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Commercial District

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1880–1910. 100–400 blocks of W. Main St. and adjacent streets

Within a matter of months after Denison was founded in 1872, lots were offered for sale, and Denison took on the appearance of a typical frontier town. The downtown area was initially occupied by tents, which were rapidly replaced by wooden structures. Permanent masonry buildings were completed by the turn of the twentieth century. Robert Stevens and William Munson, the town’s developers, laid out a grid of streets extending west from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway tracks and depot. Two of these east–west streets, Main and Woodard, were given generous one-hundred-foot-wide rights-of-way. The Denison Town Company restricted new businesses on Main Street to those of a “respectable” character, relegating brothels, lower-class saloons, and dance halls to Chestnut Street, one block to the south. Despite fire, facade “modernization,” highway bypasses, and 1960s urban renewal, Main Street remains a remarkably cohesive turn-of-the-twentieth-century commercial street.

Several exceptional buildings have survived relatively intact. Notable are the Italianate Werneberg Building (1885; 118 W. Main) and the 1888 building next to it at 120 W. Main, and the Romanesque Revival S. H. Kress Building (1909; 410 W. Main) in polychrome brick. The finest Italianate facade (c. 1880) is 310 W. Main, with segmental-arched windows, bas-relief terra-cotta, and a massive bracketed cornice. The Rialto Theater (1920; later alterations) at number 424, one of the earliest of over thirty movie palaces in Denison (five were on the 200 block of W. Main alone), has a rather plain white brick facade but a decorative Mediterranean-influenced bracketed stone balcony across the top. The building is currently a concert venue.

One block to the north at 301–305 W. Woodward is the Italianate W. B. Munson Block (1888). The U.S. Post Office (1912, James Knox Taylor) at 231 W. Woodward is an Italian Renaissance scheme with two-story tall Ionic pilasters and a deep cornice supported by closely spaced modillions under a hipped red tile roof.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Commercial District", [Denison, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 123-123.

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