Dignitaries and staff from the Texas State Archives and Library Commission in Austin and Rotary International Clubs throughout Southeast Texas convened Saturday, April 30, on the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, affectionately known locally as the “Sam Center.” The reason was the dedication and opening of the historic Hull-Daisetta Rotary Club Building and its permanent exhibit on the history of the building and the Hull-Daisetta club, which operated from 1926 to its disbanding in 1982. Built in 1927 and originally an octagonal shaped log cabin, the building was an important community center in early Hull-Daisetta after the Hull field came into full production in 1921, causing a boom that led to Hull and Daisetta having a combined population of over 4,000 during the 1930s. The event was sponsored by the Lone Star Rotary E-Club, which meets by Zoom in Rotary’s Southeast Texas District 5910. Many charter E-Club members were in attendance, including current President Ellen Pate and charter member Alana Inman, Manager of our Sam Center. Also present was District 5910 Governor Nominee Amy Killgore.
According to Inman, the Sam Center Library and Research Center are back to normal operating hours, i.e., no longer are prearranged reservations necessary. The museum and grounds are also open Tuesday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm. With its permanent displays, the Rotary Building is always accessible by visiting the front desk for an access code.
One story caught this reporter’s attention among the many interesting stories about the historic building and club. It is the story of how a small group of Liberty Rotarians and East Liberty County historians saved and preserved the building. According to longtime Liberty Rotarian Bill Buchanan and historian Patti Atkins, the story began when Patti‘s father, associated with the Hull Water District, which used the old Rotary building for storage, called her one day, saying the district was considering tearing it down. Before they did, he asked if anyone might be interested in preserving it. Patti said she immediately called Bill Buchanan. Bill said he immediately called fellow Rotarian and friend Norman Dykes
In true Rotarian spirit of “Service above Self” and a “Get It Done” old school attitude, the three kicked it in gear. Simultaneously, the trio raised over $5,000 and created a commitment from the Liberty Rotary Club, Liberty County Historical Commission, and others to preservation efforts and a relocation agreement with the Sam Center for moving the building to their property. Time passed, and the wrecking crew was abated, but the fun had just begun. According to Bill, Norman Dykes, P.E., and retired Liberty City Manager took the lead. While Norman died in 2020, his wife Brenda was in attendance Saturday. She and Bill reminisced over Norman’s precise engineering drawings of the club building. Bill recounted how Norman personally led the disassembly of the faux fireplace, numbering each brick before cleaning and reconstruction. Buchanan repeatedly praised Dykes saying, “None of this would have happened without Norman Dykes.”
Moving day finally came about 12 years ago; the original moving contractors to whom most of the $5,000 had been paid reneged on the job at the last minute, refusing to refund the money. According to Patti, she received another phone call, this time from Bill. Explaining the situation, which was complicated, Bill finally said, “We’re going need some more money: $6,700.” Patti asked, “When?”
Bill replied, “By this afternoon to pay the new movers.” Moving was underway.
Not unaccustomed to such a challenge, Patti kicked it into a higher gear. Reminiscent of an oilfield project in need of an essential tool on a drilling rig or a Rotary Fish Fry suddenly without enough cooking oil or worse, fish, this project was going to happen. But money wasn’t the last obstacle.
On FM 1011, locally “Governor’s Road,” there were two bridges to cross. Measurements looked good but did not include the height of the bridge abutments. The house sat 18” too low on the trailer. The new movers required more old-school cowboy engineering. According to Buchanan, using hydraulic jacks, the movers lifted the building onto blocks aboard the trailer, slowly crossing and repeating the process at each bridge.
Finally, the building was delivered safely to the Sam Center, where Patti was on hand with the $6,700 cash raised on a Saturday morning. Restoration work would continue for another decade culminating in the exhibit today. While the story of these three individuals reflects only a part of the story and are but three of many individuals involved, they are emblematic of the way Rotary works and gets things done.
In Kitty Shivers Key’s 2013 book Hull in a Hand-basket and More, she reflects on how she and her dad looked back on life in “The Hub of the Universe.” If the Hull area was a hub, the octagon-shaped Rotary building, emblematic of the Rotary logo, was a wheel. Those Rotary members drove much more than the local Hull economy.
Attending from Austin were Texas State Library and Archives Commission Chair Martha Wong; Jelain Chubb, State Archivist, and Director Archives and Information services; Peggy Price, Education Outreach Coordinator; and Rebekah Manley, Center for the Book Coordinator.