Photography by Jennifer Shertzer
John Brooks has lived here since 1963. Though he was born in Austin, he considers Plano his hometown. He is a retired architect, and after a successful career of creating buildings, he has found himself continually enraptured by the world of architecture. That natural love led to his discovery of a new interest: local history. Now thousands of current and former residents enjoy the community he’s created on his Facebook group centered around photos and stories of Plano history and nostalgia.
How did you get started learning about local history?
My wife Kathleen and I decided to build a house near Downtown Plano in 2006. It’s in the Haggard Park Heritage Resource district so there are some special restrictions. I started doing research to find out more about who might have lived on my property and what the architecture looked like. I started going to the library. I wanted to find out what I could about my property, but I started getting interested in Plano history in general.
What were some gems you found at the Plano Library?
They had all the old photographs in three-ring binders. I thought all those photographs were interesting. “Plano History: The Early Years” is an especially good book. It was written in the early 80s, and it’s well done and well referenced.
What led you to start the Plano History (and Nostalgia) Facebook group?
One of my neighbors asked me if I’d ever heard of the doctor that attended President Kennedy when [Kennedy] came to Parkland. Well, he lived in Plano. I started Googling it, and found out that people were talking about old Plano history on Facebook. I realized I could search for pictures and ask for pictures and talk with people there.
I started talking to some of the pioneer families. I went to one of the pioneer picnics – they call it Old Settlers – they meet twice a year except during COVID. When I went, I asked for photographs. The next time, people had brought some. It got to be like hunting for Easter eggs. I was always hunting for images that had anything to do with Plano history.
I started my Facebook group at the end of 2014. I just started with a few members and I never really promoted it. It just started growing. It’s getting close to 10,000 now.
How were you involved with the Plano Heritage Commission?
The [Plano Heritage] Commission is a board that is appointed by the City Council. The Commission approves certain properties and districts for preservation assistance by the City of Plano. The Commission also approves grants for preservation activities and projects. I served two terms as a commissioner from 2014 to 2018. I continue to follow the activity of the Commission, especially as it relates to our neighborhood in the Haggard Park District.
Any buildings in Plano that are personal favorites?
The George House, which was moved out of Plano in the ‘70s actually. I attended the old Cox school building when I first came to Plano. That building is interesting to me. The Olney Davis House at the corner of 18th and H – that’s an especially nice house.