Hygieostatic Bat Roost - Comfort, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member QuarrellaDeVil
N 29° 58.226 W 098° 53.083
14R E 511121 N 3315514
The Hygieostatic Bat Roost is one of sixteen known such roosts built between 1907 and 1929, one of two survivors of seven built in Texas, and the oldest of three known existing roosts in the US.
Waymark Code: WMM276
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 07/06/2014
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 5

The bat roost is located about a mile and four-tenths east of Comfort along FM 473, approximately four hundred feet south of the highway. If you reach the Steves Family Cemetery on the same side of the road, you've gone too far. This is Steves family property here, and there is a small turnout to park to get your photos. Please limit your visits to daylight hours, and respect the owner's property as you visit.

The bat roost became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1981, and the Atlas of the Texas Historical Commission has an excellent narrative about the roost and what prompted its being built (see below). (visit link) Note, that, of the surviving bat roosts (also known as "Campbell Bat Roosts", after their creator), there are actually two standing in Texas: This one, and another at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange, TX. The third is the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower in Monroe County, FL, and hopefully, a fourth will return to us at some point: The bat roost in Temple Terrace, FL was burned by arsonists in 1979, leaving only the base, but there are efforts to reconstruct it.

The Hygieostatic Bat Roost is a pyramidal, frame tower built in 1918 near Comfort, Texas, to colonize bats. Clearly modeled on the cupola form which ornamented the rooflines of many later Victorian buildings, the Comfort tower shows the influence of the Shingle architectural style. It is located in a rural environment in the Central Texas hill country, on a ranch that has been owned by the Steves family of San Antonio for over 120 years. The Bat Roost is in near-perfect condition and has experienced only one minor physical addition to its original form.

The Hygieostatic Bat Roost is a steeply-pitched, pyramidal, frame tower, approximately three stories (30 feet) in height. It rest on a square concrete platform of piers and beams, which is raised seven feet above the ground. The roost is capped with an exposed-cave pyramidal hip roof capped with an ornamental finial, and with exposed eaves. An elongated, louvered dormer on the west elevation provides bat egress and ingress. A large door at its base allows human access. Two false dormers ornament the other elevations. The structure and roof are sheathed in painted wooden shingles. Tin skirts fan out from the tops of the concrete piers and serve as rodent guards. They are the only addition or alteration to a well-maintained structure.

The upper portion of the interior serves as the roosting area for the bats, while the lower space is filled by a wooden hopper designed to collect guano. At the interior juncture between the square, concrete platform and the pyramidal tower, a hopper slopes downward toward a wooden chute, which was designed to facilitate guano removal in measured quantities.

The Hygieostatic Bat Roost follows the standard design of most contemporaneous roosts built in the United States and Italy. The only variation on the design was in its exterior ornamentation. The roost plan developed by Charles Campbell evolved rapidly to the standardized form exemplified by the Hygieostatic Roost. Beginning with simple boxes elevated in trees, Campbell then designed the tall, spacious, elevated roost we see today, which, however, lacked the long, projecting, louvered dormer. This projection was apparently one of the improvements Campbell made to the first full-scale tower, which he built about 1909 and improved in 1910.

The Bat Roost is located at the edge of a campground and ranching complex, in a gently rolling area. The lightly wooded setting adjoins an orchard.

The Hygieostatic Bat Roost, standing near Comfort, Texas, is an architectural rarity built in an experimental attempt to control malaria by natural means. Only 16 roosts are reported to have been built in the U.S. and Italy between the years 1907 and 1929. The Hygieostatic Roost is apparently the last survivor of seven roosts built in Texas, and is the oldest of the three known existing roosts in the nation. The Comfort roost was built in 1918, according to plans developed by Dr. Charles A.R. Campbell, physician and former Health Officer of San Antonio. It was commissioned by former San Antonio mayor Albert Steves, a member of a prominent local family which, for six generations, has contributed substantially to the business, political, cultural and philanthropic history of San Antonio. A whimsical structure to us today, the roost is a reminder of San Antonio's grass roots participation in a national drive to eradicate malaria from the southern United States.

For centuries malaria had remained a dreaded disease, causing the death or debilitation each year of millions of people living in tropical climates. Early in the 20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation was established to promote public health among the nations of the world, and also worked within the United States. The motivating principle behind this pioneering organization was to provide public health to all people as their right. The foundation further believed that large-scale, systematic efforts were required to foster effective minimum health standards among citizens. Malaria, as well as other diseases, was officially targeted by the Rockefeller Foundation as one of the world's worst diseases.

Late in the 19th century, a few individuals working independently in malaria research had taken all the research steps needed to eliminate malaria as a threat to the world. Charles Laveran, a French army surgeon working in Algeria, isolated the malaria plasmodium in 1885; a year later, the Italian Camillo Golgi confirmed his discovery. Dr. Patrick Mansion, after detecting malaria in the stomachs of mosquitoes that had bitten malaria patients, theorized in 1895 that mosquitoes were carriers of the disease and that man was somehow a second host in the parasites' development. Two years later, Ronald Ross, a surgeon in the British army, confirmed Manson's theory and identified the Anopheles mosquito as the carrier. Ross then demonstrated what would become the classic methods of mosquito control: drainage of soil, oiling stagnant pools, screening buildings, isolating infected patients, and the regular use of mosquito nets over beds. Ross received the Nobel Prize in 1902, as did Charles Laveran in 1907.
Street address:
2 Flat Rock Creek Rd
Comfort, TX USA

County / Borough / Parish: Kendall

Year listed: 1983

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Person, Event, Architecture/Engineering

Periods of significance: 1900-1924

Historic function: Agriculture/Subsistence

Current function: Agriculture/Subsistence

Privately owned?: yes

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Hours of operation: Not listed

Secondary Website 1: Not listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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