A Hotel’s Grim History

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Ah – the 1920’s – those were the days.

Prohibition – that is what I am talking about. Gin tasted sweeter, drunk was more drunken, and hang-overs didn’t hurt.

Outlaws were admired, cops were Keystone, and gambling was found behind hidden doors – fun!

Roads were being built and tourism became an economy.  

Tourist camps, hotels and motels supplied the needed respite for souls journeying toward the God given right of Manifest Destiny.

Ah – the 1920’s – the decade that Texarkana, Texas, aspired to raise a grand hotel along the Texas and Arkansas state line.

The Hotel Grim would be spectacular and a spectacle.

Lots of work in downtown Texarkana

The architectural firm of Mann and Stern, while borrowing heavily from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, designed an impressive structure, grand in a subtle way. A variety of building material inside and out created, somehow, a seamless, and elegant structure loaded with 90-degree angles – final cost 700,000 – yes, in 1925 dollars.

Guest could dine on the roof top – a dining room and garden, eight stories high, towering above the debauchery below.

The Grim, or so the legend goes, was a haven for illegal gambling. There are also rumors of an elaborate tunnel system below the town – allowing for a convenient transport of women and whisky – and the tunnels terminus, always the Grim.

Collector Items? Old doors from the Grim.

Her sins aside, the Grim lasted until 1990, better that what can be said for other hotels of the day – hopefully Texarkana found around 11,000 dollars a year worth of use from the hotel.

For thirty years the hotel was vandalized by mother nature and vagrants, teenagers and time. Ceilings collapsed and floors caved, as the once grand hotel became an eyesore.

Today – revitalization of downtown Texarkana is bringing the Grim back – well kind-of. Texarkana is not planning a luxury hotel but affordable apartment.

Never-the-less, Grim will be operating again and that is more that I can say about other hotels of the day.

A vast improvement.

The Buckhorn Baths – Mesa, Arizona

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Ted Stiger, by accident, created an iconic roadside oasis in the desert. The Buckhorn Baths in Mesa, Arizona, a mecca that denounced segregation, lured Hollywood stars, played host to the political elite, and arguably developed the Cactus League. Ted’s relationship with baseball ushered in the spring training of Americans favorite pastime to the East Valley – and all he did was dig a well.


Arizona was a no-mans-land for centuries, an arid desert, a harsh environment that few called home until the Granite Reef Dam’s construction. Completed in 1908, this early 20th-century engineering marvel on the Salt River diverted water via irrigation canals to Phoenix, allowing growth and development. Soon after, in 1911, the Roosevelt Dam was constructed, providing the valley with affordable electricity.

Inside the Buckhorn Bath’s overgrown courtyard.


While Phoenix thrived with its new wealth of utilities, America was on the move. The pursuit of mapping all-season and all-weather roads was in full swing. Routes such as the Bankhead Highway, Dixie Overland Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and U.S. Highway 80 trudged west, each claiming the title coast-to-coast.

Historic Routes – Coast to Coast


Soon travelers filled the roadways. Cars needed gas, passengers needed groceries, resulting in mom and pop shops popping up all along the newly formed transcontinental routes.
In 1936, Ted and Alice Sliger purchased a parcel of property just east of Phoenix in Mesa, Arizona, a purchase that would set in motion a series of events that would culminate into the development of the Buckhorn Baths.
Initially, the couple’s space was occupied by a store, a gas station; in addition to these, Ted found space to display his extensive taxidermy collection.


By 1938 business was good, but there was a problem. Ted had to have water delivered, and with an increase in traffic and patrons, this was becoming impractical. Ted set out to dig a well to find some water beneath his feet. Ted did find water, but not water worth drinking; Ted opened a 120 degrees mineral-rich water well. Water that, at the time, was believed to have healing powers.
Understanding the unique opportunity flowing under their feet, the two built a 27 stone tub bathhouse that could serve 75 guests per day, added cottages, and ultimately employed a staff of 25.

