Polk County uncovering history with renovations

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - The stucco facade is being chipped away. But what was hidden underneath - a grocery store sign - sparked the curiosity of the community.

"Well, that got the town going," said Bob Ziegler, the Main Street manager. "What's O.K. Grocery?"

Built in 1912, the building is one of two being restored for Polk County's future Judicial Center.

"The project probably started 10 to 15 years ago when the need for additional space and concerns about security became so evident," said County Judge John Thompson.

The project is finally underway and the restoration work is progressing, uncovering questions about the buildings' past.

"I think it was sort of forgotten by most people in the community or they never knew it because it had been covered over for so many years," said Wanda Bobinger of Polk County Memorial Museum.

It was common knowledge the building originally housed a mercantile store. But the O.K. Grocery sign was something new. Finding someone who remembered it wasn't easy.

"Unfortunately most of the eyewitnesses if any of those events are no longer with us," Thompson said.

But thanks to a careful construction team, a clue was uncovered.

"We found some canceled checks in the basement of the building," Ziegler said. "That really solved a lot of questions."

Dates on the checks showed the store was open during the 1930s. An added piece of the building's history came from the second floor.

"There's evidence of psychedelic painting on the walls on the inside," Bobinger said.

"There was a teen club upstairs," Ziegler said. "And I figure it must've been there in the late '60s because on the walls you can still see some of it. Painted flat black and is peace and love."

The restoration has revealed more of Polk County's history.

"The proximity of this block to the courthouse since the beginning of the county itself has made this particular block have a unique and interesting history," Thompson said.

And the finished product will continue its presence for the future.

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