Proposed Renovation to Main House by Chambers Architects
Albany Texas in Shackelford County is the location of a current historic restoration project by Dallas architect, Stephen B. Chambers Architects. Shackelford County has a special place in Texas history. Some of the bloodiest raids ever carried out by the Comanche and Kiowa on the Anglo-American settlements, as well as some of the fiercest battles between U.S. troops and American Indian warriors, were in Shackelford County. When the U.S. Army withdrew from Texas during the Civil War, the frontier defenses from outlaws and native tribes were left to the local settlers. Federal troops returned to the state in 1867, and occupied some of the forts that had been built before the war as well as newly constructed sites. Camp Wilson (soon renamed Fort Griffin) was built on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. This community served as a marketplace and supply point for buffalo hunters and as a watering place for soldiers, hunters, and trail hands driving cattle over the Great Western Trail, which crossed the Clear Fork near Albany. The settlers who stayed on the homesteads were some of the hardiest and most hospitable in defense of those who traveled the north and south trails.
Albany Texas, thirty-five miles northeast of Abilene, is a destination for visitors seeking a window into early Texas ranch life and the location for the annual Fort Griffin Fandangle under the stars in June. Albany is more than a pretty face, however. The pastoral setting turns urban dwellers misty-eyed: the languid pace, the friendly townspeople, and a Dairy Queen packed with locals. It also boasts a steady economy and the sophisticated mindset of art collectors who contribute to the Old Jail Art Center. The town was on the cattle trail to Dodge City, and its slogan since 1920 has been “Home of the Hereford,” because area ranchers were instrumental in popularizing the breed. The city remains a ranching stronghold.
Rescuing the Historic Homestead
The clients engaged Chambers Architects to restore the rambling ranch home, site of the annual “Polo on the Prairie,” an M.D. Anderson Hospital benefit. The original home was constructed as a secure stone blockhouse to protect the family from outlaws and Comanches on the lawless frontier of .West Texas. What presented itself when the Chambers arrived was an assemblage of additions, typical of ranch houses built over time in a haphazard manner as the family grew and prospered. The task of this project was to make the original gem of 1850s’ construction the focal point.
Preserving Texas Built History
Why is it important to save Texas’s old ranch structures? They are living examples of the self-reliance and perseverance of the hardy early settles of the West. The built environment tells us everything we need to know about how dangerous and daunting life was for those chose this adventure into unknown territory.