Yum.

The Cactus League
Bill Veeck, who owned a ranch in Arizona, purchased the Cleveland Indians in 1946. Veeck also intended to introduce African American players to his roster. This would be problematic during spring training in Florida, where Jim Crow Laws still subjected African Americans to sever discrimination; he chose to move spring training to Arizona.
The big issue with this move was that there would be no other teams to play during spring training; Cleveland needed another Arizona team during the spring.
Horace Stoneham, the hands-on owner of the New York Giants, also wintered in Arizona. And as legend has it moved the Giants spring training to Arizona the day he discovered the Buckhorn Baths and the healing waters.
The Giants would call the Buckhorn Baths home each spring for the next 25 years. Legends such as Ty Cobb and Willie Mays would soak in the mineral baths, wander the grounds, and enjoy the mild desert winters.

During a time of racial inequality, The Buckhorn welcomed all players of all colors, allowing the team to stay together on site, something that was not allowed in Florida.

Today, fifteen professional baseball teams call the Phoenix area home during the Cactus League’s season.

Ted passed away in 1984; although it had been decades since the Buckhorn was the Giants’ home base, the baths were still opened and operated along with the motel and the museum, by his wife, Alice.

The Buckhorn Baths Cottages

With Alice at the helm, she drew the last bath in 1999. The motel and museum shuttered around 2005. On November 10, 2010, Alice passed away at 103 years of age.

Today the Buckhorn Baths stand abandoned but well preserved. The mineral-rich still flows through the pipes. A roadside gem. A collection of Americana history.

The Bankhead Highway Newsletter

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Vol. 1 Issue 5

The Bankhead Highway Newsletter 

Your source for Bankhead Highway news and information – Texas’ section. 

 

What is inside this month…

TabacrossTexas just completed the entire Texas’ Bankhead Highway Route. In eight days, we covered over 900 miles slow and easy, taking in as much as we could, while we stayed as true to the original century-old alignment as we could.

This month’s newsletter is dedicated to some of the unique stops and individuals we discovered while we Crossed the State in Eight.  

 

Bankhead Highway People.

Rosenda – Sierra Blanca, Texas. 

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Rosenda – The proprietor of “Sister Gift Shop and Rocks” – Sierra Blanca, Texas. 

 

An opened door in a dead town.

Sierra Blanca is, less of a town, more of a collection of decay.

Random relicts, soon to be rubble, front the old Bankhead town’s Mainstreet.

The Sister Gift Shop and Rocks sit between long abandoned and forgotten theatres and gas stations.

Wistful Warm West Wind carries tumbleweeds through forgotten streets. Dry air has mummified the stone and steel, prolonging the deterioration process. Terracotta colored streets flow into warm stucco-covered buildings whose facade is cracked, exposing the masonry beneath.

Inside the opened narrow entry, I meet Rosenda.

We talk like long lost friends.

Two individuals in a lonely place. Removed, temporarily, from time.

Two individuals exchanging personal information. Sharing as if we were the last two souls on earth.

We could be the last to souls in Sierra Blanca, Texas.

The shop is full of random rocks and jewelry, trinkets and novelties, dusty odds and broken ends.

We chat about where we are going and where we have been. In only minutes I learn about her life, children, challenges, and successes. We ponder the changes that are inevitable and what lies ahead.

I wander out into the afternoon heat and stand in the middle of the road. Overwhelmed with the insignificance of things thought as important, realizing those things that are precious. Things miles away but still as close as a thought.

Bob Stogsdill – Strawn, Texas. 

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Bob Stogsdill – Bankhead Highway Hotel sign painter. 

 

Bob Stogsdill repainted Strawn’s Bankhead Hotel sign. His time and patience brought the old hotel back to its former glory. Well, at least the hotel’s sign.  One can find Bob in the Strawn community museum.

Bob is a great guy that will enjoy discussing the history of Strawn and the Bankhead with any ear that will listen.

