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When standing
on the Independence
Town Square today, you can imagine changes over the years.

 

 


As was true
for almost every Texas town established during this period, the founders of Independence envisioned the Town Square as a public space framed by businesses and public buildings with the county courthouse in the center of that public space.

 

 

 


Buildings that once
faced the Square

The two-story Independence Hotel, commonly known as "Hood’s Hotel," was located on the southwest side of the Square on the primary road through Independence. When A.W. Hood purchased the property for $1500 in 1848, the deed discloses that Hood’s purchase included a "Tavern stand and stables."

 

The Independence Post Office was in service from 1843 through January 1958. Like many rural post offices, it operated out of the homes or businesses of postmasters like Thomas H. Shannon shown (circa 1925) standing on the porch of his store that fronted the west side of the Square.

 

 
Looking southeast across the Independence Town Square at Block Three.

 

Independence was founded on December 2, 1835, by four land speculators who shared interest "in a certain parcel of ground…to be named Independence." The original town boundaries of Independence consisted of 78 acres, laid out in a grid pattern of 60 regularly-shaped blocks plus four blocks in the center of town that formed the Town Square. Future development of the Square was determined in early 1844 when Independence lost to Brenham by one vote in the bid for the Washington County seat.

One year later, Independence–considered the wealthiest community in Texas–was chosen as the location for Baylor University. By the 1850s, Independence was at its peak as an educational and religious center surrounded by highly productive cotton plantations. Townspeople, Baylor students, and area planters and farmers supported local businesses, most of which overlooked the Square.

The Civil War, poor roads, the lack of a railroad and other reliable transportation took their toll on the community. Even more disastrous to Independence than a fire in 1873 and a tornado in 1882, was the relocation of both Baylor campuses in 1886. The final setback came when the September 1900 hurricane swept through southeast Texas and caused heavy damage in the area.


The Town Square was probably the site where one-time Independence resident Sam Houston, who had opposed seceding from the Union, delivered his “Independence Speech” declaring allegiance to “the Southern Confederacy”
on May 10, 1861.

The Square Today

The Independence Town Square today has changed over the years. Some buildings
were adapted for different uses and survive, many were demolished or destroyed, and a
few new structures were built.

The most intact row of commercial buildings was on Block Three. The only commercial building still standing on the block retains elements of a 19th century structure and now houses Wodrich Murals. Many present-day residents remember the building as Charlie Shulte’s store that closed in the 1970s.
In the late 1880s, an existing church north of the Square was adapted for use as the public school for white children. When that building burned in 1939, the present schoolhouse was built and used until 1953. It was then used as a residence before becoming the offices of Phelps Country Properties.
The present residence on the southwest side of the Square utilized materials from an earlier structure that had fallen into ruins. From1840 to 1904, buildings on this corner housed the local Masonic Milam Lodge No. 11 on the second floor and numerous businesses on the first floor.

 

Other buildings to be seen around the Square are the Mrs. Sam Houston House and the Blanton Block.

 

 

Find where this site is located on our Independence Map.

Return to TOURING INDEPENDENCE to see other historic sites.

 
Documentary photos: Schoolhouse and Shannon store, The Texas Collection, Baylor University; Shulte store and background map, Dana Morris; McKnight Drugstore and Hood Hotel, Gracey Booker Toland’s Austin Knew His Athens, 1985 reprint; and Sam Houston, Sam Houston Memorial Museum. All current photos: Ellen Beasley. Research and content by Ellen Beasley.

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Independence Preservation Trust
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Houston, Texas 77027-2893
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