Birth of the Public Square

  • <p>Standing at the northeast corner of Sixth &amp; Main Streets.</p>
  • <p>Photo ca. 1891 looking westward along State Street.  When the businesses on the left burn in a fire, the cleared space became the public square.</p>
  • <p>Photo of the Square ca. 1906 looking southeast.  By this time, many of the structures on the square were of masonry construction and the center of the square was public open space.</p>
  • <p>Photo of the square looking northeast ca. 1906.  The Garland Square was unpaved when this photo framed its northwest corner of present State and Fifth Streets is the Garland Hotel. Across the street is the Citizen's National Bank, Garland's first bank, founded in 1895. Successive banks operated there until 1929, and in 1933, the building was remodeled to become Nicholson Memorial Hall.</p>
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Birth of the Public Square

Standing at NE corner of Sixth and Main Streets

Original downtown business structures were of wood construction, connected by wooden sidewalks and laid on a grid system with dirt streets. Neighborhoods developed along the edges of this commercial center.

Initially, the Downtown business district had no central Square. Between present State and Main streets, businesses lined the east side of Sixth Street, with an alley behind them; another row of buildings fronted Fifth Street.

On November 30, 1899 (Thanksgiving night), a fire razed Downtown Garland; at least 30 businesses and homes were lost. With the fire having cleared the town center of structures, business leaders seized the opportunity to acquire central properties and set them aside as a public open space. As a result, the Downtown Square was born.

Garland’s first bank, Citizen’s National Bank, opened in 1895. But the building burned four years later. In 1900, the bank rebuilt, erecting the Alamo-style building shown on the site in the photo below.
By 1901, the northeastern corner of the Square featured the Garland Hotel, a two-story wood-clad structure. The building began life as part of a school dormitory located near present-day Ninth Street and Main Street. When the school ceased accepting boarders, a part of its dormitory was salvaged and moved to this location. The Garland Hotel was lost to a fire in 1932.

By 1901, the square was established around a dirt lot in the center. Used to park horses and buggies, as well as for Trade Days, livestock was often traded here. A small well, dug near the center of the Square, supplied water to the horses, visitors, and businesses. In 1914, a massive cistern was created beneath the square. News accounts estimated its size at 45 feet deep and 34 ½ feet across. Referred to as “The Big Well”, itwas said to have been large enough to drive a horse-drawn carriage through.