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Diedrich Anton Wilhelm Rulfs, the German-born architect who immigrated to Nacogdoches, Texas in 1880, transformed the historic, frontier town into a modern city. The life and work of Rulfs and his interaction with his contemporaries isthe story of Nacogdoches in the crucial years at the turn of the 20th century. The substantial visual legacy of Rulfs to the history of a pioneering town can be enjoyed today. Over fifty architectural creations are extant and form the core for the city's extensive National Registry Districts. Rulfs incorporated the motifs of his homeland along with elements from current trends in American architecture into Nacogdoches projects. He comfortably used classical and Palladian features, romantic (Gothic), flamboyant (Queen Ann), and eclectic (Mediterranean) styles. Rulfs proved himself a master at servicing many architectural needs: modest domestic structures, commercial buildings, city blocks, hotels, elaborately fashionable mansions, churches for all denominations, and public schools. While few towns the size of Nacogdoches had, or could have supported, a talented resident architect, Rulfs returned the admiration by working flawlessly with the community. His success resided in his professionalism, his intimate knowledge of his clients, and his willingness to accomodate his designs to the needs and budgets of his patrons. Rulfs, as the architect and builder of choice in Nacogdoches between 1880 to the mid-1920s, left an incorporable architectural legacy.
In a special edition of theNacogdoches Chronicle,dated September 30,1897, editorR. W. Haltom wrote the verdict on Rulfs’ impact only seventeen years after his arrival in the city: "There is, perhaps, no man in Nacogdoches to whom the city is more indebted for the beauty and splendor of her scores of elegant residents, and the stateliness of her business houses. . . . From a little village of sleepy looking, old-fashioned cottages and wooden stores, the town has developed into a city of magnificent dwellings and imposing brick stores. And to the architecture and mechanical skill of D. Rulfs is justly due the credit for this pleasing transformation . . . his skill is displayed in more than three-fourths of the magnificent buildings that have gone up since he came here, and as a builder his workmanship is manifest in scores of the most substantial and imposing structures of the city."