Something worth celebrating

Mineola Main Street program turns 30 years old

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Mineola commemorated 30 years as a Texas Main Street City at a celebration Tuesday night, Oct. 15. The Historic Select Theater was packed with those who have committed so much to preserving Mineola’s history and promoting its growth and revitalization.

Several guests were in attendance including State Representative Cole Hefner, State Senator Bryan Hughes, and Jennifer Alden, representing Congressman Lance Gooden.

City manager Mercy Rushing was the master of ceremonies, leading the night with her wit and laughter. Rushing was the Main Street manager from 1994-2008.

While speaking on the founding of Mineola as a Main Street City, Mayor Kevin White said, “Risk is the price we pay for opportunity.” 

In the beginning, not all agreed with the risk, but selfless people who believed in the growth of the town pushed to see the program come to Mineola, he said. Many of these visionary men and women are no longer here, but their dedication and hard work will not be forgotten. The risk paid off and opportunities are abounding in Mineola. 

Since being chosen as a Main Street City in 1989, $33 million has been reinvested and over 54,000 volunteer hours have been dedicated to the revitalization and development of downtown.

Mineola has received 13 awards and been named to the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. No other town has been as involved in the Main Street program as Mineola. 

Mineola has been a Main Street city for almost as long as the Texas Main Street Program has been in existence, and is now the seventh oldest successful Main Street city in Texas. 

Special guest Debra Drescher, state coordinator of the Texas Main Street Program, spoke on how far Mineola has come in the 30 years since applying to the program and congratulated the community on a job well done.

Before beginning the program, the small stores were closing and the streets were empty. Dirty windows and shops lined the crumbling sidewalks of what was fast becoming a ghost town. 

At one time, there were a lot of railroad families, but the train no longer stopped in Mineola. Operations had been moved to Longview. 

Getting into the Main Street program was an accomplishment and boosted the morale. It was the beginning of an effort to improve the town. 

In 1996, with tremendous effort by the entire city, Amtrak began stopping in Mineola. The rail crossing at Johnson St. had to be closed, and the gazebo was designed and built to beautify the area. It is now a great asset where artists, musicians and local townspeople relax and enjoy the view. 

Most parades end at the gazebo, and Santa Claus always makes his appearance there after the Christmas parade.

The sidewalk renovation in 1999 was a large undertaking, but now welcomes visitors to walk the streets and visit the shops.

The train depot was a plain, nondescript building, but was renovated to take it back to its original integrity. It now houses a museum and a model railroad replicating 1930s Mineola. 

For over a decade, the Main Street Board has partnered with Amtrak to operate their annual fundraiser, the Wine Train. It has seen significant growth through the years and generates funds that are invested back into Mineola’s Main Street.

A pavilion next to the depot was built and the Farmers Market was resurrected in 2011. 

The Historical Museum has continued to grow with the addition of the Broadway Barbershop exhibit and Santa’s Little Red House.

The Landmark Commission, under the umbrella of Main Street, developed the Iron Horse Square with a playground and free train rides that delight young and old alike. 

The most recent project, a mural designed by a high school student depicting several iconic images of Mineola, was recently completed on a downtown building. 

“Mineola is still shining,” said Drescher.

Representative Cole Hefner said he was only eight years old when Mineola became a mainstreet community. He has watched it grow but likes that its been able to keep its small town culture.

“We really do live in the best place on the planet,” he said.

Senator Bryan Hughes spoke on how blessed he is to be able to represent Wood County and East Texas and presented a Senate resolution to Mineola. “Special places like Mineola don’t happen by accident,” said Hughes, as he thanked those who work behind the scenes to make it all happen.

He ended his speech by saying, “What you’re doing matters. You’re making good use of your liberty!”

Congressman Lance Gooden’s office presented a proclamation to continue the support of rehabilitation and development of Mineola.

The future looks bright for Mineola with several more projects in the works. Museum renovation will carry on and Mineola buildings will continue to be revitalized with the addition of more murals. 

Main Street Manager Doris Newman outlined what’s in the works.

The Iron Horse Square is proceeding with its 5-year plan. The Harry W. Meredith mini-train will be getting a mini-depot built for the comfort of the patrons and engineers. The Landmark Commission is planning for the longterm with ADA accessible restrooms and a ticket booth.

The next phase is a walking trail around the park with historical markers and educational signs to commemorate Mineola’s railroad history. 

Also in the plans is a replica of an interlocking tower, a communication and equipment building used by railroads in the past. Mineola had one of the earliest structures in the state, and the concrete base is still east of town.

There are also hopes of adding a pedestrian bridge over the railroad crossing on Pacific St.

Mineola Main Street, with the incredible financial support of the Meredith Foundation and the Mineola Economic Development Corporation, will continue efforts to draw visitors and make residents proud of this town. 

As Mayor White said, “More memories will be made by a new generation in downtown Mineola.”

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