Eastland Texas – Keeping the Bankhead Highway alive.

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Eastland, Texas. Celebrating the old road. 

Eastland, Texas, has taken the initiative to support the Bankhead Highway by placing BH banners around the courthouse square.

I, for one, hope the signage and discourse about the Bankhead Highway push more heritage tourists, and adventurers,  out of their homes and onto the old road.

Within the walls of that Eastland County courthouse, one will find Old Rip. A resurrection story of a Phrynosoma.

Epicurian Exelence in Brashear, Texas

 

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No menu – just tell Betty what you like. 

Located only a couple of miles beyond Sulphur Springs city limits is Brashear, Texas. Brashear was founded in 1868 and its population has declined ever since.

Recently, a California transplant has opened shop in the old Brashear Country Store. Betty is the chief chef and pot scrubber of the most relaxed restaurant in all of Texas.

Betty is not shy in her presentation of self or food. She creates larger than life plates that impress.

Rockwall, Texas 

 

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1922 Bankhead Highway

 

 

What does Rockwall, Texas, offer a Bankhead Highway tourist?

Some great old submerged bridges and an incredible 1922 railroad bridge and a great microbrewery on Mainstreet.

Mineral Wells, Texas.

The Laumdronat – Washing Machine Museum.

 

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Yes – That is the way it is speeled.

 

How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.

 

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A collection of antique washers on display.

 

It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.

 

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50 cents?

Next month we will highlight more places we discovered on our Across the State in Eight trip.

Thanks for following along.

 

Want to learn more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas?

If you are interested in learning more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas, be sure to get a copy of Dan SMith’s book

https://www.amazon.com/Bankhead-Highway-Texas-Dan-Smith/dp/0615916619 

 

Also, check out the following article on Roadtrippers.

https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/bankhead-highway-dan-smith/

More information about the Bankhead can be found at www.tabacrosstexas.com 

What to look for in the next Bankhead newsletter
Next month we will continue to focus on the people and places that make a Bankhead journey special.
We also are working on a trip itinerary for the Bankhead Highway. Our intention is to create a guide that will help the traveler discover some incredible people, places, and things along the Bankhead route.Please follow tabacrosstexas.com to stay up on Bankhead Highway News. Links below.

Stay safe and travel well.

 

Across the State in Eight (part 6 – Abilene to Loraine) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The Main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

-John Steinbeck

 

West Texas is big!

Wind turbines are everywhere. Their uniformity is eerie. I wish they would paint them like pinwheels, giant pinwheels planted by Goliath in the Big Sky Country.

Or it could be that I suffer from Megalophobia.

 

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A collection of Energies on the Bankhead. 

Since Texarkana, the railroad tracks have been a constant companion. I can’t tell if I am chasing the engines or if they are chasing me. A game of cat and mouse across Texas.

Those rails witnessed the birth of the Bankhead nearly 100 years ago. At that time the tracks were operated by the Texas and Pacific Railroad.

Abilene, Texas, owes its existence to the Texas and Pacific Railroad.

In 1881 cattlemen began using the location to stockpile cattle awaiting shipment to market via the T and P.  They name the town Abilene after Abilene, Kansas, the terminus of the Chisholm Trail.

My traveling companion is the reason Abilene exists.

Following my partner’s tracks into downtown I discover the historic Hotel Grace.

 

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The Grace is located right across the street from the train station. 

 

The Grace was built in 1909 and served the needs of travelers riding on the Texas and Pacific Line. The Grace was renamed The Drake in 1946.

As passenger-train travel waned the hotel began to decline and in 1973 it shuttered for good.

Today the building has been brought back to life and houses a downtown museum.

 

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Grace Museum visitor parking. 

Abilene’s downtown has been restored with preservation in mind. Theaters and museums all conditioned to the standards of today, while utilizing the character of design and construction to make them interesting.

 

I head west down the Bankhead and pull in to Burro Alley for some lunch.

 

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Right on the original Bankhead alignment. 

