A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 09, 2008
Concrete City (Seguin nickname)

The city of Seguin had so many concrete buildings in the 1850s that it was called “Concrete City” (or “Mother of Concrete Cities” or “Concrete Town"). Dr. John E. Park from Georgia moved to Seguin in the late 1840s and developed “Park’s concrete” (or “limecrete").

The nickname “Concrete City” is not used today, but the Sebastopol house (finished about 1853-1856) still stands as an example of the concrete architecture of this period.


Wikipedia: Seguin, Texas
Seguin (pronounced /səˈgiːn/) is a city in Guadalupe County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 22,011. It is the county seat of Guadalupe County.

Seguin was founded in 1838 by members of Mathew Caldwell’s Gonzales Rangers, namely Sir. Humphreys but was not incorporated until 1853. Its original name was Walnut Springs but was changed just six months later to honor Juan Seguín.

Since 1912, Seguin has been the home of Texas Lutheran University.

Seguin is the location of the historic Wilson Pottery site; the first freed slave business in Texas. Seguin is also home to the Sepastopol House; built in 1856, it is a Texas Historical Commission Landmark and is in the National Register of Historic Places due to its unusual limecrete construction and architectural style. Another popular attraction is the Texas Agricultural Education and Heritage Center, where visitors may learn the mechanics and history of farming in the state of Texas.

Seguin is a large producer of pecans and is often attributed the nickname “Pecan Capital of Texas.” The city boasts of having the “World’s Largest Pecan,” a five feet long, two-and- a-half feet wide concrete pecan located in front of the county courthouse. However, a similar pecan was built in Brunswick, Missouri in 1982 that is considerably larger.

Seguin is the setting of the 1994 Janice Woods Windle historical novel True Women and the 1997 CBS miniseries adaptation, True Women, starring Dana Delaney and Angelina Jolie. Seguin is where Nanci Griffith, the Grammy Award-winning singer, guitarist and songwriter, was born. 

Handbook of Texas Online
SEGUIN, TEXAS. Seguin, the county seat of Guadalupe County, is on Interstate Highway 10 and the Guadalupe River, thirty-five miles northeast of San Antonio in the central part of the county. The land is suited for agriculture and ranching and is rich in oil and minerals. The Guadalupe River, the San Marcos River, and two major creeks, Cibolo and Geronimo, flow through the region.
(...)
Early on Seguin had Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Baptist congregations. It chartered its first school in 1849, and the first schoolhouse was built in 1850 by John E. Park, inventor of Park’s concrete. The schoolhouse, formerly known as Guadalupe High School and in the 1980s still used by St. James Catholic Church, was recognized by the state in 1962 as the oldest continuously used school building in Texas.

Texas Tripper
Seguin, Texas Travel Guide
Once called “The Concrete City” and later the “Athens of Texas,” Seguin (pronounced “se-GEEN") was the home of a 19th century chemist who held several of the first patents on the production of concrete. His invention was used to construct over 90 area buildings, many still seen downtown.

Seguin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Concrete City
An Almost Forgotten Chapter in the History of Concrete

For some years before the Civil War, this frontier town was a center of experimentation with concrete. At least two citizens had their own formulas, and competed for contracts to put up some large structures. Dr. John E. Park, a Georgia-born physician and chemist who moved here in the late 1840s, was one of them. Years before Portland cement was patented, he had developed and patented his own formulas for “limecrete” that used materials obtained locally.

Teams of slaves dug gravel and caliche on site, and brought sand and water from nearby streams. These were mixed with trace ingredients like clay and ash, and with lime produced from Hill Country limestone and brought by wagon from San Marcos.

The resulting material was not so different from the adobe bricks widely used in West African buildings. But the construction technology was decidedly American.

The African American workers poured the mix into wooden forms they had built, about a foot high and from one to two feet wide. These forms were joined by iron rods to keep them from spreading apart, and held the set width apart by oak rods. When a layer hardened, in about a week, the forms were raised and another layer poured. The iron rods were driven out and used again. The oak rods remained imbedded in the thick concrete walls. It required skilled labor. The crews had to get the proportions just right—and if it was too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry—or the concrete would not set properly.

But it was worth the effort. The resulting load-bearing limecrete walls were solidly insulated and fireproof, and when whitewashed or painted, the buildings glowed like marble temples amid the log cabins and timber buildings of the raw frontier community.

Remarkably, by the time of Park’s death in 1872, this town with a population of less than 1,000 had almost 90 concrete buildings—houses, churches, even the courthouse and other public buildings. And countless structures such as cisterns, fences, animal pens, retaining walls, and so forth were made of what was traditionally called “Park’s concrete.”

No other place in the U.S. is known to have had such an extraordinary concentration of concrete buildings by late 19th century. Indeed, no other place claims to have had more of them, though it is possible (but almost unknowable) that some big city back East may have had a higher total.

The arrival of the railroad in 1875, bringing in cheap lumber and other materials, and the establishment of several brickworks around town, made homes of concrete unfashionable even in Seguin.

Today only about 20 of the limecrete relics survive here. Sadly, every so often another one of these irreplaceable artifacts is destroyed.

Built by Col. Joshua Young and completed about 1856, Sebastopol is an outstanding example from the period when this town was called “The Mother of Concrete Cities.”

Google Books
A Journey Through Texas
by Frederick Law Olmsted
New York, NY: Dix, Edwards & Co.
1857
Pg. 231:
A number of buildings in Seguin are made of concrete—thick walls of gravel and lime, raised a foot at a time, between boards, which hold the mass in place until it is solidified. As the materials are dug from the cellar, it is a very cheap mode of construction, is neat in appearance, and is said to be as durable, while protected by a good roof, as stone or brick. One man may erect a house in this way, calling in mechanics only to roof and finish.

18 August 1860, San Antonio (TX) Ledger and Texan, pg. 2:
Seguin
Friends, who visited our concrete town lately, tell us that the people are as kind as ever;...

Google Books
Early Texas Homes
by Dorothy Kendall Bracken and Maurine Whorton Redway
Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press
1956
Pg. 26:
The effect of his interest in that building material was so great that Seguin is sometimes called “The Concrete City.”

6 March 1967, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Tolbert’s Texas” by Frank X. Tolbert, section D, pg. 1:
SEGUIN, the capital of Guadalupe County, was named in 1839 for Juan Seguin, commander of the Texas army’s “Latin company” at the Battle of San Jacinto. So “San Jacinto” might have been a more sensible title of Joshua Young’s unique house. The roof was designed so that a big pool of rain water was stored in it, to cool the house, and to provide water in event of siege by Indians. Sebastopol was begun in 1849 and completed in 1853.

It is mostly built of concrete, according to the formula of an early chemist, Dr. Richard Parks (sic), who came to Seguin in 1840. In fact, so many durable homes were built of this material that Seguin was once styled “The Concrete City.” The Seguin Conservation Society is restoring Sebastopol at a cost, so far, of $14,130.81, with an outer skin of shiningly white yet warm plaster. Ralph C. Giles of the Seguin society told me that Sebastopol is “the oldest example of Grecian antebellum architecture” in the U.S.

15 May 1975, Seguin (TX) Gazette, sec. 1,pg. 12, col. 1:
OTHER THINGS WE DIDN’T KNOW (...) In 1856 Seguin was called the “Concrete City” by San Antonians.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, August 09, 2008 • Permalink