We pass through Eagle Lake, Texas, regularly on trips to and from the Polka Farm. So the other day, my wife and I made this little town of 3,600 or so our destination. The first thing we noticed was that it’s exceedingly difficult to actually catch a glimpse of the 1,400-acre lake for which the town is named.
We followed promising roads around both sides of the lake, and at one point found ourselves on the only road that leads to structures actually built on (or more precisely, on a hill above) the water. Six or eight homeowners appear to enjoy fabulous views and access to the lake. But it turns out the lake itself is privately owned, and leased out to select hunters and fishermen.
We learned this from the mayor, whom we met while making a call at the city chamber of commerce, of which she also is president. I imagine that she is weary of informing the inquisitive of the fact that Eagle Lake citizens live a couple stones’ throws away from the lake but, no, they have no access to it. Yet she showed no weariness at all, and in fact appears tireless in her efforts to promote the city.
It’s an old town by Texas standards, with two or three dozen historic commercial buildings, most dating from the late 1800s. Building permits were displayed outside perhaps a third of them, which appear destined for restoration.
One of the finest buildings is the former Farris Hotel, apparently an establishment of some repute, which closed down in 2013 after the owner died. I’ve read that the widow sold the building to someone who renamed it Wessex Hall. Whatever the new owner’s intentions, the building sits behind a hurricane fence now, apparently not in use.
For a small town, Eagle Lake is blessed with architectural gems, including even the city police station:
Yet the city has made its contribution to rural decay. In our search for the elusive shores of Eagle Lake, we came upon a large brick and beam hovel, behind a state historic marker identifying it as E.H. Henry Rosenwald School. According to the marker, in the days of racial segregation African Americans in Eagle Lake conducted school for their children, but had no formal school building until a black educator, Eugene Henry, convinced the president of Sears Roebuck Co. to cover half the cost of building one, in 1930.
Here is that historic school today:
Sad to me that the forces at work renovating the town couldn’t have manifest themselves early enough to save the school. Now crumbles into the Earth and serves mostly as a monument to some imaginative graffiti. When time permits, I’ll gather more of the Eagle Lake images into a separate gallery…