Note: This is the second in a series of six stories that are being done by participants of the HooHaa Holga Challenge. The rest will run through Friday. See information for the rest at the bottom of this post.
By Mike Davis
Waco, Texas – Population 124, 805 as of 2010. Waco was founded in 1849 and is named for the Huaco Indians who lived in the area.
Located in the Heart of Texas, directly between Dallas and Austin, Waco was relatively quiet for some time. It gained some notoriety, perhaps infamy is the better word, in 1993 during the Branch Davidian Standoff. While the Davidians weren’t located in Waco city limits, we were the closest town to their compound.
President George W. Bush also chose Crawford, a little town outside Waco, as the location for his ranch and spent quite a bit of time there during his terms.
One of the jewels of Waco is William Cameron Park. Cameron Park in 416 acres inside the city limits located along the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque rivers.
The cliffs in the park were formed because of the Balcones fault that runs through the area. Lover’s Leap is a popular area of the park complete with a legend — A Huacoan Indian chief had a daughter named Wah-Wah-Tee who fell in love with a member of the Apache tribe. The two lovers had to run off together, as the Apaches and Huacos were enemies, but were intercepted by her angry father and brothers.
The tale ends with Wah-Wah-Tee kissing her lover before the two of them jumped from a cliff at the east end of the Bosque River and plummeted to their deaths.
Just to the top left of the Bosque River picture is the location of the Waco Mammoth Site where the bones of 24 Columbian mammoth were buried approximately 68,000 years ago when rapidly rising waters from the Bosque River flooded the site. They are currently working on receiving National Park status for the site.
The park is also home to the Cameron Park Zoo, as well as some of the top-rated hiking and mountain biking trails in Texas.
A true test of fitness is a hike up the 87 unevenly spaced steps that make up Jacob’s Ladder.
Continuing down the Brazos River, we find Waco’s iconic symbol, the Waco Suspension Bridge.
Built in 1869 by the renowned New York firm of John A. Roebling Co., the firm that had originated the suspension span bridge concept, and later oversaw the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the bridge spanned 475 feet and contained nearly 3 million locally produced bricks.
The bridge helped Waco grow along the Chisolm Trail.
It was closed to vehicular traffic in 1971 but is still in use today.
Another Waco icon is the ALICO building. Built as the home of the Amicable Life Insurance Company in 1911, the ALICO building’s 22 floors made it the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
At one point the building was entirely self-sufficient, with an electrical generator, oil wells across the Bosque River to fuel its heating system, and an Artesian well for water. The bottom floors were damaged in 1953 during a tornado that devastated most of downtown Waco.
The building is still in use and still the tallest building in Waco.
Waco is the county seat of McLennan County.
The McLennan County Courthouse was built in 1901 by architect J. Reily Gordon. The Beaux-Arts style building is said to have been inspired by St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.
On top of the courthouse’s dome is a small lantern, crowned by a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of divine law and justice. The statue is holding the scales of Justice in her left hand and the hilt of a sword in her right. The dome is also ringed by eight eagles.
The roof and dome have recently gone through restoration giving Themis the blade of her sword back.
Waco’s most famous export product was created at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store.
Dr Pepper, created in 1885, pre-dates Coca-Cola by about a year. Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist working at Morrison’s store, is believed to be the inventor of the now famous drink.
The Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became Dr Pepper Company, is now the home of the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute. The museum houses all sorts of soft drink memorabilia and the Institute provides a hands-on lab where students learn how to create and market their own beverages.
If you were wondering, Dr Pepper dropped the “.” in the 1950’s. The 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the “Home of Dr Pepper.”
Waco was known as the “Athens on the Brazos” during the 1880s because it was fast becoming the hub of education in the Lone Star State.
In 1881, Paul Quinn College moved to Waco from Austin; AddRand College (later changed its name to Texas Christian University) moved to Waco in 1895, in 1882, a city tax was levied to fund the Waco Public Schools; and in 1886 Waco University and Baylor University consolidated locations in Waco.
Waco is still home to McLennan Community College, a Texas State Technical College, and Baylor University. Baylor was founded in 1845 and is the state’s oldest continually operating private university. Baylor moved from Independence, Texas in 1885.
Baylor has actually been a university longer than Texas has been a state.
Pat Neff Hall was opened in 1939 and is home to the Administrative Offices, as well as the McLane Carillon. The instrument was built by the Paccard Bell Foundry of Annecy, France. The weight of the bells ranges from 29 pounds to 4,370 pounds, with a total weight of more than 22 tons.
Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, a native of Kentucky, moved to Texas where he co-founded Baylor University with the Reverend William Tryon and Reverend James Huckins, the first Baptist missionary to Texas. He was elected judge of the district and supreme courts of the Republic of Texas and was a member of the convention that framed the State constitution of Texas in 1845.
Rufus C. Burleson was the second president of Baylor.
He was accused by William Cowper Brann of fathering a child with a young Brazilian girl who lived with the Burlesons, eventually leading to his demotion to President Emeritus in 1897 despite being found innocent by a grand jury. The building behind his statue is part of the Burleson Quadrangle, the first common area to the students at the Waco campus.
Just behind Old Main, and the R.E. Baylor Statue, is Founders Mall and this column monument.
According to Michael White’s History of Baylor University 1845-1861, the memorial is built of stones from Tyron Hall, a building from Baylor’s original Independence campus about 80 miles west of Houston. The memorial also contains pieces of Old Main, Carroll Science Building, Alexander Residence Hall and Pat Neff Hall.
Buried beneath the monument is a time capsule from 1945, when the stones were dedicated for Baylor’s centennial celebration.
A visit to Baylor wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to a young man who brought a new spark to are generally less-than-stellar athletics program (with apologies to women’s basketball, this is Texas and football is king.)
Robert Griffin III led our football program to our first bowl game in years, our first bowl win in years, and then he went ahead and won the Heisman Trophy for excellence in football this year.
He did all of this while completing his Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master in Communications. He was the second overall pick in the NFL draft and, much to my chagrin, will be playing for the Washington Redskins. He kicked off “The Year of the Bear” that had us set an NCAA record for combined wins in football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball and saw all of our teams appearing in post-season play. Needless to say, I’m a touch excited.
There is much more to Waco than I could ever cover in 12 photos.
Waco has been a great place to grow up. It has just the right mix of activities and its proximity to larger cities provides one with outlets for just about everything else without having to deal with traffic. We have access to sports, great golf courses, good food and plenty of other activities.
See more of Mike on the web:
HooHaa Holga Challenge:
Day 1: Totness, England
Day three of the HooHaa Holga Challenge is Tuesday, with Shaima M and Geneva, Switzerland.