One of the “go-to” guys for erecting temples to prosperity in Waco during the ragtime era (1900-18), was Roy Ellsworth Lane, who helped establish some of the earliest architectural professional organizations in Texas.
Though his structures would become well-known fixtures of Texan cityscapes, Lane spent the early part of his life in the Midwest. He studied at the University of Minnesota, where he earned degrees in architecture and civil engineering. He first practiced designing buildings in Kansas, but Lane relocated to Texas in 1907. After settling in Waco, he joined the Sanguinet and Staats architectural firm.
Lane quickly earned a reputation as a skilled architect. During the next thirty years, he designed numerous buildings in Central Texas, including the old Waco Public Library, the Hippodrome, warehouses and hotels in the business district, several schools for Waco public schools, as well as collaborating on the 22-story ALICO building, which continues to dominate the Waco skyline.
He designed courthouses in Bosque and Runnels Counties. He also designed local churches, some of which still stand, such as First Lutheran, and St. Francis on the Brazos Catholic Church. Lane’s talent can be seen throughout Waco in the number of local homes he designed for the captains of industry and other tycoons.
Much of his work can be seen, from his own portfolio, in the holdings of the Texas Collection at Baylor University. It contains sketches in his own hand as well as images shot by Fred A. Gildersleeve, the era’s leading commercial photographer.
An example of one commission is the Cottonland Castle, the stone edifice originally erected in 1890 by stone contractor John Tennant. Lane was brought in around 1910 to finish the work started at 3300 Austin Ave. When Waco’s cotton-based economy boomed, Tennant, who worked on the Provident Building and used the leftover stone on his own property, prospered as well.
That same year, Lane also designed the Flowers House (a recorded Texas Historic Landmark since 1998), 600 W. Third St. in Eddy. It was the home of local cotton-gin operator Felix A. Flowers (1870-1950) and his wife, Lucinda Mixson Flowers (1875-1949), a local social and civic leader. It is an example of the craftsman-style homes Lane mastered: the low-slung, one-story bungalows using native materials such as timber or stone, also incorporating arts-and-crafts-style light fixtures and stained glass as an integral part of the home’s wide-open floor plans. The house remained in the family of the original owners until it was sold in 1957.
Until the mid-1930s Lane lived in Waco at 520 North Fourteenth Street (see pin on the map). In 1936, Lane moved his practice to Dallas. Among his best-known works there were the Southwestern Motor Freight Bureau, the Haggar Slacks Company plant, and the Guiberson Corp. office building.
He also was the first state parks architect, an appointment he earned in 1934, after designing the facilities around White Rock Lake, in the Dallas area, for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Lane was among the founding members of the Texas chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Texas Association of Architects and served as president of the TAA from 1918-19. In 1954 he was elevated to an honorary membership in the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Lane died in Dallas on Aug. 7, 1956, and was buried at Restland Memorial Park.