Labor Day Weekend Jake and I decided to head down to see Jake’s parents. We were not there long before an adventure starts.
We decide to head about thirty minutes east to a small town on I-20 called Thurber, just off exit 367. Thurber was once famous for coal and then brickmaking. Its claim to fame when I was growing up was having a population of five people. What Thurber lacks in population it more than makes up for in great food. If you go to Thurber you have to eat at New York Hill Restaurant.
Thurber was the most important mine site in Texas for 30 years. 3,000 tons of coal were produced daily. This coal provided fuel mainly for the Texas and Pacific Railroad, but a dozen other RRs also used Thurber coal. By ensuring a plentiful coal supply, Thurber helped railroads open up the great southwest.http://www.thurbertexas.com/history/index.html
New York Hill
Known for its high-quality southern fare the New York Hill Restaurant doesn’t just serve some of the best Chicken Fried Steak in Texas it also provides some rich histories of the small Texas gem. Grab a steak or some chicken tenders, settle in, and get to know Thurber.
What we ate:
Sam – Texas Sizzler with a double order of green beans.
Jake – Chicken Tenders with a double order of fried okra.
John – Hamburger Steak with a loaded baked potato.
Judy – Hamburger Steak with mixed veggies.
Thurber had the best equipped brick plant west of the Mississippi. Manufactured from the area’s rich deposits of shale clay, Thurber brick paved hundreds of miles of Texas highways and streets: Congress Avenue in Austin; the Galveston sea wall; the Bankhead Highway; Camp Bowie, Main Street, and the stock yards in Fort Worth, etc.http://www.thurbertexas.com/history/index.html
One of the reasons we chose to go to New York Hill over other restaurants in the area is, unlike so many other places, New York Hill takes pride in serving something more than just passable food. Their chicken fry is light and airy; their green beans are served with pork back and as salty as your grandma made them; and their meat dishes are prepared without haste to ensure a tender, quality experience worth paying for.
Why the name “New York Hill”?
New York Hill gets its name from the rich settlers from the northeastern United States who lived on the famous hill overlooking Thurber. The restaurant itself is built on the site of the former Episcopalian church attended by the affluent northerners.
The Thurber coal miners’ strike of 1903, which ended when a contract was signed by John L Lewis and Edgar L. Marston (for Texas & Pacific) in the old Worth Hotel in Fort Worth, was the beginning of the labor movement in the southwest. Thurber became the only totally unionized town in the world, and had two UMW Locals; the English Local and the Italian Local.http://www.thurbertexas.com/history/index.html
After Eating we decide to go on a short road trip into the old mining town of Thurber. We pass by the smokestack (a smokestack landmark and adjoining restaurant that is all that is left from the brick-making industry that operated in the town) on our way to the Davidson Cemetery in Thurber.
Hundreds of European immigrants, representing eighteen ethnic groups, began working as coal miners and brick makers. The priest at the Catholic Church heard confessions in six languages. Thurber was a “melting pan” for Eastern European immigrants, providing an interesting and colorful cultural and ethnic mix. OTHER FACTS Thurber was the site of the last regularly scheduled stage coach in America. It ran from the Hotel Knox to Thurber Junction (now Mingus, Texas). The Metropolitan Opera troupe stopped in Thurber en- route from the east coast to the west coast. (The Italians loved operas.) Famous voices were heard in the Thurber Opera House, where ceiling fans had been installed (a rarity at that time). The Opera House seated more than 650 people, and VIP’s had their own box seats.http://www.thurbertexas.com/history/index.html
Cemeteries are not all that impressive in and of themselves but Thurber’s is unique. We stopped because from the road we could see a massive structure made of old brick. When we got closer we realized it was the cemetery and decided to take a look. It is an understatement to say that it is beautiful. The contrast of the brick on the green hills of Texas hill country at sunset makes for a picturesque place to stop and spend a few minutes. Something I personally had never seen before was a mausoleum built entirely of brick for one of the town fathers.
After another hour of driving around and looking at the countryside, we headed home. All in all, it was a good day and a great way to spend Labor Day weekend. If you ever find yourself on I-20 between Weatherford and Abilene be sure to check out all the rich history that Thurber has to offer.