Killeen Downtown Historic District

Killeen, in Bell County, Texas, is a bustling city roughly 70 miles north of Austin. The townsite was virtually vacant until the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad laid its tracks through central Texas in 1882. The railroad company platted the town of Killeen on its right-of-way and within a year, several stores, a saloon, a railroad depot, and a school appeared on its streets. Residents of surrounding hamlets moved to Killeen to take advantage of opportunities afforded the town as a railroad terminus. Killeen soon became the center of regional agriculture, shipping cotton and livestock to market from its railroad cars. The town’s late 19th and early 20th century properties date from this period of agricultural success. Development slowed to a halt during the Great Depression of the 1930s but activity resumed when nearby Camp Hood was created as a major training ground for U.S. soldiers during World War II. Although the military kept the town’s economy alive in the mid-to-late 1940s, it made few contributions to the city’s building stock and infrastructure, perhaps because of the temporary nature of its tenure in the area. After the war, the town’s future was uncertain, but when the Camp Hood was re-commissioned in 1950 as Fort Hood, a permanent military post, people flocked to Killeen to provide goods and services for the growing facility. Fort Hood’s permanent status and growth directly affected Killeen’s population and building boom in the 1950s. The city’s population more than doubled from about 1,300 in 1949 to 7,045 the following year on the strength of the base presence. During that year, nearly 100 new commercial buildings went up in the city’s downtown core. Due in large part to the presence of Fort Hood in the postwar era, downtown Killeen possesses a large number of commercial resources bearing modern architectural influences from that period. The Killeen Downtown Historic District is filled with a mix of late-19th/early 20th-century commercial buildings and postwar commercial buildings in nearly equal numbers. Some of the postwar buildings display distinctively modern architectural features. Though many of its buildings have been altered to some degree, the district is noteworthy for its concentration of historic-age resources representing Killeen’s two most influential periods of growth and development. Because the district has such a distinct cluster of historic-age buildings and because its postwar architecture is noteworthy for its Modern design and form, it is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, Community Planning and Development and Military, and under Criterion C, Architecture, at the local level of significance. The district’s period of significance is 1895-1964.

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