Stephen F. Austin State University

216 E. Pilar (Roberts Building)

To view the independent National Register of Historic Places information for this building, click here.
216 E. Pilar Photographs

216 E. Pilar 2010 Survey Information

Click here for the 2010 survey form.

216 E. Pilar 2007 National Register Information

Constructed in 1904, the Roberts Building represents an intact example of a modest one-part commercial block. The one-story, red brick building is sited on the south side of the plaza principal, on a corner lot that slopes southward toward Banita Creek. The primary entrance on Pilar Street is accessed by a raised sidewalk. The building features a rectangular plan, with a partial basement beneath the south end of the building. The primary facade faces Pilar Street and the former Post Office, and is divided on the ground floor into three principle bays. Each bay contains a doubledoor entry with two-light transoms set within a segmental arch. A corbelled cornice separates the lower portion from the parapet area. The parapet repeats the three bay configuration, and is marked by inset panels. There are few decorative details on this building. The east elevation, facing Fredonia Street, has long been painted with murals or advertisements.Historically, this building bore an advertisement for Firestone tires. This elevation of the building allows access to the basement through small wooden doors set in segmental archways. This side also features several wood-sash windows set it segmental arch-top openings. On the ground floor (or store-level), the east elevation features two single double-hung wood sash windows set in segmental arch-topped openings. A small addition above the basement level has been framed in and clad in sheet metal.

As Nacogdoches grew, desirable lots around the plaza principal came to be used primarily for commercial purposes. The Roberts building was erected around 1904 by the Roberts family on the former homestead site of John S. Roberts. Roberts, who moved to Nacogdoches in 1820s, was a prominent citizen, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and took part in the Fredonia Rebellion. Although a residence stood on the lot until at least 1900, by about 1904 it had been demolished to make way for this commercial property. The building was leased by the Roberts family to a variety of businesses, including: a grocery store and warehouse (Sanborn 1906); a restaurant (Sanborn 1912); a grocer and plumber (Sanborn 1921); a grocer, cobbler, barber and auto repair shop (Sanborn 1922); a furniture repair shop
(Sanborn 1926); and a key shop and the City Cafe. It was in this coffee shop where local legend says that Bonnie Parker (of "Bonnie and Clyde" fame) worked as a waitress before meeting Clyde Barrow and turning to a life of crime in 1930.

Currently the location of The General Mercantile and Old Time String Shop, the building won a beautification award in 1979 for restoration efforts completed by owner Steve Hartz. The Roberts Building, as one of the "least altered historic buildings fronting on the old Principal Square" is listed on the National Register (1992) under Criterion C as a noteworthy example of early twentieth-century commercial architecture.

216 E. Pilar 1986 Survey Information