Old Falling Down Bowling Alley Downtown About to Undergo Art Renaissance
SAN ANGELO, TX — For years, the old building that used to house a downtown bowling alley was an eyesore. With the roof gone for decades, and cars occasionally parked inside the structure that is open to the sky through its steel trusses, it was a popular destination for San Angelo’s homeless. Its walls are shared with the buildings next door. In back, a concrete ramp through a garage door-sized hole gave wide access to autos.
The old bowling alley at 125 W. Twohig Ave. was built in 1946. It was known as The Bowling Center back then, and the down-slopping floor from the front to back of the 14,250-square-foot hull hints of what the location once was. Records show that the building was damaged in a lightning strike in 1952 and rebuilt in 1955. Its name changed to San Angelo Bowling Center then. New owners arrived in 1959 that renamed it Star Lanes, a name many old timers in San Angelo still refer to it as.
Above: The front of the former Star Lanes Bowling Alley at 125 W. Twohig Ave. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
Owned by James and Debbie Chiu of Midland since the mid-1990s, no business has been located there for decades. The Chius also own The Beauregard Tower, also known as the McBurnett or City Savings building, a 10-story, 124-foot-tall vacant building at the corner of W. Beauregard and S. Irving built in 1929. It’s also been vacant for decades.
Above: The walls of the adjacent building may have been shared with the old bowling alley, although piers separate from the building hold up the steel trusses. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
Today, the old bowling alley on Twohig is in the midst of an art renaissance. Art in Uncommon Places was granted permission by the Chius to create a pop-up art museum there. The all-volunteer group cleared out the debris in and around the building. The old glass tile on the front of the building has added color from a paintbrush. Inside the structure, some of the trunks of stray small trees that have grown through the sides of the old concrete slab have been painted. This is just a prelude of what is to become.
Above: The walls of one former room in the bowling alley remain. This was likely a utility closet. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
The arts group’s mission for the location is to creative hot spot for locals and tourists to visit. According to Downtown San Angelo, Inc., “Over 30 artists have collectively dedicated themselves to this project and the filling of the 24-hour, open-air gallery. The theme of Pop art is best described through the works of San Angelo’s own James Gill, contemporary of Andy Warhol and a prominent artist within the original movement.”
What remains of the structure was checked by the City of San Angelo and found to be structurally sound for this project, Velasquez said.
Above: The glass tile sports the work of an artist's paintbrush already. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
The museum’s debut will be in November, DTSA director Del Velasquez said.
Conventions and Visitors Bureau director Diann Bayes said the project is attracting attention from outside the city. An article appeared over the weekend in the online travel guide, Lonely Planet.
Above: Looking east down Twohig in front of the old bowling alley. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
“The hope is that the space will become a creative destination for visitors as well as San Angelo’s 100,000-plus citizens, and to that end, the alfresco display will be accessible around the clock when it debuts in the fall,” wrote Maya Stanton at LonelyPlanet.com.
Art in Uncommon Places has been effective in beautifying various parts of town. The organization was founded in 2006 and, working with local artists, has either produced or donated the resources to create 100 prominent art features throughout San Angelo. The group made a big splash earlier this year with their rehabilitation of the vandalized Paint Brush Alley located a block east from the old bowling alley.
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