News

History fell along with bricks during downtown shakeup

Legendary firms occupied block over the decades


Just minutes after the initial fall of bricks, firefighters, police and business personnel attempt to assess damage to city block. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Just minutes after the initial fall of bricks, firefighters, police and business personnel attempt to assess damage to city block. Reporter/Mike Brown More than bricks came crashing down last Wednesday and Thursday when a firewall fell and caused serious damages to a number of businesses along Cameron and Main Streets.

The block probably dates to the 1880s—the buildings damaged last week are visible in several old photos—and its age contributed to the wall’s demise.

“When you’ve got brickwork that’s 125 years old that’s certainly a factor,” Lon Williams, city code enforcement officer, said. “We’re talking about the same age as Garcia’s Place.”

Garcia’s Place was a former tavern on Rockdale’s frontier days infamous “Rat Row.”

On Thanksgiving night, 2004, the old building collapsed with part of it falling into Main Street.

Like last week’s firewall, the collapse occurred “after hours” and nobody was hurt.

LEGENDARY—Cameo Insurance, which was severely damaged last week, occupies the site of one of Rockdale’s most legendary buildings.

Up until the Great Depression the building housed the Loewenstein family store.

The Loewenstein brothers, Ben and Joe, quite literally date back to the beginning of Rockdale.

They were on the first train to reach the new frontier town in 1873 and the brothers set up their first business in a tent during December of that year.

Rockdale wouldn’t even become a city until six months later.

In more recent years, the building housed a steakhouse and western clothing store.

MUSIC— Cliff ’s Tavern on Main Street was previously owned by another legendary Rockdale resident, Cliff Sims, well-known for his expertise with music and race horses. The business retained Sims’ name.


It was Loewenstein’s in the 1930s (L), Cameo Insurance on Wednesday, many businesses in between. Above. volunteer firefighters carefully inspected buildings after crash. It was Loewenstein’s in the 1930s (L), Cameo Insurance on Wednesday, many businesses in between. Above. volunteer firefighters carefully inspected buildings after crash. Old Tyme Friends Antiques, next door to Cameo Insurance, occupies another building which has housed many businesses over the years, most recently a medical supply company.

In the 1950’s the building was occupied by well-known Rockdale businessman Linwood Mehaffey.

The two-story, vacant building on the corner of Cameron and Main, containing an upstairs apartment, has run the gamut of businesses in its more than a century. It wasn’t damaged.

It housed some well-remembered drug stores, including Skrivanek’s, was a restaurant, a hair salon and even contained one of Rockdale’s first Internet services.

A number of computer game players sat up in the building all night Dec. 31, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2000, to greet the new millennium.

WORST FIRE—Other areas of the block which went undamaged last week are, if anything, more historic.

In the 1950s the current site of Gospel Life Church was Prewitt Drug Store downstairs, and upstairs—26 of them—featured doctor’s and dentist’s office, plus Alcoa’s first hiring office in Rockdale.

But the city library’s location trumps them all. It’s on the site of Scarbrough & Hicks.

The “Walmart of its day,” Scarbrough & Hicks burned Sept. 3, 1935, an era-ending blaze which took the lives of two volunteer Rockdale firemen, Wilbur Williams and J. W. Hooper.—Mike Brown editor


Click here for digital edition
2012-09-06 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


Special Sections


Special Sections
Archive