Author’s Tejas visit ‘set in stone’
When photographer-author Charles Garrett signed up late to be one of the featured speakers at Saturday’s seventh annual Tejas Fest in Rockdale, organizers hopes his appearance would be “set in stone.”
Af ter all, Tejas organizers thought popular ex-Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson would be the “headliner.” But Jackson had to cancel due to a previously booked engagement he hadn’t known about.
They couldn’t have found a more rock-solid replacement than Garrett.
After all, his first book, published last year, is an exhaustive photographic survey on petrified wood structures in Texas.
In fact, “Stone Tree Houses of Texas” explores and documents the use of petrified wood in the Depression-era architecture of the lone star state.
ROCK STAR— Garrett will be on hand at the city library during the day and will speak at the I&GN Depot from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
He’s taking Jackson’s place as a speaker. For an updated list of speakers, and locations, see the box on page 1A.
“Stone Houses of Texas” has immediately become the definitive work on petrified wood structures in Texas.
It covers 80 sites with 70 full page and 363 smaller high-resolution photos.
It also includes reproductions of historic photographs along with numerous maps, charts and newspaper clippings.
LOCAL ICONS—Rockdale locations represented in the book are the Fiesler home, Murray at Bowser, and the Chamber of Commerce rock house at 1203 West Cameron.
Garrett’s photos highlight several of the structure’s unique attributes, including its one-of-a-kind petrified wood doghouse. The Chamber office was constructed by legendary businessman H. H. Coffield and was the site of a unique “reunion” of sorts last year.
Last April, 97-year-old Robert Cummings of Georgetown, one of the two stone masons who crafted the home in 1937, returned to check out his work.
“Back then there was petrified wood all over Rockdale,” he recalled. “You could just go around and pick it up.”
The house was used as a residence for many years before becoming the Chamber’s office in 1995.
FIRST- OF-A-KIND—Garrett’s work has been hailed as a “first-of-a-kind” in Texas.
It’s the first known study of an architectural form which seems to date to a specific time and location.
Classified as folk art, petrified wood structures appear to be located almost exclusively within, or adjacent to, Texas and were constructed during the Depression.
“Most are relatively small private homes or businesses, some are public buildings, which were mostly Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects,” Garrett said.
There’s one advantage for anyone documenting the structures in the second decade of the 21st Century.
The material didn’t wear out, as did other building choices dating back to the 1930s.
“Many of them are still in use,” Garrett noted. That includes, of course, the two from Rockdale.
Garrett is a native of West Texas who moved to Austin in the 1960s.
He relocated to Lake Travis in the 1980s, were he worked in water utility operations and management.
Admission to Garrett’s speech, and all other Tejas events, is free.