Historic downtown building transforming into “Abilene’s Entertainment Center”


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A historic building in downtown Abilene, as well as a former warehouse in the SoDA district, are transformed into entertainment hubs for their respective areas.

Just a few years ago, a warehouse just off South 2nd Street in Abilene stood empty. The cracked parking lot and dismal surroundings left a lot to be desired. Since then, it has quickly become a thriving part of the SoDA neighborhood.

Did you know that A soda dates back to the 1800s? It means South Downtown Abilene!

Today, you can walk around the yard and walk around on the artificial grass lawn, maybe even play cornhole with your family and friends. Up the short flight of stairs, however, you can find a candle shop, and if you’re thirsty, grab a drink at Juice Bar by Gather, which just opened July 23.

It is owned and operated by seven-year Abilene resident Sydney Dillard, who helped develop the vision for the area. Along with other companies, such as Moose Mountain Coffee, Abilene Ax Co., Stairs and Sockdolager Brewing Company. Together, these business owners have created a walkable, family-friendly environment suitable for everyone.

“I loved seeing it hammered out day to day,” Dillard said. “We’re at a point where it’s like, ‘wow, woah, that was very different from the last time I was here!’ And people are coming back to see this huge change.

Dillard, a lifelong musician and culinary artist, said when she arrived in Abilene, all the music, entertainment and restaurants were far apart. She saw an opportunity to change that and took it.

“I really like downtown, because it’s the heart of a place,” Dillard said.

Immediately drawn to downtown Abilene, Dillard said she saw so much potential in the area and wanted to help create the environment most Abileneans and visitors see today.

While her storefront is just south of downtown Abilene, Dillard said the connection is still there.

Just off North 2nd and Cypress Streets stands the old Paxton Building. Built in 1923 by George L. Paxton, then president of the Citizens National Bank, it quickly became a hardware store. Later it was a Mexican food restaurant, then it housed the Well Church for many years.

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Now when you walk past the windows are blacked out and a sign appears, reading Nora Room. The once red-tinted exterior walls are now also a darker green.

It is owned by Silverthorne Properties, and the name Nora Hall comes after the building owner’s daughter.

“As much as we love the history of Abilene, we want to give it a fresh look,” said Paige Stewardson of Silverthorne Properties.

Stewardson, 26, explained how the company wanted to reinvigorate the rustic old building, but also give it a modern twist and make it one of downtown Abilene’s entertainment hubs.

“It was important for us to keep the floors, but completely redo them,” Stewardson said. “And make it look new while preserving its history in downtown Abilene.”

Along with refinishing Nora Hall’s original hardwood and tile floors, Stewardson told KTAB/KRBC that she and her team wanted to do something thoroughly modern with the exterior walls. The plan is: Floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing plenty of natural light and a feeling of openness into the entertainment room.

Nora Hall is set to feature a house orchestra and live entertainment, as well as host events throughout the year, in an effort to attract a younger demographic to the city of Abilene – a common goal between the two parties, said Stewardson.

With appreciation for Abilene’s initiative to listen to our younger audience, Stewardson said she hopes to appeal to a more modern way of living downtown. For this developer, she said she felt honored to help put Nora Hall into action. Even at such a young age to do so, Stewardson said she also hopes the additional young adults she works with can really help create the ideal fit and atmosphere for their business, as well as the town.

Both venues are still undergoing renovations, but Stewardson said they will each officially open on Saturday, October 1.

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