 

 

Sitting right on, what was, the Bankhead the Burro Alley’s courtyard is a hidden gem only a few feet off the road.

 

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Heading into Burro Alley

 

The path to the restaurant, shops, and courtyard is very Santa Fe -ish.

 

 

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This picture does not do it justice. 

Surrounded by a collection of stores and a restaurant this oasis in Abilene is a must stop.

 

 

 

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Scrabbled Eggs and Pork Chili – Burro Alley 

 

 

The food is great.

I find little history on Burro Alley but an old postcard shows that La Posada, as opposed to El Fenix,  was the original restaurant.

Only a few yards east is the Ponca Motel.

 

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Still the same after all these years. 

 

The Ponca Motel was built in the 1930s.

Comparing the Ponca today to early 20th-century linen postcards, little has changed. Still operational and welcoming guests along the Bankhead Highway.

Several other Bankhead era properties can be found in Abilene, including the Abilene Courts.

The town deserves more time than I can give. I push on.

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Texas and Pacific Railroad still representing in Abilene. 

 

Merkel, Texas. My favorite town on the Bankhead Highway.

 

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The birdhouse. 

 

The Merkel Restaurant’s fabulous roof.

Abandoned with everything left inside, the restaurant has become a roost for pigeons. Hundreds of these feathered squatters are gathered in the cafe. Giving a real Alfred Hitchcock feel to the place.

 

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Downtown Merkel – Follow the red brick road. 

 

While in Merkel, be sure to check out the Merkel Museum and learn about the Hollywood movie shot in Merkel titled “Independence Day”.

Yes, Independence Day was filmed in Merkel, Texas.

On to Sweetwater.

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Will it ever open?

Again, the West Texas Music Hall of Fame is closed. I peer through the window and see a collection of music memorabilia. Maybe someday I will get to go inside, until then I will have to just look at the website.

Across the street is the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium.

 

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Elvis played the stage twice.

 

The Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium has hosted performances from Fred Astaire, Roy Acuff, Eddie Arnold, and the King himself, Elvis. Elvis visited Sweetwater in June and December of 1955 to put on a show.

 

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Just hanging – waiting for the right time. 

 

A pendulum hangs motionless, without purpose, over the old Bankhead route in Sweetwater.

 

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An excellent museum. 

 

During World War II the majority of male pilots were actively engaged in combat overseas. This resulted in a shortage of pilots.

A need arose to shuttle planes to bases across America. With a lack of male pilots, the solution was to train females to fly, thus The Women Airforce Service Pilots (W.A.S.P) was formed.

The women of W.A.S.P were stationed in Sweetwater, Texas.

 

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West out of Sweetwater. 

 

 

The Bankhead route will become the south service road of I-20 for a while. I enjoy this lonely stretch while I can.

A Recycled Rex is watching over his cement pillars.

 

 

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Roadside Rex

Outside of Loraine, I find a prize. More glass marbles.

 

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Hidden behind a more modern, and practical, reflection implement, these glass marbles have been embedded here since 1929.

I will end Across the State in Eight (part 6) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour from Midland’s own, Tall City Brewing Co.

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Stay tuned for part 7 of the Bankhead adventure.

Finding the lost Bankhead Highway

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Dan Smith and the Bankhead

Dan Smith is not shy when it comes to the promotion of the Bankhead Highway. His love of the road is apparent with his self-designed Bankhead shirt and ball-cap. Even his car carries the Bankhead brand with magnetic badges that can be prominently displayed on any metallic surface, today they are on the doors. His car’s trunk is a treasure trove of Bankhead paraphernalia from t-shirts, postcards, maps, photos, and even actual pieces of Bankhead pavement. The only thing that challenges his quantity of tangible Bankhead items is his mind full of Bankhead Highway knowledge and history. All of which, he is excited to share.

