Downtown Abilene: At the Crossroads of Rugged and Refined

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 10:00 AM - Saturday, December 11, 2021 5:00 PM
The Grace Museum
102 Cypress Street Abilene, TX 79601
Downtown Abilene with Ringling Bros. Train, c. 1910s, Gift of Judge Lee Hamilton

“Where glittering barrooms graced the night

Amid the songs of dance-hall queens;

Where rugged men with boots and beards

Watched the swiftly moving scene,

They bought their joy and paid in gold

When they came to Abilene”

[Minter Dry Goods Store], photograph, Date Unknown; University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting McMurry University Library

The words of this 1936 poem by Walt Cousins still ring true, with urban development continuing to make its way into nearly every corner of Abilene. As the historic keystone of West Texas, this town has featured hundreds of unique businesses, has been home to entrepreneurs for all of its rich history, and has always welcomed many travelers to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Underpass and Pine Street, Looking North, Abilene, Texas, postcard, 1939, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. L. Shannon Halloway

This exhibit features a selection of early Abilene businesses that were prominent members of downtown commerce from 1900-1940. It also highlights the overall advancement, growth, and modernization of Abilene through objects and photographs from the permanent collection of The Grace Museum as well as photographs from other Texas institutions and publications.

This exhibition was curated by students Maia Bell, Kelci Campbell, and Kendyll Jacobs from Dr. Amanda Biles’s Introduction to Public History: Interpreting American Pasts course at Abilene Christian University.