Palestine was founded in 1846 at the center of Anderson County, which had just been subdivided from Houston County. The central courthouse was placed on a 100-acre plot of land owned by settlers James R. Fulton and Johnson Shelton, and divided into 24 blocks, later known as "Old Town". This townsite grew in the late 1840s and 1850s. Cotton, corn, and wheat were the main crops, and the town was dependent on slave labor. Crops and goods were shipped from Magnolia, a site on the Trinity River southwest of the town.
A massive change came in July 1872 with the extension of the International Railroad into Palestine from Austin. It was the result of successful efforts by local businessman John H. Reagan to bring the railroad to the town. The railroad station was not able to be placed in the hilly courthouse area, and had to be laid out in the flat region of present downtown. This led to the creation of "New Town", which was connected to the old town via Avenue A. This created enmity between merchants in Old Town and New Town, the former of who were seeing their profits shrinking. A second railroad came in from the south in December 1872, linking Palestine with Houston and cementing the town's reputation as a transportation hub. These railroads merged in 1873 to become the International & Great Northern Railroad Company (I&GN). This company's headquarters was relocated to Palestine in 1875. This led to a boom in the town's economy. The population grew from 300 in 1870 to 2997 in 1880.
In the 1900s motion picture theaters came to town. In 1914 there were five theaters: New Temple, Lyric. Gem, Best, and Majestic.
Oil exploration took place in the 1920s and 1930s. The I&GN railroad was acquired by the Missouri-Pacific (Mopac) railroad in 1924 (later acquired by Union Pacific in 1997, which operates the town's railroad facilities to this day).
The town went into a slow decline in the 1940s as automobiles replaced the functionality of passenger trains and created new shopping opportunities in Tyler and Dallas.
Loop 256 would eventually shape the town in later years. It was formalized in 1958 and constructed around 1960, initially on the city's east side connecting Crockett Rd to US 79 and eventually north to SH 155. Through the next 30 years it was expanded around the city. Many of the shopping districts were moved to Crockett & Loop 256.
Buildings in the 19th century had a 4-digit building number. This was changed in 1896-1901 to a system similar to today's system but with the east/west zero-line centered on the courthouse; buildings between Houston and the courthouse were in the 100s. The modern address numbering system with the zero-line centered on Sycamore was implemented during the years of 1916-1917 after initially being proposed in fall 1915 (PDH 9/10/1915, 9/24/1915). This renumbering must be kept in mind when referring to addresses below; the 19th century system is not used in this document at all, and the 1900-1916 system is referred to as the "old address system".
By September 1907 pay phones that accepted coins were available at the telephone building hallway, the Board of Trade room, Leo Davidson's store on Main St, Magnolia Saloon on Spring St, and Old Town Drug Store. Rates were 25 cents per call ($8 in 2023) to Tennessee Colony, and to Montalba, Brushy Creek, Alder Branch, and West Point 5 cents per call ($1.60 in 2023).
City Hall (c. 1911) - On NE side of Oak & Palmer (Magnolia). The city jail was in the NE side of the building, with the courtroom in the SE side.
Courthouse (c. 1885 to present) - In Old Town between Church & Perry and Crawford & Maple (Lacy). The original courthouse was built in 1885. It was destroyed in a fire in 1913, and was replaced in 1914 with a new building.
Federal Building - Built 1905-1911 on the NE corner of Sycamore & Oak. Plans for this building surfaced in 1906 but several long years passed before work began. Foundation work began in February 4, 1911, and the U.S. Post Office (see below) occupied the new facility on April 7, 1912. The building still stands and as of 2023 housed the Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension and Anderson County services.
Fire Station - 611 Ave A.
Jail (c. 1885) - SW corner of Church & Crawford. Building is still there. Used for Haunted House events on Halloween. A city jail also existed in the City Hall building.
Library - In 1912 the city began building a library from Carnegie funds at 502 N. Queen St, and it began operation in 1914. In 1986 the library moved to the old Alamo School building at 1101 N Cedar St, while the old location was used for the Chamber of Commerce. The library was moved to Palestine Mall in 2010 after a series of roof failures. In 2023 the library was moved back to the original Carnegie Library location downtown.
Mayor's Office (c. 1885) - SE of the intersection of Ave A. & Elm. Now part of the Kroger parking lot.