Today the Bankhead, once labeled the Broadway of America, is difficult to find unless one knows where to look. Scattered reminders are hidden in plain sight. Out of place blacktop and bridges sit abandoned of their original purpose and useless in the current condition. Vibrant towns that once boasted numerous residents and visitors stand motionless. The grid of the streets create plots where many of the buildings now lay to rest.

There is a stir of life along the Bankhead due to an increase of heritage tourism and revitalization of small-town America. While a multitude of factors have come into play to help breathe life back into the road, Dan Smith, author, historian, and road reviver, maintained the Bankhead’s faint pulse and kept the road alive.

 

Dan Smith wrote the book on the Bankhead Highway, literally, he wrote the book. Texas Highway No. 1 The Highway, is “that book” and currently the only Bankhead Highway guidebook in print. Dan intended the book to be one-half history and one-half travel guide. Dan stated, “I wanted to replicate the old earliest 1920’s guidebooks.” His book is spiral bound because Dan intended the traveler to just, “lay it on the seat next to them.”

How the Bankhead Came to Be

With an origin at Mile Marker Zero, in Washington D.C., the Bankhead would snake its way across the southern half of the lower 48 with its terminus in San Diego, CA. The Bankhead Highway would guarantee America the reliability of all year travel, something the Lincoln Highway could not offer due to its northern route.

The United States Federal Government had allotted money to states for highway construction. With roughly 1000 miles of the Bankhead located in Texas; the lion’s share of the funds would be headed to the Lone Star State. In April of 1917, a large group of important people convened deep in the heart of Texas to make sure that Texas had its share of what would ultimately become the Bankhead Highway.

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Ultimately in less than one week, in 1917, the group would string together commerce and community and like an artisan jeweler, they would create a fine chain of highway that would shine across Texas and America ushering in new businesses and tourism.

Texas would brand its Bankhead Highway section as Texas 1. Collectively the entire route of the Bankhead would come to be known as the Broadway of America.

The Texas Section of the Bankhead Highway

The Abilene Morning News reported in 1929 that the Bankhead Highway was carrying one car per minute. The official count was 1,216 cars in 1,200 minutes explicitly excluding local traffic.

In the 1920’s an oil boom in West Texas utilized the Bankhead to its full extent.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, “The Bankhead Highway provided an indispensable transportation route for oilfield laborers and drilling supplies.” In 1927, the Bankhead was widened to accommodate traffic to oil wells near Midland.

The Bankhead also ushered in a new type of development targeted toward tourists. A multitude of courts, cafes, and gas stations as well as hotels that were grander than anything before.

Such a hotel was the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells constructed in 1925. The Baker Hotel created quite a footprint in the town of Mineral Wells with 232,000 square feet and rising 14 stories above the town. Four hundred fifty guest rooms and the healing mineral waters awaited Bankhead Highway travelers in what Texas Monthly Magazine describes as “Texas’ premier spa” during its heyday.

Dan envisions an early Bankhead Highway’s travelers’ experiences as, “every day is a whole new world,” when driving, “from here to California.”

World Wars further utilized the Bankhead importance to America’s security and transportation of military traffic. Several World War I military installations were located on the Bankhead. As America became involved in World War II, the Bankhead Highway became vital to the war effort. Local communities became the home of multiple newly constructed military bases and installations. The road, in turn, benefitted with upgrades and improvements during mobilization.

The Bankhead is Lost

While the Bankhead Highway was the primary route early in the 20th century, Bankhead Highway’s history would become a tangled mess of names and numbers, realignments and alternative routes, abandoned fragments, fenced off pavements slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature, and other sections covered with interstate highway I20 and I10.

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The Bankhead was repeatedly beaten and battered by political and economic forces that resulted in the evolution of the road. The highway would ultimately become a variety of numbers with only a couple of small sections keeping the Bankhead moniker in their names. The Bankhead, pride of the south, testament to America’s dedication to progress and development, and a conduit for West Texas Oil wealth, would fade into history until Dan Smith would accidentally become its savior.

