Welcome... To Historic Downtown Nocona

Downtowns across the nation went through a period of abandoment in the 1980s and 1990s, for the most part, as businesses and people fled to other areas. A movement has been ongoing for more than a decade now as community leaders work to revive what some call their heartbeat.

  • Words by John Ingle, Photos by Torin Halsey
Nocona, about 45 minutes east of Wichita Falls, saw its downtown fall into disrepair in the '80s when stores and business started closing.
Dan Fenoglio (top left) and others are attributed for bringing back the heart of Nocona with multiple elegant restoration projects, bringing life back to the town in the 2000s. Other leaders of the restoration charge include Tony Dirker (top right), Rusty and Carolyn Fengolio (bottom left, pictured with Nocona Chamber board member Randy Duckworth) and Bob and Kristal Ferguson (bottom left).

For Fenoglio, his involvement with restoring downtown Nocona began after seeing local artist Tracy White purchase a downtown storefront to use as a residence and gallery. That led to Fenoglio buying an 1870s saloon in 2002 with the intent of honoring his grandfather. Daddy Sam's Bar & Restaurant - aka Daddy Sam's Saloon - kept the ambience of a Western bar.

Fenoglio later purchased the attached building south of Daddy Sam's - what used to be his grandfather's gorcery store decades ago - and named it Gertie's Dance Hall after his grandmother.

"The thing, I guess, that kind of got me was when I first started remodeling the buildings and stuff, people started bringing me pictures of how our thriving downtown looked and everything like that. It just kind of overwhelmed me because ... everybody just started bringing me old stuff that had something to do with Nocona." - Dan Fenoglio

It's one thing to get residents excited about the rebirth of a downtown area. It's another to get the buy-in from folks with no ties to the city whatsoever.

Tony Dirker and his wife Theresa are not native Noconans, but the warm, welcoming community has made the town feel like home to them ever since moving there in 2010.

The Dirkers have been heavily involved in Nocona since settling. Tony is a member of the Nocona Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and he and Theresa are making Theresa's dream of opening her own pizzeria, Red River Pizzeria, come true at the corner of Clay and West Elm streets.

Comfort, style and maybe a glass of wine can be found at Red River Station Inn, formerly the Nocona Inn. Bob and Kristal Ferguson, pictured here, have recreated the hotel with a creative and historict twist along with business partners, Rusty and Carolyn Fengolio.

The "welcome home" atmosphere of Red River Station Inn has already drawn praise from patrons, and while they have not publicized they are open just yet, they've already had a couple of weekends where the inn has been booked.

One of the themed rooms in the Red River Station Inn highlights Jesse Chisolm and the Chisolm Trail, which passed through Nocona in its path between Texas and Kansas in the late 1800s.

Bob and Kristal's business partners, Rusty and Carolyn Fenoglio, also own the Nocona pharmacy, as well as the building with balcony seen in the background.

Brick trim and other architectural details, like those noted on the Fenoglio's pharmacy, have been restored or recreated to match designs of the downtown's original buildings.

Along with "a little patience and commitment," Nocona's downtown has become great again thanks, in part, to Pete and Barbara Horton, who have made their Bourbon Streetesque home in the heart of downtown.

The Hortons took interest in Nocona's Mardi Gras parade while visiting about four years ago.

The annual celebration has grown from just a few floats the first year, to well over 100 this past February.

Nocona Mardi Gras photos by Patrick Johnston

Peter Horton is also an avid auto enthusiast, and his classic car museum - The Horton Classic Car Museum - draws residents, tourists and auto clubs from all over.

A recent expansion to the building housing Horton's cars was made to accomodate the nearly 140 cars in his collection. It has resulted in Nocona being named the Classic Car Capitol of Texas.

For a long time, we never had anybody just walking up and down our street. Every day now we have couples walking up and down the street, visiting the car museum, eating at the restaurants." - Dan Fenoglio

The Vicari Auto Auction, with influence from Horton, has also become an annual weekend event in Nocona.

Thank you for visiting! Come back and see us soon

Created By
Orlando Flores Jr.
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Credits:

Torin Halsey

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