Post Office - The Post Office began operating out of the new Federal Building on E. Main St. (see above) effective April 7, 1912. In the 20th century (1935-1982) this moved to a modern building on the SE side of Kolstad & Lacy. Later in the 1990s or early 2000s it then moved to its current location on N. Link.
Water Works - The old facility (1890s) was located at Blue Lake which is currently just east of the National Guard Armory. Around the 1900s new water works were installed at City Lake (now Lower Lake) and Upper Lake, and Blue Lake was kept as a reserve facility. These lakes are city parks and used for recreation. The Upper and Lower lake facilities failed 13 May 1908 when the dams collapsed during heavy thunderstorms, and had to be rebuilt. Sometime between the 1950s and 1980s the water plant had moved to the far northeast side northeast of Story Elementary School.
Weather Station - The Palestine weather station began operating on December 3, 1881 at the I&GN Railroad shop complex southwest of the passenger station. On October 4, 1888 it moved to the Henry Ash Building at Spring & John St. On October 26, 1894 it moved to the Colley Wright Building (see in Landmarks) at the SE corner of Spring & Station (Sycamore) St. In 1898 the observer was W. B. Wright. On February 1, 1900 the station moved to City Hall on Oak & Palmer (Magnolia) St. On March 31, 1912 the station, managed by Mr. Taylor, moved from city hall to the new Federal Building. The Post Office location was closed on December 31, 1952. In the mid-20th century the weather station moved to the airport where automated hourly observations are taken. Daily climatological cooperative reports are also made at the water plant northeast of town.
Colley Wright Building / Colley-Wright Building - The Colley-Wright building was located at the SE corner of Spring & Sycamore St. It was demolished between 1970 and 2000 due to the widening of Spring St.
Airdome (1908-) - NW corner of Oak & Houston St. The Airdome opened April 27, 1908 and featured motion pictures in a walled enclosure with no roof, somewhat of a forerunner to the modern drive-in theater. The first night's program charged 10 cents (about $3 in 2023), featuring The Tailsman, Views Of London, and Excursion To The Moon (PDH 4/27/1908 p. 3). It was unable to compete with newer air conditioned theaters like The Gem. The Airdome closed after summer 1911 and by October 1911 newspaper ads were advertising lumber from its dismantling (PDH 10/6/1911 p. 7). The Airdome lot was used for political rallies in 1912. There are references in 1914 to the Ezell Airdome on John St being dismantled, but details are scarce. By 1919 the original Airdome location on Houston St was closed and replaced with a undertaker building. In the early 2010s Pittman Graphics and a clothing store was located here. The building was demolished between 2013-2018 and is now the Pionette Garden Club Landscape Garden, reverting it to the open air arrangement.
Bijou Family Theater (1906-?) - Opened October 11, 1906 in the Wainwright Building (definitely on Ave A, suspected to be SW corner of Mallard). Appears to have ceased operations around February 1907.
Best Theater (1914-?) - A 670-seat theater opened January 19, 1914 on Crawford St east of John St in the present-day Texas Theatre. The opening night program was "Three Gamblers", "General Bunko's Victory", and "Celestial Republic".
Crystal Lake - This location was listed in the 1898 city directory as located 6 miles east of the city. It still exists, north of US 84 near Antioch Baptist Church on An County Rd 389. Wikipedia and the Texas State Historical Association Handbook all have articles on Crystal Lake. A country club existed in much of the 20th century with a golf course in the 1930s, however it is unknown what the area's current status is and whether there is public access.
Dixie Theater (1911-1912) - Motion picture theater on 308 W. Main St (old address system) between John and Sycamore St. It opened August 14, 1911 (PDH 8/15/1911). It quickly went defunct in early 1912 and was replaced with the Star Theatre in February 1912.
Ezell Airdome - See Airdome. This is on John St, possibly NE corner of Oak & John (re: 1905 Sanborn) and not the original Airdome on Oak & Houston.
The Gem (1910-?) - ORIGINAL LOCATION (1910-1915): 288 W. Oak St. (now 107 Oak) on the N side of Oak in third quarter of buildings between Palmer (Magnolia) and Sycamore. NEW LOCATION (1915-?): In former Majestic Theater location on Main St (see Majestic Theater for exact location) The Gem was a motion picture house opened Saturday September 10, 1910 by Mr. Bell and Englebrecht of St. Louis in a space that formerly housed The Model. The Gem emphasized its high quality, clean shows, with attention paid to sanitation in the building and electric fans. The original location still stands and houses an antique shop. The Gem moved to the Majestic Theatre location on October 7, 1915 on Main St, opening with the movie "Business Is Business".