Dan’s Journey to the Bankhead

Dan is an author, historian, and self-proclaimed geek who seems to find the unique and forgotten topics the most fun to research.

Dan is a Floridian, born and raised in Miami. He graduated number two in his class and began a career with the weather service. He does not remember when he became interested in weather but remembers in the seventh-grade winning science fairs with his weather experiments.

Dan recalls a time in graduate school when an assignment sent him on a journey to research, “the most obscure thing I could find.” This led Dan deep into the library to discover dusty journals focused on 19th-century steamboats that navigated narrow Florida rivers.

Dan immerses himself in his interests, while the Bankhead might be his passion, even years after his introduction to the steamboats, he will still use any opportunity to discuss this steamboat with any ear that will listen.

But he will admit that his thoughts and talks will quickly go, “back to the Bankhead Highway.”

His interest and career choice will ultimately bring Dan and his family to Texas and closer to the Bankhead Highway. Fresh out of college and eager to continue his work with the Weather Bureau, Dan was quick to take advantage of a vacancy in Fort Worth, Texas. Dan would spend the next thirty-plus years of his life working with the Weather Service.

New Year’s Day 1970, was, “the first time I was west of the Mississippi.”

He humorously describes his new Texas home as a “new world” and “neat place.” This “neat place” unknown to Dan, will introduce him in a few decades to an old road that will become his passion demanding years of research and attention and ultimately bring Dan recognition and respect from people far and wide. This Texas transplant will arguably be the best thing that has happened to the Bankhead since 1917.

Dan readily admits that he, “literally just stumbled on the Bankhead Highway.”

A random bicycle ride near his home in Fort Worth, Texas, would be an event that would change Dan’s life and ultimately breathe new life into the Bankhead. As for the actual date of the ride, Dan will respond, “your guess is as good as mine”. While the exact date and time is up for debate it was for sure around the year 1983.

Dan’s ride that day took him down a random Texas road, a road that happened to still have Bankhead in its name. A street sign was enough to pique Dan’s interest and when he got home decided to find out more about this Bankhead Highway.

This single sign opened an area of research that would become the focus of Dan’s life and introduce him to over 1000 miles of route in Texas of a road that crossed the country as the Broadway of America.

An endless amount of information about a forgotten road

Dan made calls from Austin, Texas, to Washington, DC, attempting to learn more about the road. He received boxes of information that had been stored away for years. Dan states that the information about, “the Bankhead just grew, and grew, and grew.”

“The more I researched the more I went out and learned things,” and the more people he would meet, “so many people, notebooks full of people.”

Unknown to Dan at the time, the Bankhead was about to have a birthday, and he would be a key player in the celebration.

Dan understands that there is much more to learn about the Bankhead. While he does not look to compare the Bankhead to more well-known and popular routes in America, he feels that the Bankhead has great significance.

Texas celebrating the Bankhead

As the centennial celebration of the Bankhead grew near, the State of Texas and the Texas Historical Commission joined the celebration.

“I heard from the folks with the Historic Commission in Austin (Texas), and they were fixing to give a contract of roughly a million dollars or whatever it was, to a research company to do a study on the Bankhead Highway.”

Dan Smith was soon contacted by the research group that secured the contract.

Curious about their plan, Dan asked, “what are you going to use for a map?”

Their response, “that is why we are calling you.”

Dan’s book became a valuable resource to the state and its research

At this time Dan’s Bankhead book was not complete, but he did have a draft that would soon be ready to publish.

“I gave the only copy to them,” he quickly corrects his statement, “loaned it to them.”

The intention was to create a guide. “My thing was that if they can’t find their way with this then I got work to do,” Dan states with regards to revision.

Both parties mutually benefited. Dan’s book was field-tested, and the group was able to navigate a century-old road.

As for Dan’s relationship and influence with the Texas Historical Commission, he states, “I feel I have been very helpful to them.” He continues that he tries to keep them up to date “with what is going on” with the Bankhead.

