Bridging the states with Texas limestone

The Texas DOT Visitors Center in Texarkana, TX, features an entry tower clad with Texas limestone.

The tower utilizes North Cream, Cedar Hill Cream and South Cream limestone from TexaStone Quarries of Garden City, TX.
The Texas DOT Visitors Center in Texarkana, TX, sits in the "Piney Woods" region of East Texas, just at the Texas/Arkansas border in Texarkana, TX. To rejuvenate the center, which had previously consisted of some scattered 1950s buildings, HLM Design conceived a new building on the site, which includes Texas limestone as a focal point.

HLM's architectural plan for the project is called "Intervention at the Seam," which according to the firm, acknowledges the "seam" between states, between functions, between man-made and natural materials, and between the past and the present.

A 14-foot-high tower, clad in Texas limestone, stands at the front of the building. This feature was designed to balance the reduced scale of the entry building. It also pays tribute to the light-colored mounds that historically served as gathering points for the Caddo Indians, which had built temples on top of the mounds years ago.

The tower utilizes North Cream, Cedar Hill Cream and South Cream limestone from TexaStone Quarries of Garden City, TX. A total of 2,400 square feet of material was used in an ashlar pattern that includes pieces measuring 4 x 4, 4 x 10 and 8 x 12 inches. All pieces are split-face and have a thickness of 4 inches.

"The owner expressed an interest in the style of the area, which uses a lot of stone. They wanted a building that fit the region," explained Doug R. Bissell, project manager with HLM. "We wanted to use materials that are natural and are found in the area. Also, the shape of the building is found in the area. It's oriented to fit it to the road. To catch your eye, you have to orient to the highway, and it looks like an oasis with all of the landscaping, and at night it is lit to be observed from the highway."

In addition to reflecting the surrounding area, the use of stone contrasts the brick and glasswork that comprises much of the exterior. The new building is a total of 8,500 square feet, and it hosts a total of 1.6 million visitors per year.

A total of 2,400 square feet of split-face material was used in an ashlar pattern that includes pieces measuring 4 x 4, 4 x 10 and 8 x 12 inches.

Installation details

The limestone was installed by J.P. Masonry Inc. of Texarkana, AR. According to Dennis Pascarella of J.P. Masonry, the limestone was dampened with water prior to installation. "It had to be dampened down because limestone is dry," he said. "If you don't dampen it down, it won't even take a set or stay up. It was sprayed with a hose until it was damp." A 1/4-inch mortar joint was used throughout the tower.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was ensuring that the pattern would remain consistent throughout the tower. The installation crew started at the bottom, and then continued upward. "We laid the 8-inch pieces first, and then the 10-inch pieces and then the smaller pieces. It's difficult because if you start it off wrong, the rest will be off," Pascarella said. "Every piece had to be leveled because the pattern had to be laid perfectly. If we laid a piece and it was out of place, we would tap it down with a rubber hammer. We had to level just about every piece we laid because if it isn't perfectly level, it would throw off the whole pattern."

Now that the new structure is complete, travelers crossing the Texas/Arkansas border are presented with an upgraded facility, but one that appropriately blends with the landscape. "It looks very old for such a new structure," Bissell said. "It looks like it's been there a long time."

Credit Box:

Texas DOT Visitors Center

Texarkana, TX

Owner: The State of Texas

Architect: HLM Design, Dallas, TX

Stone Supplier: TexaStone Quarries, Garden City, TX

Installation: J.P. Masonry Inc., Texarkana, AR

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