Ben Wheeler Celebrating Its Revival, Redevelopment Today - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

07/04/08 - Ben Wheeler

Ben Wheeler Celebrating Its Revival, Redevelopment Today

An East Texas town is not only celebrating their freedom today, but the rebirth of their community.

The tiny town of Ben Wheeler is being redeveloped by a local entrepreneur.

At a kick-off celebration today, KLTV 7 News' Courtney Lane shows us what's stirring that will hopefully have new businesses and more people flocking to this East Texas town.

You couldn't tell by looking at the crowd today, but Ben Wheeler has slowly been abandoned over the years.

"When I grew up Ben Wheeler was a pretty town. When I moved back 5 years ago, it'd fallen into rack and ruin," said Brooks Gremmels today.

Like many small towns, historians say Ben Wheeler dried up after World War Two, as people moved to cities for work.

But Charles Parmley remembers it in its hey day.

"It was an active community...several businesses here. A bank, post office, stores, service stations, barber shop."

And that's exactly how Brooks Gremmels wants to restore it, similar to the way the town looked in 1935.

"It just left this unspoiled place and all we had to do was peel back some of the layers of undergrowth that was right here all along," said Gremmels today.

"It's going to bring some enterprise to the community, stores, restaurants, everybody is looking forward to it," said Constable Pat Jordan of Van Zandt county.

"I think it's great that they're doing Ben Wheeler just like Edom; building it up," said Tisa Rushing, who lives in Ben Wheeler.

Today, residents are celebrating their freedom to rebuild and restore pride in the community.

"There's a lot of things happening and i'm glad to see this little community's revived," said Parmley.

Activities with free food and entertainment are soon to be a regular attraction.

"We intend to take advantage of these high gas prices by giving people in this area something to do....we bought a double decker bus from London to ferry people back and forth," said Gremmels.

A kick-off party, with one message: "Ben is back."

The redevelopment project is expected to take at least three years to complete.

Courtney Lane, reporting. clane@kltv.com

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