourists attractions ranging from our variety of museums to trips to the wine country, or even a leisurely drive around the Texas Lake Trails. These will get the people here but what will influence them to patronize our business community? Antique shops, craft markets, discount stores or anything that says. “Bonham is a great place to spent the day,"
None of this will work, however, unless, the package is presented in an attractive and memorable manner. One only has to look at towns like Granbury, Big Sandy, Grand Saline to name just a few, to see what an impact an out of the ordinary visual presentation can do.
How does this apply to Bonham and what can be done? Let's let history repeal itself by going back to the year 1912,
In 1912, the Fannin County Commissioners decided that some major facelifting was needed around the courthouse. The beautiful late Victorian courthouse was certainly a source of pride and had held up well for the last 23 yearn. However, little or nothing had ever been done to enhance the setting of this magnificent building.
Professional help was sought and E. D. Harden, Landscape Architect of Ballinger, was contracted to redesign courthouse “park." At the first term of court, 1913, Harden presented his plans. Proposed was a fountain to be one corner of the grounds (wonder what happened to that?) The lawn was to be completely reworked with all weeds eliminated and a Bermuda grass lawn installed. Trees, shrubs and flower gardens were to be arranged in an attractive manner around the building. Near the Confederate monument a star of flowers and shrubbery was to be planted and gravel walks were to extend to the corners of the yard.
Bonham city officials agreed to furnish free of charge the water necessary to keep park looking fresh and green in the summer months. It was also suggested that the city furnish four lights for the park.
Later Mr. Haden revised his original plans to include eight lights. His presentation was that ornamental posts, one on either side of the walks leading to the courthouse, be installed. The wiring to these posts would be buried so that the stringing of wire would not detract. He also designed a plan by which an arch would connect each of the two posts and two lights placed upon the archways,
Haden's plan received instant approval by the Bonham Board of Trade (forerunner to today's Chamber of Commerce), various women's garden and civic clubs, the Boy Scouts, and some minister's even voiced approval from the pulpit
Strongest support came from the three newspapers published in the town. An editorial comment from The Bonham News is indicative of the support given to the project.
"Mr. Harden knows what must be done to beautify the courthouse yard and we believe that his suggestions should by all means followed in the manner of lights. These lights would add more to the beauty of the square at night than a similar amount of money spent in any other way. Of course It is understood the city, the merchants, and the citizens will have to pay for the lights The city is receiving the
benefit to a large extent of all the money which is now being spent by the county to make the courthouse yard a beautiful place,"
Something ignited many of Bonham's citizens with the result that the town began to experience a virtual frenzy of painting, cleaning, and otherwise enhancing the face that Bonham presented to the public.
The Bonham Beard of Trade took a full page in the papers extolling the accomplishments of the city, First and foremost was the construction of two new commercial enterprises, the magnificent United States Post Office on Center Street and Bonham's first "skyscraper* the Fannin National Bank on the southwest corner of the square.
The special page of the paper went on to describe the renovations of store fronts and interiors, the number of new homes under construction and the already existing homes which were undergoing some remodeling and painting and yards being beautifully landscaped.
In order to further attract commerce to the town. The Board of Trade proposed the establishing of regular "Dollar Days" whereby all the merchants could after special bargains and enticements to attract both old and new customers.
Entertainments in the downtown area were a special added attraction. Joining the already existing Mystic and Best movie theatres were the open air Aerodrome Theatre being constructed by Ray Peeler and The Grotto which opened in early summer on the south side of the square. The Steger Opera House announced a whole series of exciting attractions which had been booked, including the road company of the famous George M. Cohan musical “Fortyfive Minutes From Broadway."
But commercial entertainment was not all. The Board of Trade proudly announced that they had engaged the services of the Bonham City Band for a series of free concerts on the grounds of the courthouse park.
In March of that year Bonham elected a new mayor, W,A. Spangler. From the beginning Mayor Spangler determined that all the effort being expanded would not be allowed to disappear and that Bonham would be rewarded for its efforts.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas