Extreme Makeover: The entire town? Flip this city? The personalities behind HGTV’s hit show Home Town could be coming to your Home Town to give it a makeover.
As East Texas towns work to revitalize aging architecture, cities like Overton, Jacksonville, Van and Quitman are just a few of the communities across America seeking help from the upcoming HGTV special event, Home Town Takeover.
People from each of the towns submitted video and photos to showcase the town’s unique attributes and areas in need of a revamp in an effort to receive a makeover.
The six-episode show is being led by Erin and Ben Napier, who currently host the series Home Town, and it’s set to air sometime next year, according to HGTV.
The applicants had to have a population of 40,000 or less, distinctive features, architecture, special destinations and a classic main street, according to the website. Submissions are currently being reviewed for consideration.
Clyde Carter, Overton police chief and interim city manager, said the city officials were approached by several citizens to apply for the show.
Some of the featured parts of the town are the Overton Theater building, original houses, residential historic homes and the downtown area.
Overton was thriving during the oil boom in East Texas and was built by the train and oil industries. The town was laid out in 1873 as a site for the junction of two railroad lines. It was primarily a farming community until oil was discovered in the 1930s, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
Its peak population was 4,500 in 1936 during the oil boom, according to the historical association. The city currently has 2,357 residents, Carter said.
“Oil’s pretty much gone,” he said. “We do have a few businesses in town. We just renovated our park. We’re fixing to open our park and city lake.”
The annual 4th of July celebration is also a highlight of Overton, Carter added.
“We have one of the longest firework shows in East Texas,” he said.
The goal is to get the city recognized and try to renovate the town.
Current businesses include mom and pop shops and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center. There’s also the BM Moore Correctional Facility just outside the city limits, Carter said.
City Secretary and Community Development Coordinator Rachel Gafford said she hopes cooperation with HGTV and property owners will create a draw for economic development.
“For several reasons, the economic infrastructure has been declining,” Gafford said. “We have not had the finances to make improvements for the city. We are showing there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
The community is working together to improve life in the city of Overton, Gafford explained.
Cassie Devillier, who calls herself a community advocate, led the charge for the city of Jacksonville to apply for the HGTV show.
Devillier said she is always trying to find ways to make the town better. For the video, she detailed historical aspects of the town that are in need of revitalization.
“We’ve made a lot of strides in the community,” she said. “We could use a lot more help.”
One of the aspects emphasized in the video submission was Jacksonville’s diversity of people and how the residents care for each other.
“We really sold our different characters and diversity of the people,” she said. “We’re all friends coming together.”
Some of the featured areas include Love’s Lookout, the Travis Clinic and historical neighborhoods.
The lookout is a popular tourism spot in the Jacksonville area sitting on a hill overlooking a broad valley with beautiful outdoor scenery. Devillier said there was once a swimming pool, arcade and restaurant at the lookout.
“We showed photos of what it looks like now and what it used to look like,” she said.
The Travis Clinic is a former hospital that has not been used in many years. She says it has an ultra modern look.
“The building is just amazing,” she said.
Devillier hopes the city can partner with HGTV to revitalize the town of about 15,000 people with new ideas.
“I’d love to see their ideas for the town,” she said. “Put a new 2020 spin on it. We have the most caring, hard-working community. It brought us together even closer. It’s really exciting to talk about our plans for the future.”
She also thanked the videographer Al Lambert for his work in capturing Jacksonville.
The city of Van submitted five photos and a short video to visually showcase the history and the effects of the 2015 tornado.
Van City Manager Charles West said the application details how they pulled together after 25% of the town was lost, including an elementary school and the death of two people.
“We’re on an upswing now,” he said. “It’s been a long process dealing with the state of Texas and FEMA. We’re back in a growth pattern in East Texas.”
Van grew as a town between the late 1920s and early 1930s when oil was discovered in the area. West said Van went from a farm town to an oil city overnight, but as the oil decreased so did the population.
“We decided that it would be a great way to promote the city and bring people together,” he said.
The town has a good school district, jobs and it’s conveniently located on Interstate 20. There’s also a community center and library, historical homes and Main Street, he said.
“Van is a community that is a true community. It’s just a whole different environment,” West said. “It’s like one large family.”
He hopes the older buildings can get a face-lift, downtown gets a makeover, updated lighting and sidewalks.
After seeing information about the show on Facebook, Quitman business owner Kelly Kieke said she decided to collaborate with community members to create a video for submission.
The video features local businesses, historical homes, Carroll Green Civic Center, the chamber of commerce building, city hall and the youth foundation.
The roughly 100 year old wooden pavilion at the city’s Gov. Jim Hogg City Park is also highlighted. The annual festival, Wood County Old Settler’s Reunion, is held at the park and under the pavilion during the first week of August.
“Over the last three years, we’ve had steady revitalization of our downtown,” Kieke said. “We’ve pretty much done all we can do. It would be amazing to have that boost from the TV show.”
Josh Pogue, who filmed and edited the video, said the submission showcases the hopefulness of the community.
“I think having the creativity and passion that Ben and Erin have would be a great benefit,” Pogue said.
Throughout the video, community members pass around a sign inviting the Napiers to come take over their town. The town of about 1,800 people came together through the video making process. One part of it feature a large group of people together on the steps of the Wood County Courthouse, Kieke said.
“People now want to have that sense of community back,” she said. “It’s good to see the change, and I’m excited to see what else will pop up in Quitman.”
If selected for the show, Kieke hopes to see the downtown updated as a whole, including landscaping, sidewalks and benches.