Sitting in a work meeting Thursday, Aug. 7, I couldn’t help but look out the window at the Bolivar water tower north of downtown.
It’s pretty plain, but in the sky behind that structure, clouds were starting to clear from a rain shower that morning.
I’ve seen the Bolivar downtown skyline at least four times a day, five days a week for the six months I’ve lived and worked here — just the blink of an eye for some of the lifelong residents I’ve talked to through this job — and every day it looks a little different.
The storms that rolled through Bolivar Wednesday and Thursday brought stunning visuals to a downtown area we’ve focused on in recent pages of the BH-FP.
Just like those changing skies, an article, written and photographed by myself and fellow reporter Kathryn Skopec, highlights 11 changes to Bolivar’s downtown area.
Businesses enter and exit the square, bringing with them an excuse for us in the news industry to dig into the past of their historic buildings.
Most have unique histories, like the building that previously housed The Village Boutique. At one point, it was a dry goods store.
Early photos of the square at the Polk County Genealogical Society show a stately looking building with rows upon rows of windows at the front and side. It even had roof cresting — fencing along the roofline — that some official buildings have. There’s no fencing now, I noted as I walked across the roof to take a photo of Main Avenue for the article.
According to previous BH-FP coverage, Polk County bought it in April. Officials are hoping to see it become a justice complex — someplace that could house Polk County’s court system and court administration. I’m just hoping to see it return to some semblance of its former self.
It looked, in those photos, like a place where justice can be done.
I hope the county does justice by this project.
There’s another benefit for the square here, though, moving these court offices and space into a justice center means the county can also focus on any needed historical preservation of the courthouse.
Adapting crowded out older buildings for modern use can sometimes mean losing part of their history, and I’ve seen courthouses undergo modernization projects that end up satisfying neither historic nor modern needs.
For this article, we got to take a look at the history of other downtown buildings, like Jenny’s Dry Cleaning. The building, a former hotel, has housed a dry cleaner since 1935. The Roweton’s warehouse building, now owned by First Baptist Church of Bolivar, was a garment factory, then a movie theater and then a bowling alley. I stood in it last week as part of my research for the article, and looking up, could see the sky through the roof. This is a big project, but it’s going to be great for downtown when FBC sees it through.
One of my interviews for this story was with Downtown Business Association President Susan Sparks, who told me that, “There’s an ebb and flow,” to the downtown area.
Businesses come and go, and the successful ones are those that understand how to navigate the changing square around them. Downtown offices have employees who need a quick lunch, and by 5 p.m., those offices have closed, leaving parking spaces for a burgeoning evening scene.
I watched my hometown square in Decatur, Texas, undergo a similar set of changes over the last five years. Now, there are no empty storefronts downtown. I covered those changes as a reporter there and remember talking then with some of the early stakeholders in the square’s rebirth. These are people who took it upon themselves to beautify their corner and make the square better as a whole.
Five years from now, looking back at changes to Bolivar’s square, I have a feeling we’ll see these very same business and property owners hard at work, focused on making their corner of the square a little better each day.