Depot Square Historic District
500 8th St, Wichita Falls, TX 76301
Currently encompassing approximately six city blocks, the Wichita Falls City Council designated the downtown historic district as a Wichita Falls Landmark District in 1976. Created to serve as a reminder of the town’s “boom days” of oil discovery and the railroad development, the Historic District was the town’s original commercial center, with streets lined with imposing Romanesque and Victorian Commercial style buildings.
Today, standing in the middle of the brick road at 500 8th Street, you will find the old Wichita Falls Route Building to the south. Built in 1909, it was headquarters for the Kemp and Kell Railroads, including the Wichita Falls & Northwestern, Wichita Falls & Southern, and Wichita Valley Railway Companies. Directly behind you will find a collection of old railcars. To the north, you will see the old Kemp Grocery. Built in 1892, this structure housed the J. A. Kemp Wholesale Grocery business for 35 years. The large arched windows and doors exhibit skilled masonry in sandstone. The Industrial Supply Company occupied the building during the oil boom of the 1930s. From this location, you can travel up LaSalle to get to the Littlest Skyscraper, or directly ahead, you will find the Farmer Market, the Holt Hotel building, and the first Zales Jewelry store.
The Holt, originally the Kemp-Kell building, was constructed in 1910 and was the first high-rise building in Wichita Falls. The building was sold in 1926 to George Holt, entrepreneur and hotelier, and H.S. Ford, a theatre man. The bustling business boom created a tremendous need for hotel rooms. Holt and Ford turned the building into a state-of-the-art hotel with parlors, suites, radios, and even air conditioning. Guests arrived in Wichita Falls by rail and walked to this beautiful modern landmark to enjoy Wichita Falls’ hospitality. In 2005, the Holt was renovated and converted into 41 upscale apartment homes with commercial on the ground floor (currently the Wichita Falls Art Association Art Galley). The award-winning renovation preserved the building’s original architecture and restored the national historic landmark to its former glory.
The Ward Building is another one of the city’s many must-visit places for lovers of history. Built in 1884, this two-story brick building became home to a major player in the jewelry market. “In 1925, the ward building was occupied by Sam Kreuger’s nephew, Morris Zale, the famous founder of the world’s largest retail jeweler, the Zale Corporation,” local historian Becky Trammel said. Originally drawn by the oil boom, Russian Morris Bernard Zalesfsky (Americanized to “Zale”) immigrated to the area searching for a better life. Morris learned the jewelry trade from his uncle Sam Kreuger and, with the help of his brother William opened the first Zales Jewelry Store right here in Wichita Falls. By 1958, the Zale Corporation was listed on the stock exchange and became the world’s largest jewelry retailer.In 2013, downtown Wichita Falls development purchased the building and restored it in accordance with Wichita Falls Landmark Commission guidelines.
This historical downtown spot has since become the home of Karat Bar & Bistro’s, Ganache to Go, and Morris Supper Club, some of the city’s most notable eclectic destination restaurants. Like the name Karat Bar & Bistro and Morris Supper Club, everything about the restaurants pays homage to visionary Morris Zales and the old Zales Jewelry Store.