If This Old House Could Speak....
Updated: Aug 14, 2021
For the past few months, we’ve been helping the new owner of a building in Lockhart, Texas put together a historic tax credit application for its renovation and repair. The opulent house at 1125 Magnolia Street is iconic. Set on more than two acres, the sprawling two story Tudor Revival stone house is architecturally unique, and definitely stands out from the Queen Anne Victorian and Classical Revival buildings that dominate this quaint historic town. Most Lockhart residents immediately recognize it as the “Glosserman House,” so-called for Sam and Elsia Glosserman, who bought it in 1976 and lived there until they passed away—Sam in 1990 and Elsia in 2000. Once bequeathed the honor of “Most valuable Citizen,” Sam Glosserman was at the center of every business circle, every civic improvement, and just about every community event, in addition to anchoring Lockhart’s small but tight-knit Jewish Community. Elsia, known for her mastery of both Southern and Jewish cookery, hosted friends and family gatherings that just seemed to get bigger every year in their home on Magnolia Street. Their mezuzah on the doorway welcomed many a Lockhart native. She’d had always loved that house-- even before she and Sam purchased it in 1976.
But before Sam and Elsia Glosserman enlivened the home with their parties and family gatherings, the house was more soberly known as the Fred J. Adams home, after the man that built it in 1932. A few years older than Sam Glosserman, Adams was nonetheless a business associate and contemporary who moved in many of the same circles as Glosserman. Like Glosserman, Adams too was a self-made man born to working class parents. His professional life began with a wholesale grocer in town, having never attended college. Like so many of his generation in Caldwell County, Adams shipped off in 1918 to fight in World War I.
Perhaps fighting an entirely new kind of war in Europe as the world slouched toward modernity made him keen to the economic potential of oil exploration and development. Adams left behind no diaries or personal accounts of his own history, so it may be impossible to know what motivated him. However, records indicate that as soon as he returned from the war, he formed the Globe Petroleum Trust with several business partners and began raising capital to explore fields around Lockhart. The big 1920s oil boom in Caldwell County had yet to happen. The first real gusher erupted in 1922, and Adams’ company was not involved in that lucky strike. But within a few short years, Adams’ wells in Caldwell County were producing, and in 1930 he and his partner, George Lyles, hit it big. From there Adams and Lyles expanded their interests to the East Texas Oil Field around Longview, from which they soon amassed sizable fortunes.
The steady oil revenue left Adams well protected when the stock market crashed in 1929. While the rest of Lockhart and much of Texas and was reeling from the onset of the Great Depression, Adams was purchasing ranches in west Texas, weekend homes near Kerrville and New Braunfels, vacationing in Los Angeles and Mexico, and building a spacious new mansion. In 1932 he hired a 21-year old architect from San Antonio named Phil Lloyd Shoop to design a grand estate in his hometown. It may have been Shoop’s very first commission. The San Antonio Express News reported on construction of the house on August 14, 1932.
The house will be built two stories and basement and have 14 rooms. It will be of rock veneer, of west Texas rock. There will be three baths. Attached to the house will be a three-car garage building. The work will be done by home labor where it is possible to do so and the house will be the most elaborate in this section.
The article went on to say that cost of construction was estimated to be $50,000, which in today’s worth would be equivalent to about a million dollars. The planned three car garage was a unique show of wealth during a time when most Lockhart residents were lucky to own one automobile. Adams, in fact, owned several: one of them was a Cadillac, another, a Pierce Arrow.
The house featured an impressive portico around the front entrance. Airy outdoor terraces in front of and behind the house were designed for entertaining. Inside the house, there was butler’s pantry, a formal and informal dining room, a library, a light-filled sunroom, and a large living room with fireplace and French doors that spilled open to the terrace. Each bedroom had its own attached bath and spacious built-in closets, a rarity for that time period. Adams and Shoop opted for unique interior details, including vaulted ceilings, door openings with arabesque arches throughout the house, and custom designed doors. The house is full of nooks, cabinets and shelving designed as much for decorative display as they were for functionality. There was also a covered stable for horses out back, but that was torn down many years ago.
Once settled in their new home, Fred Adams, his wife Winnie and three daughters began entertaining on a grand scale. They hosted civic clubs and events, out of town guests, bridge parties, school functions and wedding receptions there. Fred invested in ranch land and real estate around town, opened the Lockhart Livestock Auction and the Lockhart Savings and Loan. He too was integral to civic organizations, as well as business clubs. At the height of the Great Depression, when the town desperately needed investment, he built rental cottages, and donated money to build a new school gym. The Adams Gymnasium still stands in Lockhart today and is even listed on the National Register.
For all the impact Adams seemed to have had on Lockhart of mid-twentieth century, there are few families around today who even remember the Adams name. They’re not mentioned in any of the county history books. I’ve been wondering why that is, since it wasn’t really that long ago that he and his wife were still living at 1125 Magnolia Street. Fred and Winnie Adams had three daughters—Doris, Winnifred and Lynette-- who married and stayed in Texas. However, all three died relatively young. Many of their children also seem to have passed away or no longer have any connection to Lockhart. The Adams family’s only legacy seems to be in the properties they built, many of which are still standing around town. But like the Glosserman House at 1125 Magnolia, most people no longer associate them with Fred J. Adams.
If the house could speak, what would it tell us about the lives of Fred J. Adams…his wife…his three daughters? Was there a scandal? Did someone fall into disgrace for some reason? Or did they simply fade from memory once they were gone? Public records are silent on those points, so we may never know. But the building legacy endures.
As always, please comment if you’d like to add information!
2021a “Fred J. Adams,” Various records available online at https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/search/?name=Fred+J_Adams&event=_lockhart-caldwell-texas-usa_76468, accessed April 2021.
2021b “Phillip Lloyd Shoop,” Various records available online at https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/search/?name=Philip+Lloyd_Shoop&event=_lockhart-caldwell-texas-usa_76468, accessed May 2021.
Austin American Statesman (available online at newspaperarchives.com)
1926 “Automobile Registrations- Williams Collector.” Wednesday, December 8, 1926, pg. 3.
1963 “Lockhart Leader Succumbs,” by Maxine Goodman. Thursday, August 15, 1963, pg. 1.
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1935b “Personal News.” Thu. Sept. 5, 1935, pg. 3.
1935c “Mr. and Mrs. Fred J. Adams Entertain.” Thu. Oct. 17, 1935
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The Living New Deal
2018 “Adams Gym- Lockhart Texas.” Online at https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/adams-gym-lockhart-tx/, accessed April 2021.
Mark Withers Trail Drive Museum (MWTDR)
1984 Historical Caldwell County: Where Roots Intertwine. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas.
San Antonio Express Newspaper (available online at newspaperarchives.com)
1932 “Lockhart Man Builds Lockhart House: Johnson Contract for $50,000 Adams Residence.” August 14, 1932, pg. 23
2010 Mr. “G”. Texas Jewish Historical Society Newsletter, November 2010 Online at https://txjhs.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2010-Nov.pdf, accessed Mar. 2021.