This Week’s Book Review – Lost, Texas

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Exploring Texas and its forgotten places

By MARK LARDAS

June 12, 2018

“Lost, Texas: Photographs of Forgotten Buildings,” by Bronson Dorsey, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 244 pages, $40

Buildings and towns have lifespans, just like people.

“Lost, Texas: Photographs of Forgotten Buildings,” by Bronson Dorsey underscores that. A photoessay, the book captures forgotten and abandoned buildings throughout the state of Texas.

His photography is stunning. Readers make an extended road trip through Texas exploring forgotten places, buildings and towns. The trip takes readers around the state visiting east, south, central, north and west Texas and the Panhandle.

Dorsey explores the Texas that can be seen off the interstate, on state, county, Farm-to-Market, and Ranch-to Market roads. Small towns, including ghost towns, predominate, but he has a few small cities, such as Palestine and Marshall.

All buildings featured outlived their original purpose. Some, such as the old International and Great Northern Railroad Hospital in Palestine, seem in good shape, abandoned, but capable of revival if a new use could be found. A few, like the Koch Hotel in D’Hanis, are still in use, restored as bed-and-breakfasts or museums. Most, however, are abandoned in various states of deterioration.

“Lost, Texas” charts the rise and fall of both buildings and communities. The reasons for abandonment are many. Entire towns die when bypassed by the railroad, and later the interstate. Changing travel tastes make tourist courts and railroad hotels. Gas stations and stores become uneconomical when new highways bypass them.

Technology matters, too. Mechanization reduced the need for farm labor. As a result, farm communities dwindled, the schools, stores, and restaurants that served the departed community became unnecessary. Industry closings, such as the Sulphur plant at Newgulf or Presidio Mines in Shafter cause communities to whither.

Dorsey captures these trends in his photographs. The book is filled with poignant and sometimes haunting images testimony to dead dreams: A crumbling service station in Pep, the decayed sheriff’s office in Langtry, collapsing World War II bomber hangers in Pyote, a lonely red, one-room schoolhouse on the Panhandle plains in Wayside.

Each set of photos is accompanied by the story of the building captured. They are all different, yet all similar. “Lost, Texas” takes readers into the Texas of yesteryear.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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6 thoughts on “This Week’s Book Review – Lost, Texas”

  1. I wonder if the book mentions Darwin, Texas. It was a mining company town located northwest of Laredo. My grandmother was born there in 1915; her father was the company’s paymaster.

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  2. Mike LaRoche:
    I wonder if the book mentions Darwin, Texas. It was a mining company town located northwest of Laredo. My grandmother was born there in 1915; her father was the company’s paymaster.

    It does not. I checked.

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  3. I have passed an abandoned barn on 90 east from Houston every year for decades. It has been interesting to see it gradually overgrown. For some reason, I was always fond of the sight.

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  4. Most of America east of the Rockies has lots of “lost” places.  For over a century our population has shifted from rural to urban and suburban.  Midsize cities grew while small towns dried up.

    It is easy to predict which will be the next group of “lost” communities.  If there is not a Walmart there, it has no future.

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  5. 10 Cents:
    How long did it usually take a place to become lost?

    Depends on where it is and where it is going. It is harder to get lost in a city of any size. Out on the prairie or in mountains or forests, it may not take long at all.

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