Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993 Page: 12
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A Restoration To Build On
Beauty aside, the restoration of the John B. Ragland
Mercantile Company building in downtown Kingsville
is a case study in the economic rewards of preservation.
By Bruce S. Cheeseman
This early photograph, taken in 1915, of Kleberg Avenue looking east in downtown Kingsville, shows the John B. Ragland Mercantile building on the right.
he restoration of the John B.
Ragland Mercantile Company building in
Kingsville by King Ranch, Inc. set a standard
of quality that has the whole town
thinking about preservation. The rehabilitation
and conversion of the 1909 store
building into the home of the King Ranch
Saddle Shop was a labor of love for the
ranch's former construction superintendent,
Anthony Strubhart, scores of ranch employees,
and a crack team of craftsmen. On
the outside, the caring conversion restored
the magnificent ornamental stonework of
cordova cream limestone and hard-pressed
red brick masonry. A soaring cupola once
again crowns the building over the northwest
corner. And faithful reconstructions of
the original storefronts, canopy, windows,
and transoms were matched on the inside
by the preservation of original wood floors,
tin ceilings, and a large open mezzanine.
Beauty aside, the project is also a case
study in the economic rewards of preservation.
In February 1989 the board of
directors of King Ranch, Inc. authorized
the rehabilitation of the building, now
listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. Preliminary studies revealed that
the restoration made economic sense
compared to building a new facility. Work
commenced on the $1.3 million dollar
project in January 1990, and the King
Ranch Saddle Shop celebrated its grand
opening in its "new" 15,500 square foot
home on November 3, 1990.
Strubhart remembers fondly the actual
restoration work. "I would be sitting outside
eating lunch, and people would come up to
me to see how we were doing," says Strubhart.
"They would say, 'Gee, King Ranch is
spending an awful lot of money on this,
aren't they?' Well, I had to laugh. To build
this exact same building today, with the
elaborate masonry, stonework, hardwood
floors? It would cost double the restoration
costs, maybe more - even if you could find
the craftsmen to do it."
One of the moving forces behind the
project was Stephen J. "Tio" Kleberg, vice
president of King Ranch, Inc. Assuming
leadership of the project in late 1989, Kleberg
quickly got down to business planning the
restoration of the old facility, which had
been vacant since 1979. "It is just great to be
12 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1993
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993, periodical, Summer 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45416/m1/12/: accessed May 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.