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Texas | Architecture | Preservation

Unique Buildings of Texas

THE BATH HOUSE THAT WOULDN'T DIE
Luling, Texas

by John Troesser
This modest, yet noble structure sits on the recently overdrawn banks of the San Marcos River just south of Luling. It has a lot to be modest about, being a simple child's drawing of a building, now without a roof. The only thing now noble about it is the inscription BATHHOUSE carved above the door.
Bathhouse in Luling Texas
The inscription once again sees the light of day
Photo by John Troesser, 2000
Designed to be the center of river activities in Luling, the bathhouse was given to the city on the occasion of Mr. Davis' big picnic. Edgar Davis' picnic will be featured soon, along with the story of this interesting and generous personality. He had the bathhouse designed to withstand future floods of the capricious San Marcos. The reinforced concrete later proved to be the structure's insurance policy against demolition.

Mr. Davis' plan: while waiting for air-conditioning's arrival, the bathhouse would be where teenagers would meet, mothers would cool their heat-prickled infants and young men would show-off their swimming prowess to young girls too concerned with their weight to notice.

Unfortunately, Mr. Davis also provided several thousand bottled drinks to wash down the tons of barbecue, and many of the empty bottles were broken when thrown into the river. Enough broken glass was produced to cut the feet of bathers for generations to come.

So the generous gift sat unused for years, with plenty of time to reflect on what would've been its salad (and watermelon) days. The decorative iron grating that once matched the golf course clubhouse was cut away by torch for the scrap drives of WWII. Defaced by graffiti and worse, a decision was made by "the powers that were" to raze the structure.

It was to be made a part of the San Marcos' banks, dozed by a bull or it's mechanical equivalent. But our plucky little pillbox would not go gently into that rubble pile, and withstood the best efforts of diesel power and steel blade.

The people who play golf are used to aggravation, but eyesores they can't stand. So they came up with a plan to bury the bathhouse. It was done in no time at all and soon looked like a Mayan pyramid (to a lesser diety). Weeds sprouted on the mound, but they were green at least and sometimes they appeared healthier than the course's landscaping.
Chinaberries sprouting from the windows
Photo by John Troesser, 2000

Enter Mother Nature. The river rose and raged and some of Luling's best sandy loam is now covering parts of DeWitt County and flounders in the Gulf.

Like the man condemned to hang, but set free when the rope broke, is Luling being told that they should preserve this sturdy gift from Luling's past? If plowed into the dirt, will the Roman-looking inscription confuse future archeologists? Will historians think early 20th Century Pre-Schlitterbahn Lulingites advanced for building it? Or will they think (very) early 21st Century Lulingites barbaric for razing it?

As water use becomes more restricted, we're sure the ingenuity of Lulingites will devise a flood-proof stairwell to facilitate access to the river from the little Bathhouse that asked for a second (and third) chance. Besides, the broken glass has been swept away or at least has been worn smooth by now.

Luling jTexas bathhouse
The recently unearthed bathhouse
Photo by John Troesser, 2000
Luling Texas Zedler's Mills retaining alls and San Marcos  River view

Looking away from Zedler's Mills at the site of "Texas' biggest picnic."
Photo Courtesy Sarah Reveley, March 2006

While Luling's larger population prevents its original use; it could still be a concession stand or a headquarters building for a revenue-producing non-profit organization like the Lion's Club tube rental operation in San Marcos.

We'll keep our preservation-minded viewers apprised.

John Troesser

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Luling Texas Zedler's Mills and spiilway

After nearly four decades, Zedler's Mills is revealed from Nature's green cloak.
Photo Courtesy Sarah Reveley, March 2006

Related places and stories:
  • Zedler's Mills in Luling
  • Pixilated in Port Arthur & Reincarnated in Luling:
    Alfred Stillwell and Edgar Davis

  • Luling, Texas

    More stories & photos:
    Texas | Architecture | Preservation | Small Town Sagas


    Our appreciation to the Caldwell County Genealogical Society for their assistance.
    November 2000

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