The shop windows of historic downtown Plano have watched seasons come and go; they have seen the hand of time script beginnings and ends; they have heard stories of generations young and old. Though views around them have been altered over the years, many structures are still standing strong.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK (A.R. SCHELL & SON AGENCY)
Crossing the light-rail tracks from the west on 15th Street, the A.R. Schell building shines like a beacon of Carrara glass. Last re-built following the Great Fire of 1895, the façade was remodeled in the mid-1930s for First National Bank. Since late 1957, the building has been owned and occupied by the Schell family insurance business. Third-generation Planoite Jamie Schell revealed that the building actually had two deeds, one for the foundation and first floor, and another for the second story and roof. A layer of dirt between the floors is still intact, an early attempt at fire protection.
The upper story was home to a fraternal organization, the International Order of Odd Fellows. The Order sold to the Schell family in the early 1980s when the building’s exterior was again remodeled to restore it to the post-fire brick. Unfortunately, removing a prior remodel would have destroyed the fragile brick and mortar work, so the decision was made to restore the 1930s style stucco. The view from the corner of 15th and Alex Schell’s place still encompasses the Interurban Railway Depot and Haggard Park’s greenery, but long gone are the horse-drawn buggies and cotton wagons that used to line up along the railroad to unload.
A.R. Schell Sr. was the mayor of Plano for many years and instrumental in getting U.S. Highway 75 to come through Plano. A R Schell & Son Agency is a third-generation, independent insurance agency that has been serving Texas residents since 1930.
Historic Downtown Plano by Janice Cline
Janice Cline’s 2012 Arcadia book Historic Downtown Plano was, in her own words, a labor of love. Dedicated to her grandchildren, the publication under the Images of America series paid tribute to Plano’s early structures and history. Fond memories of early days in Plano for Janice included a trip to Weatherford’s Jewelers, which had a long-time presence in downtown and was the store where her wedding ring was purchased.
Arcadia has published several books about various aspects of Plano’s history, which can be found at local stores as well as online at arcadiapublishing.com. The format of the books relies heavily on photographs, with short histories and descriptions. In the chapter, “Mid-century Boom Leads to Preservation,” she describes, in detail, the buildings on Mechanic Street between the railroad tracks on the west to Main Street on the east. Those streets now are named 15th and Avenue K.