Richard Walker, a resident of the community of Belmont, has recently set upon the task of renovating the old Red Rock Building across the street from the Belmont Social Club. He leads a hard-working crew that is essentially re-constructing the building, utilizing the same stone with which it was originally built.
“ The original stone on this building is to me irreplaceable,” said Walker. “This stone was hand cut out of a green river base, and it has all the original saw marks in it as well as the initials of the folks who originally worked on it.”
Walker grew up in the Gonzales area and lived and worked in Florida for several years before returning home to realize his dream of revitalizing the Belmont community. He and his family chose the old Belmont Hotel as their place of residence.
“My wife and I moved back from Florida with our two kids and decided to make a home back here in Belmont,” said Walker. “We bought this historic home from Inez Rather, which had been in her family for 180 years. What we moved into was the old Belmont Hotel, which was opened in 1846 as the William Beatty Public House. It stayed a stagecoach stopover for at least 26 years. They sold it to Mr. Rather around 1879, after the stage stopped coming through. He then built the Red Rock General Store, which was actually called Rather’s General Store, and operated it until the early 1960’s.”
Unfortunately, time eventually took its toll on the building as its roof caved in from deterioration.
“That is what we’re repairing right now,” noted Walker. “This project has been evolving over the last six years, and we’ve really stepped up recently to restore it.”
Red Hen Pottery, another project in the works spearheaded by Leah Ford, will serve to work in tandem with the Belmont General Store in aspirations of food production.
“My wife and I got together with Leah and a couple of others in the community recently, and decided to get some community shops working together,” continued Walker. “We’re going to call it the Belmont General Store. And next to it, Red Hen Pottery will go in the place where the old W.O.W. (Woodsmen of the World) Hall used to be. Our objective is to make it into a store, which will provide everything people need in the general area. Leah is going to put a commercial kitchen in where we can make the food to fill the store up. We will be able to can the goods and sell them through the store. Our aim is to sell healthy, nutritious products to the community.
“Let’s say you can’t make it up to Austin or San Antonio to get something natural, like farm-raised cabbage.,” continued Walker. “We are going to be able to provide that. We’re preparing three greenhouses as well as additional acreage. We’ll have real vegetables as opposed to genetically modified ones, etc. What we’re working out is how to go about packaging it to sell it in the store besides having a farmer’s market. We’re going to allow some of that, but our focus will be on getting the produce to the age where we’re able to can it, put it on the shelves, and sell it.
“We began work on the Belmont General Store about three weeks ago, and we’ve got a ways to go. The community has been pushing us to get this done, because once the Belmont Social Club opened and replaced the Goss Store, there was no “store” anymore.
All in all, Walker stresses the importance of being a community that can serve its people. “We definitely want to keep our post office here,” he said. “Also, I envision one day that the William Beatty Public House can become the community hall, or, with all the relics we have found, a museum of some kind.
“People in Belmont are welcome to donate any artifacts they might have to go on the walls in the store,” said Walker. “I would also like to make a plaque of the people who have helped put the building back together to show my appreciation. I feel I have a great community to support.”