When Mark asked me to marry him 29 years ago, before I said yes, I first asked him, lovingly-but-jokingly-but seriously, “do we have to live in Waco?”
About the time Danni was in the third grade and Alex was in kindergarten, in Mesquite, my thoughts began to change and one day I asked Mark, “Do you want to move to China Spring?”
Confession time. Back then, I was a bit embarrassed to be associated with Waco. Sounds horrible, I know. When we traveled and people would ask us where we were from, I would always answer with “China Spring, a little town near Crawford, where the president lives!” That worked throughout the Bush years.
I don’t know why I was ashamed of Waco. Ashamed probably isn’t the right word, more like I wasn’t excited to let people know that I lived near Waco. Yes, there were things that shamed Waco in the past. Those things happen everywhere and shouldn’t define a city but sadly they kinda did.
Honestly, I never gave Waco a chance. I didn’t see Waco. I had my eyes closed to what Waco could offer. Shame on me.
Two years ago, I slowly started to open those eyes of mine. Mark, my husband, moved his office downtown. Alex and Danni moved downtown. I found myself seeing Waco for what it was-a small, lovely urban area with many opportunities to discover, eyes-wide open! And with time and new discoveries, I began to fall in love with Waco–downtown Waco especially.
We started eating, shopping, enjoying wine, and spending a lot of time downtown- two or three times a week. Being adventurous! Of course the Fixer-Upper, the HGTV show, was in full swing and others around the nation were also opening their eyes to see what Waco was about.
In early March, I was honored to be a baton-photographer for an Instagram account called @ilovetexasphoto. Check them out. The concept is really cool. Every three days, they have a different photographer, professional or someone like me that just loves to take pictures, from a different city across the state. I was able to venture through Waco and show the Instagram followers of that account, how I saw Waco.
So here is my Waco…
My first picture I posted on the I Love Texas Photo account was Austin Avenue. I love this tree-lined street, no matter what season. It has nostalgia and is loaded with history. And of course it is home to some of my very favorites in Waco- the Waco Hippodrome, Muddle, Dichotomy, Classy Glass, Jakes and Nick’s. Try these establishments out; think local and support!
Austin Avenue also is home to the green door. This “p” shaped door, next to the Hippodrome, has been the background to many people taking selfies, engagement and graduation pictures. Guilty. Through this one-of-a-kind and peculiar entry way, leads you to some downtown living I dream about, 714 Loft Studios. I received 1,027 likes on this picture!
(Unfortunately, I caught a nasty high fever-virus thing the night of the first day of my baton and I was unable to thoroughly enjoy the next two days-but I pushed through and muddled on but I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked.)
My next picture was of the Washington Avenue Bridge, otherwise known as the Waco Steel Bridge. I travel across this bridge to my husband’s office, located on 6th Street, and it makes me smile every time I cross. It was built in 1901 and crosses the Brazos River. It has a massive 450-foot Pennsylvania truss main span and is among the most historic bridges in Texas.
The sun was perfect that March afternoon and I was pleased with the outcome. (You can even see The Alico peeking through!)
From there, I included my most favorite Waco icon-The Alico Building. The Alico, as I call it, is another opportunity for me to smile. If you look at my Instagram history, I have taken many a picture of this tall soldier that seems to be guarding downtown. Look at the blooms that graced the Alico in early March! This was taken across the street at the building where you stand in line and get your sticker for your car. (I think you can do this online now because Mark hasn’t made me do this in years!)
The Alico, a 22-story structure with much character, was constructed in 1910 and completion was exactly 12 months later in 1911.
My next adventure lead me down Austin Avenue, through the Castle Heights residential area. This is another dream of mine-if I can’t live downtown, this will be my neighborhood. Someday.
The Cooper House is one of those historical houses located on Austin Avenue. I have always admired this beauty but never knew what it was until my research opened my eyes once again. It was built in 1907 (see a pattern here-busy time in those early 1900’s in Waco!). The Cooper House is part of The Cooper Foundation and started with a vision to “make Waco a better or more desirable city in which to live.” The historical house is on the National Register of Historic Places. People that follow the account really liked this picture-1,068 times!
The Brazos River is another smile opportunity for me. Especially on days when the sun sits upon her and dances around like little diamonds. It fills my soul because I see God’s beauty there. Perfection.
A place I like to visit is Cameron Park. One of the areas in the park I love to take Charli and Jemma (and Tegan, if Cameron is in town) is Brazos Park East. This park is located at MLK and Herring Avenue and features boat ramps, a pavilion, horse shoe pits, Frisbee-golf and of course many scenic and peaceful views for walking, running or just sitting. The view across the river is one to see. (so thankful I opened these eyes of mine!)
Waco is full of nature. You can escape the concrete and find peace, however you need.
Cameron Park, an enormous urban park located in Waco is one of those places to escape to nature. I enjoy taking the long, slow way home, driving through Cameron Park. Again more smiles. The park spans 416-acres and was dedicated on May 27, 1910. It was named in memory of Waco philanthropist and lumber baron, (ironic?) William Cameron. The park has playgrounds, bike trails, hiking and a beautiful zoo- all of this- alongside the Brazos River.
I always admire the courthouse downtown, and on this particular day the blue sky was in the background and spring blooms in the foreground. Picture perfect.
The McLennan County Courthouse was built in 1901 and is located on Washington Avenue. It is known for its neoclassical exterior and the courthouse pilasters and columns are Corinthian. Many notable legal cases have taken place in this courthouse, including Clyde Barrow, of the in-famous Bonnie and Clyde fame, in 1930.
One of the cool, artsy places to go in Waco, especially on First Friday, is Anthem Studios, located in the Praetorian Building, built in 1915. Along with the famous owners of Pokey-O’s, Waco’s favorite cookie masters, the building is now home to more downtown residential-living, the Praetorian Lofts. On the back of the Praetorian, there is a restored three-story mural of Jesus Christ, extending his arms, the work of a Russian artist. My daughter, Danni lives across from this gem and her view is the front side of the building.
Just down the street from the Praetorian is my husband’s office building. It has a beautiful arch in the entry-way and on a nice day, as I open the door to go inside, I can see The Alico in the reflection. Smiles.
My last picture I posted on the I love Texas photo Instagram account was actually not from March but from one of my favorite Waco days ever. Cameron and I were able to attend the media event for Magnolia Market, in October. I was writing a story for The Hometown News about the silobration and the grand opening of the market downtown. We toured the entire silo-fortress, met Joanna Gaines and interviewed her. The day was glorious and I am so happy I was able to share it with Cameron, my official newspaper photographer. Smiles.
This picture was taken from the top level of the Market building. The skyline is pretty against the blue sky. Waco is little. She is full of charm, history, and things apparently built in the early 1900’s. And she opened my eyes and for that I am grateful.
*I am in the process of writing an article for an online magazine called Culture Trip Texas. It is an onlne travel magazine that has stories about travel destinations all over the world, the US and our big state and the many things to do while you are visiting there (here). I am writing about Waco and what there is to do other than Magnolia Market. People are traveling to Waco, from all over, to go stand in line and shop at Magnolia. And then what? I want to give them some ideas of other interesting, adventures so that they can see Waco as a fascinating place to come visit again! I will let you know when my story is published but until then-Check the webpage out, at http://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/texas/
Love and blessings~dd