Lyric Theatre / Lyric Theater (1907-?) - Playhouse likely at 107 E. Main St (E of Sycamore between Main and Oak). It appears the building may have doubled as the Majestic Theater from 1910 onward. Opening date unclear but it began appearing in newspapers in October 1907 hosting vaudeville and minstrel shows. In 1910 the Airdome and the Lyric were known to work cooperatively; a June 9, 1910 show was moved from the Airdome to the Lyric due to rain (PDH 6/10/1910).
New Temple Theater - See Opera House.
Majestic Theater (1908-?) - Located at 107 E. Main, in second quarter of buildings between N. Sycamore and N. Houston. It appears the Lyric Theatre was at this location for live performances and may have shared space for a time. Opened April 30, 1908 as a motion picture theater following the appearance earlier in the year of Majestic vaudeville performances, and only a few days after the opening of the Airdome. It closed at least once in 1914-1915, then closed for good in September 1915 when B.C. Bell of the Gem took over a five-year lease and began remodeling (PDH 9/10/1915). It was replaced with the new Gem location on October 7, 1915.
Star Theater / Star Theatorium / Star Moving Picture Theatre (1912-?) - Opened February 17, 1912 on Main St west of the Post Office in a building formerly housing the Dixie Theatre. Operated by J.S. Aldridge. The first movie to be shown was Delhi Durban.
Temple Opera House / Temple Theater / Temple Theatre (1878-1828) - SW corner of Oak & Houston St. Was operating in 1898 or earlier (CD 1898) and in 1898 was managed by W. E. Swift. The building was constructed in 1878 by the Free and Accepted Masons of Lodge number 31. In 1898 the Temple Theatre was the only theater in Palestine. It became known as the Temple Theatre. On Friday November 15, 1907 the space was leased to a Mr. Swift and it was re-opened as the New Temple Theatre. The opening night program was the stage musical Red Feather. This New Temple Theatre also featured a lobby, a ladies parlor, and a gentlemen's smoking lounge. The theater was closed in August 1928. The top floors were removed in the 1930s, and the building was demolished in 1962.
Texas Theatre - See Best Theatre.
Roller Skating Rink (c. 1885) - Behind (NW) of Avenue Baptist Church between Ave A and Crawford, approximately where Pint & Barrel now is. Sanborn maps indicate bathing tanks are in the middle.
Roller Skating Rink (c. 1885) - SW corner of Cotton (Mallard) and Ave A. This is now a grassy area behind Kroger. This is possibly the Wainwright Building.
Restaurants and saloons
Magnolia Saloon - On Spring St - operated in 1903 through 1907, possibly earlier and later.
Commercial Hotel (c. 1890s) - Operated by Mrs Helen Mayfield (CD 1898).
Galveston Hotel (c. 1890s) - Operated by D. Meager (CD 1898).
Hotel O'Neill (1935) - Located near Queen & Spring. Established 1919-1935, unknown closure date. See International Hotel for exact location.
Hotel Palestine - See Palestine Hotel.
International Hotel (c. 1885) - Opened in the 1880s or earlier. Closed in 1891-1896 and became the Nolen Hotel, then the New Lindell Hotel in the 1900s, the the Hotel Palestine. Located between Spring and Main, in the second quarter of buildings between Line (Queen) and John. This hotel owned the block to the north between Main & Oak which contained service buildings (c. 1891). This building was demolished in the 20th century and is now occupied by Zipp's Liquor Store.
New Lindell Hotel (1905-1914) - Located near Line (Queen) and Spring. Established 1905, ceased operations in 1914 when it became the Palestine Hotel (q.v.). Operated by Mr. Gerding. See International Hotel for exact location.
Nolen Hotel (1890s-1900s) - Located near Line (Queen) and Spring. Established 1891-1896, ceased operations 1900-1905 when it became the New Lindell Hotel. See International Hotel for exact location. Operated by Mrs Emma Nolen (CD 1898). For Nolen Cottage east of downtown see Stedman Hotel.
Palestine Hotel (late 1910s) - Located near Queen & Spring. Established September 10, 1914, closed 1919-1935. Operated by Manager R. A. Johnson of Jacksonville (PDH 4/2/1914). It appears this was a continuation of the Lindell Hotel under new management and a new name. Note that there will be some confusion in many sources between this hotel and the "Palestine Hotel Company" (The Redlands) which was under construction at the same time Palestine Hotel opened. See International Hotel for exact location and building history.
