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 Texas : Features : Book Reviews
DUGOUT TO DECO:
BUILDING IN WEST TEXAS,
1880 - 1930


by Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser
Texas Tech University Press, 1993

Reviewed by John Troesser
Order Here
Dugout to Deco
AMAZON.COM
Don't Judge a Book by its Title
This one just happens to be so much more

Architecture and West Texas in the same book. It doesn't get much better than that. Actually, it does get better. There's excellent photography and a fine job of printing. That's more than enough for some people, but if you happen to be one of those hard-to-please people who want more, then more you'll get.

There are discourses on themes ranging from the origin of chuck wagons (and how the Studebaker Company built them) to neon signs, and what they meant to architecture in the 1930s.

There's also a part that could be called "How to heat a church with minimal casualties." Where else are you going to find this? The author never gets away from the subject, but her anecdotal stories entertain the reader more than any architectural volume we've ever read. The stories could stand as a book on their own. Her observations on the cast women who adorn courthouses, as well as their male counterparts decorating the buildings of fraternal orders (to say nothing of gargoyles), are worthy of a stand-up comedy routine.

There's a glossary of terms, but her 40 years of teaching architecture, has given her a style that makes it seem like you're listening to her across a table. And getting back to our comment on the title - it's a perfectly good title and by telling you not to judge the book by it - well, we just wanted to let you know about the extras. Sasser's words on the necessity and construction of dugouts makes you consider selling your suburban monstrosity with its four-inch strip of lawn and going west where the deer and the antelope can play - on your roof.


Every type of building is covered. From railroad and fire stations to icehouses, out-houses, skyscrapers, city halls, courthouses, mansions, schools, churches, opera houses, theaters and libraries. The geographic range appropriately starts with Fort Worth (where the West begins) and goes as far as El Paso (where the West ends for Texans) and as far South as Laredo (where Mexico begins). In between are such diverse places as Sanco, San Angelo, Menard and even Mentone.

Spirit of Progress
Sasser's photo of "The Spirit of Progress" for the cover survives in many Texas cities - some further East. This one appears on the square in Hillsboro, Texas, Hill County

TE photo 2001

West Texas architecture includes adobe, dirt, stone, cement, brick, steel, plastic and terra cotta and they're all here, sometimes sharing space. About the only thing not included is the author's recipe for adobe (although we're sure she has one). She includes the street addresses of the houses and buildings that illustrate the book, which we think is a very courteous touch.

It's more than a pleasure to read but we're afraid it might just be too entertaining to be a textbook. Some of the photos look like paintings by Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth. The lighting is so consistently good that you know hours were spent waiting for the right time of day.

A beautiful book for a gift or for your library. Dugout to Deco has won the San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award.


Order now from AMAZON.COM:
Dugout to deco : building in West Texas, 1880-1930

March 2001
John Troesser

Click here:
Texas Architecture
West Texas

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