Why, There's History in Them Thar Trinity River Scrap Metal Yards!
For the last several weeks I have been battling with the Texas Historical Commission and U.S Army Corps of Engineers over access to documents you would think would be easily accessible. I had asked the THC to share with me some of the thinking behind efforts by the Corps to have the Trinity River levee system declared a historic site.
I admit, being the type I am, I was suspicious of the effort and thought perhaps the Corps was looking for an excuse so it wouldn't have to admit that the Trinity River toll road, which it has enthusiastically endorsed for better than a decade, is in fact the dumbest idea in the history of the world.
I thought maybe the Corps was setting up a pretext so it could say, "No, building an expressway out between the levees where it floods is still brilliant concept, but we just found out" -- overhead snap of fingers -- "that the darned levees are historic, so we can't do it after all."
You would think a scholarly effort like this would be fairly transparent and open to scrutiny, but apparently the Corps has told THC they don't want me nosing around. In spite of that, THC has been releasing things to me in drips and drabs.
Which is how I came across the following item in a December 11, 2009, letter from the Texas Department of Transportation to the THC.
One of the bullet points in a long memo states, "TxDOT will provide additional information requested in your November 13th letter to determine the presence of a potential industrial historic district in the area around the Atlas Metalo Works Corp."
As soon as I saw that, I rushed to Google Streetview to look up the potential historic site they were talking about. I happen to be a former historic site researcher myself in an earlier life, so I know a thing or two about this stuff works.
Indeed, Atlas Metal Works is a splendid example of early 1960s corrugated metal semi-temporary industrial architecture known in the vernacular as "Factory Crapola."
So, it gave me an idea. If this can be a historic site, why couldn't we have all that stuff over there where Cedar Crest crosses the river declared a Scrap Metal and Rendering Plant District Historic District. That way it would be protected, and people could stop arguing about it.
One of my first jobs out of college was working on the National Survey of Historic Places. I would volunteer to write the nomination. I can see it now: "One of the few extant examples of authentic scrap metal yard/rendering plant architecture left in the city, this district perfectly expresses the zeitgeist of the mid-20th Century, when visitors to the area took deep snout-fulls of the dodgy air and said proudly, 'That's the smell of money, honey!'"
I'm on it!Texas Historical Commission