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Blue Bonnet Court
Austin, TX

 

Blue Bonnet Court
Austin, TX
Photo courtesy Chris Richey

The Blue Bonnet Court features a faded out sign that looks like its seen better days. Looks like there's vacancies here though folks. The Blue Bonnet is located in Austin, TX.

 

UPDATE 11/05 : My grandparents, Joseph Lucas and his wife Elizabeth Green "Miss Bessie" Lucas, began building the Blue Bonnet Court motor hotel starting in 1928. They had two young children at the time and lived in one of the units for the first couple of years. Joe Lucas was an entrepreneur/business man who did everything from selling insurance to working as a sheriff's deputy. Everybody in town knew Joe and Bessie Lucas. Joe thought the best place to build a motor court in Austin would be directly across the road from the State Mental Hospital. He figured there'd always be customers. . . people from all over the state would come to visit their friends or relatives at the hospital. He was right. It was Austin's second motor court ever to be built and at the time, it was outside the main part of town on the "road to Dallas".

The fancy rock front was built with rock hauled back themselves from around Marble Falls, Texas. The rest of the place was rather plain, because that's all they could afford. Bessie used to call it "the Queen Anne front and Mary Ann back."

The first sign for the motor court was some big old homemade wood sign that Joe stuck out on the highway. The highway department told him the sign was on state property and that he'd have to remove it. Joe was a stubborn man and refused to take it down. Officials wouldn't let up and said they'd fine him if he didn't take it down. His temper got the best of him so he went out in the middle of the night, pulled it down, chopped it up and put it in the middle of the road. Then he called the highway department and told them to come out and clean up the dangerous debris in the road.

Joe Lucas was a forward thinking man. The next sign he'd put up would be one that no one would miss. The sign pictured on your Web site was Austin's first neon sign.

Before she died, Bessie told us the story about a band of famous gangsters that once stayed at the place. These were the dark days of the depression when crooks like Bonnie and Clyde and Dillinger hit small town and sometimes larger town banks. One night when my grandfather was away on business as a deputy sheriff, two cars pulled up to the motor court. Bessie rented two units to two men for what was to be several days. They paid up front but asked for two units "in the back." Bessie thought they looked suspicious, although they were nice enough and cash was cash!

The next morning, Bessie sent her young son, Bobby Joe (my father, who was about 8 or 9 at the time) over to the units with the customary pitcher of ice water and glasses. His instructions were always to look around and report back everything he saw. Bobby Joe saw plenty. He told his mother that there were at least four or five men, one woman and many guns. If it would have been just one or two guns, it wouldn't have been that unusual in Texas at the time. It was still kind of the wild west. But Bobby Joe saw many more than two guns.

It wasn't so much the guns Bessie didn't like. As soon as Joe got home later that day, she told him that she wouldn't have any "hussies" staying at her motor court. What would people think? She told Joe to tell them they'd have to leave. Since they had guns, Joe decided to carry his shotgun casually over one arm just so they knew he meant business. Before knocking on their door, Joe noted the license plate numbers on the cars. Joe told the men it was nothing personal but the wife didn't like the impropriety of it all. He said they could stay the night, but would have to leave in the morning. But some time during the night, they slipped out without fanfare. When Joe ran the license plate numbers, he discovered it was the Baby Face Nelson gang. Bessie knew a bad lot when she saw them.

Joe Lucas went on to own a gas station and little grocery market in town, neither of which survive today. Bobby Joe survived fighting in WWII and graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown with a degree in Journalism. He eventually went to work as an air traffic controller for the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Board), which eventually became the FAA. Joe, Bessie and Bobby Joe are long gone, but the Blue Bonnet Court and the State Mental Hospital still stand. The Blue Bonnet is now privately owned and I believe its units are being rented as efficiency apartments. It's definitely seen better days, but the stories that old stone front wall could tell!

Many thanks to Gaye Lucas, grandson of Joseph Lucas and his wife Elizabeth Green "Miss Bessie" Lucas, for update. 11-05

 

 

 

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© Copyright 1998-2017 Syd Nagoshi. All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be reproduced, copied or revised without written permission of the author.