Heading south on Interstate 35, you enter Waxahachie just as it looks like you’ve left the city. Strip centers and shipping depots give way to wide-open fields, and you exit in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Moments later, however, you’re driving down a wide boulevard overhung with pecan and live oak trees and lined with a parade of Victorian “gingerbread houses.” These homes, with their turrets and gabled roofs, are the pride of the town, and on a sleepy Sunday in May, posters in the windows of storefronts around Waxahachie’s magnificent historic courthouse advertise June’s Gingerbread Trail Home Tour.
Just off the square, you’ll find another of Waxahachie’s hidden treasures, Webb Gallery. Housed in a 10,000-square-foot cast-iron-facade building, it is a menagerie of oddities: stuffed crocodiles, wooden sculptures, self-taught painting, vintage signs, old photos of pin-up girls, and cloaks from fraternal lodges. Julie and Bruce Lee Webb, who met in the Dallas punk scene, moved to Waxahachie in the late 1980s. What began as cheap space half an hour south of downtown Dallas where they could live, work, and house their expanding collection of outsider art has evolved into a renowned gallery that attracts collectors from around the world, including patrons like musician David Byrne.
On a Sunday afternoon, the gallery is cluttered with items they recently picked up on the drive back from the Outsider Art Fair in New York City. As Julie chats with two collectors from Dallas, the door opens and in walks Horace Bratcher, an 88-year-old lifelong Waxahachie resident. He makes his way over to “his chair” by the front counter and talks about having his photo recently appear in the New York Times alongside a story about the Waxahachie chapter of the International Order of Oddfellows, an old-time fraternal organization that has experienced a resurgence thanks to Bruce’s ability to recruit younger members. The tattooed Bruce and Bratcher, with his slow drawl and cowboy hat, make a curious pair, but they share a love for the slow ways of this town, and how it facilitates friendships that transcend generations.
There may be another resurgence underway as well. Looking to mimic McKinney’s town square boom, Jim Lake, the developer behind Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District, has started investing in Waxahachie. He bought the historic Rogers Hotel, which now features a restaurant and bar. The Webbs are happy to see the interest in Waxahachie, though it may have trouble shaking its small-town ways.
“He quotes rents by the square foot,” Julie says. “I don’t think anyone here has ever talked about rents in terms of square foot before.” — Peter Simek
- Median Age: 32.5
- Population Growth (2000-2013): 47.40%
- Population Density: 663 people per square mile
- Students Passing STARR K-11: 79%
- Average SAT Score: 1454
- Students Taking SAT/ACT: 55.90%
- Instruction Spending Per Student: $3,895
- Violent Crime Rate: 1.45 per 1,000 residents
- Non-Violent Crime Rate: 37.78 per 1,000 residents
- Average Price of Homes Sold (2013): $162,611
- Sales Price Change (2011-2013): 15.60%
- Owner-Occupied Homes: 58.40%
- Walkability (New York City is an 88): 24