Redlands (1914-current) - Began operations in March 1915; at some point in the 20th century the hotel ceased operations and its rooms were opened for short term rentals. The name does not pertain to anything specific but was chosen April 22, 1914 from a local contest entry, the winner being Ms. Ola Cretsinger of 102 Lacy, who won a $25 prize ($767 in 2023). Ground was broken July 7, 1914 and construction work continued through the rest of 1914 and into early 1915. The hotel opened for business on March 18, 1915 with a large, highly advertised banquet event.
Rose Hotel (c. 1919) - See Sterne's Hotel. Became Rose Hotel between 1911 and February 1914 when it was mentioned in a newspaper article (PDH 2/28/1914).
Stedman Hotel (c. 1885) - NE corner of Ave A & Main. Operated by Mrs. E. J. Stedman (CD 1898). This became Nolen Cottage in 1891-1896, then a boarding house in 1905 (may or may not still have the Nolen name). Between 1919-1935 the boarding house was torn down and it was replaced by a fuel station.
Stern's Hotel / Sterne's Hotel / Sterne Hotel (c. 1885) - SE corner of Houston & Main. Operated by C. A. Sterne (CD 1898). Office was in a corner building with sleeping rooms extending east almost to Cranberry (Granberry). Became Rose Hotel sometime between 1911 and 1914 (q.v.).
Watson Hotel (c. 1885-1990s) - NW corner of Main & Station (Sycamore). Between 1891 and 1896 it was closed and became a grocery store.
Masonic Temple (c. 1885) - SW corner of Oak & Ave A
Lodge Hall (Unknown owner) - 201 E. Oak - This was a tall 3-story building that was partially demolished down to the first floor between 2008 and 2013.
Railroad Freight Depot (c. 1885-?) - On S side of Spring mostly between Line (Queen) and 1st St (Tennessee).
Railroad Station (1870s to 1950s) - S of Spring & John intersection. This was the I&GN railroad from the 1880s to ?
Railroad Dispatch Office (c. 1885) - S of Line (Queen) & Spring intersection
Daily Visitor, The (1899)
East Texas News, The (1890s) - Located at 203 1/2 Main St (old address system) (CD 1898).
Palestine Press - Hamilton Brothers - 162 Ave A (old address system) (CD 1898).
Trinity Advocate (1860s?) - This was the city's first newspaper. Located at 612 Spring (old address system) (CD 1898).
Palestine Hardware Store (c. 1903) - Main & Sycamore - Lawyers and physicians offices above store
Palestine Mall (1980-current) - Palestine Mall was constructed in 1980 at a time when Palestine was prospering during the Texas oil boom. It was built on a 235,000 sq ft footprint with 209,197 square feet of retail space. The mall went into decline by the 2000s due to the arrival of superstores such as Walmart. The mall was eventually acquired by the city in 2010 in an attempt to house its library while earning revenue from leaseholders such as area universities, but the plan was not successful and the mall was sold to the Christon Company in 2021.
Royall National Bank of Palestine - Established 15 March 1904. It was acquired by Compass Bank in 1996 and became BBVA in 2019. It was operated by Georgia native Nathaniel Royster Royall and his wife Annie Richardson Royall who moved to Palestine in 1873 to become involved with goods and banking. The Royall House, built in 1883, is located at 412 S. Royall.
Industry & Agriculture
Addington's Lumber Yard (c. 1885) - SE corner of Church & Crawford, now a lot with a law office building.
Cotton Gins (c. 1885) - SE corner of Spring & Cranberry (Granberry) - also see Palestine Eureka Cotton Gin
Dilley & Son Foundry & Machine Shop (c. 1891) - SW of May & Dallas. Operated by George M. Dilley.
Lone Star Wagon Yard (c. 1885) - E of John between Oak and Terry/Crawford.
John Myers & Son Planing Co. (c. 1891) - NW corner of Magnolia (Reagan) and S. Howard (Angle).
National Cotton Oil Co. (c. 1891) - S of Magnolia (Reagan) and S. Howard (Angle).
Palestine Compress Co. (c. 1891) - SW of railroad depot on NE corner of Magnolia (Reagan) and S. Howard (Angle).
Palestine Eureka Cotton Gin (c. 1885) - SE corner of Elm & Crawford. Now marked as Gatewood-Shelton Gin Co. and is part of the Shelton Gin bar.
