Historic downtown building transforming into ‘Abilene entertainment hub’

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – One historic Downtown Abilene building, as well as a former SoDA District warehouse, are turning into entertainment hubs for their respective areas.

It was just a few years ago that one warehouse, just off of South 2nd Street in Abilene, was empty. The cracked parking lot and dismal surroundings left much to be desired. Since, it’s quickly become a thriving piece of the SoDA District.

Did you know that SoDA dates back to the 1800s? It stands for South Downtown Abilene!

Today, you can walk through the courtyard and stroll through the artificial grass lawn, maybe even play cornhole with family and friends. Up the small set of stairs, though, you can find a candle shop and if you’re parched, grab a drink at Juice Bar by Gather, which just opened July 23.

It’s owned and operated by Sydney Dillard, a resident of Abilene for seven years, who helped develop the vision for the area. Alongside other businesses, such as Moose Mountain Coffee, Abilene Axe Co., Stairs and Sockdolager Brewing Company. Together, these business owners have created a walkable, family-friendly environment fit for anyone and everyone.

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

Dillard, a longtime musician and culinary artist, said when she first arrived to Abilene, all of the music, entertainment and restaurants were spread far apart from each other. She saw an opportunity to change that and seized it.

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

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

While her storefront is just South of Downtown Abilene, Dillard said the connection is still there.

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


Now as you pass by, windows are blacked out and a sign is displayed, reading Nora Hall. The once red-tinted exterior walls are now a darker green color, too.

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

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

Stewardson, 26, explained how the company wanted to reinvigorate the old, rustic building, but also put a modern twist to it and make it one of the entertainment hubs for Downtown Abilene.

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

Aside from refinishing Nora Hall’s original hardwood and tile flooring, Stewardson told KTAB/KRBC she and her team wanted to do something completely modern with the exterior walls. The plan is: Floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for lots of natural light and a sense of openness into the entertainment hall.

Nora Hall is poised to feature a house band and live entertainment, as well as host events throughout the year, in attempts to attract a younger demographic to the City of Abilene – a mutual goal between both parties, Stewardson said.

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

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

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