Emblematic of the historic and cultural crossroads that is the southern plains, the Buddy Holly Center is a mix of old and new that serves visual and performance arts. Located at 1801 Crickets Avenue in Lubbock, the building in which it is housed opened in 1928 as the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railway Company depot. A magnificent structure in Spanish Renaissance Revival style designed by Texas architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, it handled passenger and freight for the region’s first railway until its closing in 1953. Used only for warehousing and salvage for the next decade, it reopened in 1976 as the Depot Restaurant, a tony eatery that was also one of the city’s first examples of adaptive use as well as the city’s first historic landmark (1979) that was later listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1990).
The restaurant closed in 1997 but the building itself was soon reborn. In 1984 the city of Lubbock had established and staffed the Fine Arts Center to provide the community and local artists with exhibit space and arts programming. Though it was instrumental in developing significant collaborative arts events and popular programs, it was housed in an aging structure that was never intended for museum or gallery functions. In 1996 the city acquired a substantial collection of artifacts from the estate of Buddy Holly, the Lubbock native who had become an internationally–beloved icon of popular music. The following year, the city purchased the historic depot building and began the process of renovating and expanding it to serve as a first-class gallery and museum space that would both replace the existing Fine Arts Center and provide a home for the Buddy Holly collection. On September 3, 1999, four days before Holly’s birthday, the Buddy Holly Center opened its doors for the first time.
While the renovation preserved the charm and history of the original building’s stone and brick frieze with its ornamented series of paired decorative pilasters, the new addition further enhanced the motif with accents of projecting steel Stratocaster guitar forms that subtly mark the structure’s new purpose. A bolder statement is made by Steve Teeters’s sculpture of an enormous pair of horn-rimmed glasses installed in May 2002 just outside the main entrance. Inside, the Buddy Holly collection is displayed in a permanent gallery that is itself guitar-shaped, leading visitors through an exhibit of the famous musician’s life and times. Other galleries host traveling exhibits of world-class visual art, while an outdoor courtyard hosts an annual summertime musical performance series. In 2013 the J. I. Allison House, a restoration project, opened on the grounds of the center. The structure had been home to Crickets drummer J. I. Allison and was the site where Allison and Holly penned many of their hits. The house is available for tours. The center also hosts educational outreach programs in art and music.