Palestine Ice Factory (c. 1885) - SE corner of Spring & Houston about 50 ft south near railroad right of way. In 1885 it ran 4 months out of the year 24 hours using wood as fuel.
Pickens & Pell's Livery (c. 1885) - On Spring about 40 ft west of Houston St.
Sam Rollins Livery (c. 1885) - E side of Station (Sycamore) between Main & Oak
Texas Fruit Palace (c. 1935) - Located near the fairgrounds north of Coronaca & Laura. Now serves as the City of Palestine vehicle barn.
Wagon yard (c. 1891) - On W side of 1st St (Tennessee) halfway between Oak & Debard.
A.B. Williams Cotton Gin & Feed Mill (c. 1885) - SW of Spring & Cranberry (Granberry)
Wright & Boyles Plane Mill (c. 1885) - SW corner of Royal & Combination (Gooch)
Alamo School (1101 N. Queen) - This building, located SW of Palestine Ave & Cedar St was constructed in 1911. It was used for the city library starting in 1986. The library vacated the building in 2010 after a series of roof failures. The building was eventually acquired by Pentecom in 2018.
Fred Douglas School (Colored School) (Calhoun St) - Located east of downtown on Calhoun St NW of the intersection with current-day Garland St. It was known to be operational in the 1890s. The site is completely overgrown.
Lincoln High School (Swanitz & McClellan) - This was the first purpose-built school for the black community, completed in 1895 in the predominantly-black neighborhood southwest of the rail depot. Located at 400 McClellan at the SE corner of Swantz & McClellan St. It burned down in 1922. A modern 2-story brick replacement building was completed in January 1923. The school closed in 1965 following integration. The school was demolished in the late 20th century and only foundations remain.
Original Palestine School (Ave. A) - The city's original school site was established in 1888 on Avenue A SE of the Presbyterian Church as a school for all grades. It was divided into 4 large rooms with smaller offices attached. Between 1900-1905 the building became the city high school. In 1916 the building was designated Davy Crockett Grammar School. The high school moved to Reagan School. In the 1920s or early 1930s a very large school building was constructed at this site. In 1939 the high school moved back into this facility. Luckett Kolstad Field, the school stadium, was opened in September 1936. The high school moved out of this location to the present-day location on Loop 256 near Crockett Rd in the mid-1970s. The building was demolished between the 1970s and 1990s. The site is now occupied by Kroger, a Family Dollar store, and a shopping center.
Reagan School (400 S. Michaux) - Established in 1916 as the city's new high school. Located at 400 S. Michaux. The high school moved out of Reagan School in 1939, and it became a junior high school. In 1955 the building became known as John H. Reagan School. In 1966 it became an elementary school. The school ceased operation after 1976. In 1986-1987 the building was remodeled and became the home of the Museum of East Texas Culture. It still stands and is located just west of Reagan Park.
Avenue Baptist Church (c. 1885) - On Avenue A.
Catholic Church - See Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Episcopalian Church (c. 1885, 1891) - W side of Station (Sycamore) between Oak and Terry (Crawford).
Episcopal Parsonage (c. 1885) - E side of Station (Sycamore) between Oak & Terry (Crawford). Replaced with a post office.
First Christian Church (1847-?) - The very first church in Palestine was established in 1847. It was located on Crawford St immediately N of the intersection with Houston St. This structure featured a large dome. The building still stands to this day and the church still exists (113 E Crawford St). The dome and the colonnade were removed sometime after 1940, leaving the building itself. A new red brick building was constructed on its east side sometime in the 20th century.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church (c. 1885 to present) - NW corner of Line (Queen) & Oak. In 1874 the I&GN Railroad dedicated a site for a Catholic church. In May 1890 a fire completely destroyed the church. The new Catholic church was completed in June 1893 and still stands to this day.
Sam Jones Tabernacle (c. 1891) - NW of courthouse on east side of Church between Maple (Lacy) and Poplar.
M.E. Church (c. 1885) - SW corner of Crawford & Cotton (Mallard) offset about 50 ft to west. Currently west of #1 Bail Bonds building.
Old Cemetery (before 1890s) - Existed on E side of Fannin St between Market and Terry St. Houses were built over this location.
East Hill Cemetery - Existed as early as the 1890s east of West St (now Cemetery St) and south of Rusk Rd (now Lacy St).