Images of Bryan: Then and Now
Laid out by the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in the 1860s, the City of Bryan grew rapidly and became an important regional commercial and transportation hub. As with many communities, Bryan’s downtown central business district experienced steady decline after World War II.
A symbolic “low-water mark” occurred in 1987 when the Palace Theater at the corner of Main and E. 26th Streets collapsed from lack of maintenance. Abandoned in ruins, the wreckage of the old building was the most dramatic symbol of the “death” of Downtown Bryan. That era is well documented in Lyle Lovett’s 1990 VH1 television special “Trucks, Tortillas and Tombstones,” and the music video for his song “This Old Porch,” where the singer strolls amidst Bryan’s downtown streets singing of the “passersby who said we’d never get back up”.
Key to Downtown Bryan’s revitalization was taking time to plan.
In 2001, an award-winning Downtown Master Plan was unveiled. Prepared by Looney Ricks Kiss of Nashville, Tenn., this roadmap includes suggestions in the areas of land-use regulation, streetscape and infrastructure improvements, preservation and reuse of historic buildings, parking and transit initiatives, and infill opportunities.
Steady, phased public investment to implement the plan sparked new business interests, including more than 50 restaurants, bars, and retail shops, four public theaters, three art galleries, and the renovated 50-room LaSalle Hotel (originally built in 1929).
Today, the 30-block Downtown Bryan neighborhood is a 24-hour community with over 100 loft and townhome units. That number is expected to triple by the end of 2019. The district design presents a human scale with pedestrian-friendly access to a weekly farmer’s market, Brookshire’s pharmacy, and neighborhood retail services such as daycares, barbershops, and salons.
Local and regional residents enjoy the rich cultural hub the neighborhood provides. In 2017, the Downtown Bryan Association hosted over 38 public events including, monthly First Fridays that have downtown streets bustling, as well as the annual Texas Reds Steak and Grape Festival which attracts more than 25,000 visitors. Cultural celebrations including art walks, delicious food, and boutique shopping, highlight Downtown Bryan’s success as a regional go-to neighborhood destination.
The resilience of the walkable community is evident as businesses grow, buildings are renovated, and people are drawn to a neighborhood that was being avoided only a generation ago. Revitalization efforts continue and downtown is humming with construction activity.
Examples include the recently-renovated Ice House, a 106-year-old mixed-use structure with retail space, a farm-to-table restaurant, and 15,000 square feet of entertainment space, 500 Bryan North, an office-apartment development, and Perry Place, a 30,000-square foot three-story mixed-use structure with retail space on the first floor and loft apartments on upper floors.