Society

Author’s Tejas visit ‘set in stone’

Rockdale icons are featured in new book
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


Charles Garrett’s lavish oversize photo book features two prominent Rockdale structures in tribute to petrified wood buildings. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Charles Garrett’s lavish oversize photo book features two prominent Rockdale structures in tribute to petrified wood buildings. Reporter/Mike Brown 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.


The Fiesler home, later the Caffey home, is a landmark at the Murray-Bowser intersection. The Fiesler home, later the Caffey home, is a landmark at the Murray-Bowser intersection. And it’s got two representatives of Rockdale among its hundreds of photographs.

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.


Chamber of Commerce rock house was constructed of the abundant petrified wood once common in Rockdale area. Chamber of Commerce rock house was constructed of the abundant petrified wood once common in Rockdale area. The Fiesler house, known to later generations as the Charles and Neva Caffey home, marked the western edge of Rockdale in the 1920s and 1930s.

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.”

Cummings also worked on the San Gabriel school and the petrified wood buildings at Bastrop State Park.

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.


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2013-02-28 digital edition



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


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