Dan pays homage to the Bankhead Highway with signs and his book

The book was not the only homage Dan had for the Bankhead Highway. Dan, together with a local sign maker, started producing Bankhead Highway signs and historical plaques. Dan states with pride, “I’ve put out about 100 of those all the way across the state.”DSC_0011 (2)

The State of Texas also has placed some official signs designating the old Bankhead Highway, but Dan is quick to point out, “My signs were never intended to compete with any state sign,” those placed by the highway department the TDot signs, “are altogether different.”

Dan points out that, “signs go up on city or county property, not TDot,” not interfering or infringing on state or federal rights of way, confessing, “that’s how we get away with it.”

The self-described Johnny Appleseed of the Bankhead Highway peddling BH signs to all takers. He does have a request, “when I give those away (BH signs) my only wish is, put it somewhere people can see it.”

What Dan Smith offered the Bankhead Highway

“I can’t tell what is going to happen to the old road, but at least in my book it will be preserved forever.”

Dan reconnected the broken chain of the Bankhead. His book pieces together the fragments that would have been lost in plain sight. The gems and jewels still exist albeit a bit tarnished and Dan’s travel guide allows the heritage traveler to have an experience a century old.

Today those same communities that built the tourist courts and camps, spas and hotels, gas stations and cafes 100 years ago are looking for ways to bring them back to their original luster.

The heritage tourist, as well as the casual traveler, will find several gems and jewels along today’s route as well as historical and cultural significant interests. Each town down the Bankhead route will offer a multitude of hospitality of yesterday and luxuries of today. These roadside treasures await the heritage tourists as they make their way down the Broadway of America.

The Settles Hotel in Big Spring, as well as the El Capitan in Van Horn, have been reconditioned to their early twentieth-century glory offering five-star overnight accommodations and services.

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The previously mentioned Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells is presently being restored with plans of reopening in 2022. Laird Fairchild discussed the plans with Texas Monthly Magazine and stated the restorations as, “the largest restoration in Texas history of a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” Phil Garrett, the Mineral Wells unofficial historian believes that the Baker’s rebirth is, “the most significant historical event since the discovery by our town’s founder of the local mineral water in 1881,” as stated in the article.

Abandoned tourist courts in Abilene and decaying midcentury architecture in Merkel will give the traveler a haunting reminder of how things used to be. Native American and Comanche culture is woven into the route. With the dynamic city of El Paso not ending the journey, but just adding extra layers to a satisfying experience with the mixture of cultures and old west persona.

Today’s Bankhead traveler can still drive on miles and miles of original hand-laid brick roadways. Traveling on a brick road can add to the nostalgia of heritage travel. These hand-laid roads are evidence of the longevity of certain early road engineering. Dan believes that there is, “at least a hundred miles, maybe more,” of vintage Bankhead pavement in Texas adding, “that brick goes all the way across Eastland county.”

These unique experiences will add variety to what Dan calls today’s “great sameness” in traveling experiences.

And just like the State of Texas Dan Smith’s, Texas Highway No.1 The Bankhead Highway in Texas, will be the required travel companion. The guide will inform and educate while keeping the tourist from getting lost.

What the Bankhead Highway offered to Dan Smith

Dan’s humbleness often overshadows his accomplishment.

Dan is identified by many as “America’s Recognized Expert” on the Bankhead Highway, he is quick to affirm, “I don’t make that claim,” but as Texas’ research group confirmed with their call – he is the go-to guy with regards to the Bankhead Highway.

Dan loves to discuss and chat about the Bankhead, “What I am happy about is the fact that I am still at it, that people still give a hoot.”

Dan wishes he would have kept count of the number of formal and organized groups he has spoken to across the state. When Dan is asked about what has brought him the most joy he brightly responds, “all the talks I have given.”

Dan borrows from Jimmy Doolittle’s quote that he will, “never be so lucky again,” and the Bankhead’s history and today’s heritage tourists will never be so lucky that Dan decided to go for a bicycle ride.