AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – During these New Deal stories, we’ve talked a lot about the projects and the people it has helped around the panhandle.
But there were two men who were instrumental in getting the projects to the people of the High Plains and getting them built. That would be Alson Asa Meredith and Guy A. Carlander.
You know the name Meredith because of Lake Meredith and Carlander’s buildings literally dot the sky of Amarillo.
Long before Alson Asa Meredith, otherwise known as Double A Meredith, devoted himself full-time to getting a dam and reservoir on the Canadian River to furnish water for the panhandle, he was the area director for the Works Progress Administration.
“He was putting down the curbs in this neighborhood, so if you walk around through Oliver-Eakle, in Wolfin, and even in San Jacinto, you are going to see stamped on the curb “Works Progress Administration” that was A.A. Meredith. He was putting people to work,” said Wes Reeves who is a member of the Potter County Historical Commission.
According to Paul H. Carlson, in his book “Amarillo: The Story of a Western Town,” the Amarillo WPA workers built curbs and gutters in the San Jacinto and Country Club additions, helped to construct the post office and J. Marvin Jones Federal Building in downtown, repaired county roads and bridges, and contributed to improvements at Northwest Texas Hospital.
In 1940, the Veterans Administration Hospital opened and was built by WPA workers in a Spanish Colonial Revival style and the facility served a wide area that included Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle. In 1940, the WPA also expanded Northwest Texas Hospital. They completed a 75-bed addition to the facility located between 6th and 7th Avenue.
In 1937, the Panhandle Water Conservation Authority was created to protect and conserve water resources. The PWCA was able to obtain WPA funds and workers to build dams across several Panhandle creeks including Tierra Blanca, McClellan, and North Tule.
Meredith would be transferred to Amarillo in 1916 when he was working for the Gulf Refining Company, he would later move to Plainview in 1931 but returned to Amarillo a few years later to take charge of the Potter County Relief Program, and in 1935 he was appointed to that area director position.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the WPA helped pave streets and construct sidewalks, tennis courts, and a grandstand in Amarillo. $400,000 in federal funds that Meredith obtained went to support building projects at West Texas State Teachers College, now West Texas A&M University, and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
“The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, a parking lot over from this building was first opened in April 1933 and that building, that museum which is one of the most important history museums in the state would have not kept a float were it not for WPA workers, Works Progress Administration workers who helped with archaeological digs, scientific work,” said Dr. Tim Bowman, head of the Department of History at WTAMU.
Guy A. Carlander moved to Amarillo in 1919 as an employee of the Santa Fe Railroad and he would set up his own architectural firm in 1920.
By the 1930s, Carlander was already a well-known and prominent architect, with him designing buildings like the Fisk Medical Arts Building, Northwest Texas Hospital, and First Baptist Church.
“He was not only a good designer, he was a good engineer of a functional building that could sustain a hundred years, right? So if he is building in the 20s, we are now in the 2020s, and it’s still functional. Now some things have needed updates, but I think people still appreciate his aesthetic, it’s not out of date. It still feels regionally important and like I said modern,” said Dr. Amy Von Lintel, WTAMU professor of art history.
In the late 1930s, he helped Amarillo College get its own campus by designing what would become Ordway Hall and Russell Gymnasium.
Carlander would also be integral in what the buildings at Palo Duro Canyon State Park would look like by designing the El Coronado Lodge and several smaller buildings around the canyon, according to Peter L. Petersen, in the book “The Story of Palo Duro Canyon” by Duane Guy.
“He was the person who built the lodge. So the lodge that we see when we go there. That’s his design, but he had bigger plans for it too and we have some of his drawings and a little postcard that shows he wanted to expand it with this giant smokestack and it never got done,” said Von Lintel.
According to Llano Cemetery, Carlander was also a key part in improving the grounds, during a 1933 project that was largely financed by two New Deal programs – the expanded Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Some of those improvements included the Administration building, Superintendent’s cottage, and pump house. According to Llano Cemetery, the improvements at the cemetery started as a small-scale project, but the scope broadened quickly as community leaders began to support the initiative and area businesses donated materials, supervisory labor, and money.
According to Llano, the RFC project employed 40 men in the first three days and more men were added each week until the project employed 1,200 laborers.
The RFC paid only wages and the materials, tools, and supervisory personnel were donated.
Carlson added the New Deal’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration or FERA carried on work begun with President Herbert Hoover’s RFC. Thus, Amarillo residents employed under FERA grants continued working on streets, curbs, and gutters, and in schools, Llano Cemetery, and the Tri-State Fairgrounds.
“These guys came along at a weird time in our country’s history when we had this horrible situation… These guys saw an opportunity to enlist the government’s support to make our community better and the things they did were not just stop-gap measures, they gave us something for generations to enjoy,” said Reeves.
According to TSHA, in 1941 Meredith moved to Borger and was elected city manager. As city manager, he engineered tax-reform measures to curb financial instability brought on by the Great Depression. The TSHA said under Meredith’s leadership thirty-six miles of Borger’s streets were paved, Main Street was widened, and a water system and sewerage plant were installed.
Carlander would continue to design various projects in Amarillo and around the High Plains, throughout the rest of the 1930s and into the coming decades.
|The NAT Ballroom||1922|
|Country Club District Gateposts||1923|
|Northwest Texas Hospital||1924|
|Northwest Texas Hospital School of Nursing||1924|
|Panhandle Lumber Company||1926|
|Fisk Medical Arts Building||1927|
|Southwestern Bell Telephone Company||1927|
|San Jacinto Switch House||1927|
|First Baptist Church||1929|
|El Coronado Lodge/Palo Duro Canyon State Park||1933|
|Amarillo College Administration Building/Ordway Hall||1936|
|White Kirk Department Store||1938|
|Amarillo Hardware Company||1938|
|Amarillo Junior College Gymnasium/Amarillo College|
|“Old Tascosa” Nightclub in the basement of the Herring Hotel.||1940|
|Amarillo College Arts and Commerce Building/Durrett|
“Carlander does deserve some recognition, but it’s kind of hard to understand, he designed a lot of buildings that weren’t actually built. So in the ’60s, he continues to believe that Amarillo is going to be this thriving car city and he built this six-lane highway through downtown with huge parking structures, of course, it never got built, but he continued to believe in the growth of Amarillo and believe in Amarillo kind of as this center point in the US. Maybe delusionally a little bit, but it was also the era when we had the Air Force base, and then it closed in ’68, so he was drawing those things when we were on the rise of growth, population, economic development and he really could not foresee that that would happen. So, I see him as an optimist, I see him as a really quality designer, somebody who had his finger on the pulse on what Amarillo needed and provided it for us and it’s still highly functional,” said Von Lintel.