People who live in the apartments or shop at the businesses at Londonderry and Teasley lanes likely give little thought to the big red rocks that line the alleys and dot the landscaping there.
The rocks look similar to the red rocks that some early Denton residents used to build sturdy homes or form the cornerstones of their foundations.
Today’s strip malls, gas stations and apartment buildings sit among those storied rocks, although their almost-forgotten tale is not like that of Rome’s ancient ruins or Egypt’s antiquities. Denton’s close call with world fame is more of the Cadillac Ranch and Corn Palace variety.
In 1907, Denton resident A.G. Lee decided the world needed another pyramid. He would build one on his farm as a monument to John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and richest man in the world — that scandal triggered by Ida Tarbell’s muckraking book notwithstanding.
Despite amassing a 100-foot pile of boulders for a 200-foot-by-200-foot base, and an even larger pile of publicity, the pyramid was never built, though not for Lee’s lack of public relations prowess.
In addition to a passel of stories about the proposed pyramid published in newspapers around the country, including one in The Washington Post, Lee also got publicity for a spiritual center he wanted to build in the center of the continental U.S.
Local historian Mike Cochran came across the old news stories and went hunting for other information to pinpoint the likely location of the rocks. Last week, Cochran and several other local history buffs converged on the Denton neighborhood and found what was left of the pile.
Today, people might look askance at a man who wanted to build a pyramid. But back then, people thought big, Cochran said.
Some of those big ideas never happened, like a round-the-world train across the Bering Strait.
But Mount Rushmore did, thanks to South Dakota historian Doane Robinson and Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum.
“They pulled that off,” Cochran said.
Peggy Riddle, director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, was with the group when they found the remaining rocks and is watching the developments with interest. The pyramid-that-wasn’t could bring a new historical marker for the city, likely somewhere in the area of Lee’s former farm. Cochran said he plans to write and deliver a paper on the topic.
In the meantime, Denton residents can point visitors to the area’s other oddities cataloged on RoadsideAmerica.com — a giant jackalope smoker on Bolivar Street and the World’s Largest Ball of Barbed Wire, spun by the late J.C. Payne.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.