Bricks from lost historic Abilene building to help preserve other historic buildings

Matera Paper Company clean up process

ABILENE, Texas - The old Matera Paper Company building was more than a century old when it caught fire and was destroyed in February of last year.

Heat from the two-alarm fire even caused several windows on a nearby building to crack. No cause has ever been determined.

Since then, the area at South 1st Street and Oak has been a pile of rubble, bricks and other building materials. Sadly, the building was one of about 200 historic buildings in the city.

"Abilene is a great city to support historic preservation because it really does mean economic development," said Bill Minter of the Abilene Preservation League.

The Matera building was originally built in 1907. It began as a grocery store and became a paper company in the 1950s. In 1992, it was inducted into the historic register.

"It was a great loss. We talked to hundreds of people who had an attachment to the building and who were sorry that it burned," Minter said.

"I just remember coming to work the next day and seeing the street look so different with the building gone," Abilene resident Linda Snow said.

"It was an antique building that needed to be saved," said another resident.

"It's been such a landmark and historical site for such a long time. It just looks strange with it being gone," Snow said.

The owner of the burned building, Tom Watson, lives in the Dallas area.

"They're doing the best they can to get it cleaned up and eventually it can go on to a new use," Minter said.

Minter said the cleanup is a salvage operation.

"The bricks in the building have been used in a number of historic preservation projects around the state and even in Oklahoma," Minter said.

Though the site still has historical overlay zoning, that could soon change.

Since the building is no longer there, Minter said the Abilene Landmark Commission will likely consider removing the historic status later this year.

There were reports that transients were staying in the Matera building when it burned. Minter said the Preservation League is being vigilant about alerting owners of vacant buildings about that type of presence to avoid possible future fires.

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