Steel pipes support the top of the mosaic-tile wall map of the Highland Lakes, which faces RR 1431 from the original Highland Lakes Shopping Center. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
KINGSLAND — If all goes well, the wall will not come tumbling down.
That’s the word from Prosperity Bank officials about the iconic mosaic-tile map of the Highland Lakes that has been a fixture of Kingsland since 1964.
“It represents Kingsland and where we’ve been,” said Melody Yanniell, branch vice president and lobby manager. “The community takes a lot of ownership in it.”
When residents learned earlier this year that Prosperity Bank would be tearing down its current building on the corner of RR 1431 and RR 2900, many were concerned about the map’s future. They didn’t want the wall to become a part of history.
Yanniell heard their concerns and took them to the bank’s higher-ups.
“Prosperity Bank (corporate officials) listened to me, to our employees, and to citizens, and they have taken it very seriously,” she said.
The bank and construction crews are doing everything they can to save the wall and include it in the new bank’s design.
So why all the fuss over a wall?
“The wall represents the bank,” Yanniell said. “The bank represents the community and the bond between the two.”
In some ways, it was this Lake LBJ community that built the bank in the 1960s when Woody McCasland saw the need for such an institution. A bank executive from Waco, McCasland often vacationed in Kingsland during business treks to Marble Falls, Burnet, and Llano.
He saw potential for growth in the unincorporated community, noting lake lots were selling to military personnel living in San Antonio and West Texans who wanted to reside near the water.
McCasland built the original Highland Lakes National Bank in 1963 on property about a tenth of a mile east of the 1431/2900 intersection. When it opened, several Kingsland businesses took out ads in the local newspapers to celebrate. McCasland had even gone door to door offering residents stock of $25 a share in the new bank to help fund its construction.
His vision, though, wasn’t just a thriving bank; he also wanted to help others going into business for themselves. On land he purchased soon after he opened the bank, the Highland Lakes Shopping Center sprung up. The site, at 1431 and 2900, eventually became the home of Highland Lakes National Bank, where it remained.
“There was nothing (in Kingsland) except the old Baptist church,” longtime Kingsland resident Robert Kinard said. “At one time, the only bank in Kingsland was this one.”
While the building itself, which was 30,000 square feet, was extraordinary, it was the large wall facing RR 1431 that stood out.
Artist Tom Berrara Cummings of Monterrey, Mexico, used tiny mosaic tiles to create a map of the Colorado River chain of lakes, including cities and state parks.
It was the landmark people used when giving directions and what sprang to mind when people thought of Kingsland.
Along with the bank, the Highland Lakes Shopping Center became home to the post office and several other businesses.
But it was the site of much more. The center would hold celebrations, meetings, and other city-related activities.
Yanniell still remembers coming to Kingsland as a child and turning onto RR 2900 and seeing the two-story bank with bright lights illuminating the second floor as well as people dressed in their best attire, dancing, talking, and having a great time.
Kinard compares the bank building, especially the iconic wall, to the post office in Stanford, Texas, where his grandfather was the postmaster.
“You would think the main (gathering place) would have been the courtyard,” he said. “It wasn’t. It was the post office. (The map wall) is the focal point (in Kingsland) for people and kids of three generations.”
McCasland sold the bank to Franklin Bank in 2005. Prosperity Bank purchased it in 2008.
Prosperity Bank began construction on a new building this spring at the 1431/2900 location. Bank officials have made every attempt to preserve the wall.
Work crews added 6 feet of concrete under the wall and placed large steel pipes on the front and back to hold it in upright during demolition. Only then could workers cut away the existing slab to finish demolishing the original building.
The plan is to connect the wall to the new building and form a plaza.
Yanniell said the lobby will have historical photos of Highland Lakes landmarks and attractions such as Buchanan Dam, the Quarry train tracks, and bluebonnets.
The new building will be 4,200 square feet to accommodate the needs of a 21st century bank.
While the building will be moderns, history remains at the site.
“This is Kingsland, this corner,” Kinard said as he waved a hand toward the wall.
“I think we’ll have a corner we’re really proud of as a community,” she said.