Perhaps the most desirable address in College Station is one which has little to do with price-point, architectural style, or proximity to a football coach.
Rather, it’s the name that says it all.
And in a town in which you’ll find thoroughfares such as George Bush Drive, Rhett Butler Road, and both Lawyer Street and Lawyer Place–not to mention 11 different versions of streets named “Ridge” in the same west College Station mobile home park–the most coveted address in town, given the frequency with which the street sign has been stolen, is at the end of a one-block cul-de-sac near the entrance of the Pebble Creek subdivision.
It’s “12th man Circle.”
That’s not a typo. The word “man” on the sign is not capitalized, perhaps in an attempt to diminish the sign’s appeal to souvenir hunters.
At least that’s the thinking of College Station builder Glenn Thomas, who along with his wife, Jo Ann, lives on 12th Man.
“I’m sure our street sign is hanging on somebody’s wall somewhere,” Thomas laughs. “Replacement of that sign is more of a headache to the city than it is to those of us who know where we live.”
(Note: In the months since this story was originally written, the sign on Thomas’s street has again been replaced and now reads, correctly, “12th Man Circle.”)
With 1,402 current home sites, Pebble Creek occupies more than 1,000 acres along William D. Fitch Parkway on the south side of College Station. And that proximity is fitting, since the Pebble Creek development was Bill Fitch’s dream.
Fitch pioneered residential development in College Station. At the time of his retirement in 1993, approximately one-third of College Station was his brainchild. The road now called Southwest Parkway was his idea and spawned development that stretched southward from the Texas A&M campus.
William D. Fitch was a member of the Texas A&M Class of 1942. He was a U.S. Army captain and a veteran of World War II.
Upon his return to College Station, he served two terms on the city council. At the time, the population of the town was about 4,000 people.
Fitch was a young home builder then. He had a view of the local landscape that was far more reaching than that of most others.
What set him apart, say the people who knew him, was his ability to put together imaginative ways to purchase tracts of farm land and then parlay that property into housing developments.
With the admission of women to Texas A&M in 1965, the university began to grow and as the school grew, so grew the town which surrounded it. Many newcomers to town purchased homes in Bill Fitch developments, places with names like Southwood Valley, Leacrest, The Glade, Ridgefield West, South Knoll, Bee Creek, and Dexter Place.
He donated numerous parcels of his own property for the creation of parks, schools, and churches in his neighborhoods.
Not only was the old Greens Prairie Road East renamed in his honor in 2006, but also in a City of College Station resolution enacted in 1995, Bill Fitch was officially designated, “Mr. College Station.”
At the time of Fitch’s death in 1997 at the age of 75, the editorial board of The Eagle newspaper affirmed his status in the community.
“Bill Fitch was truly ‘Mr. College Station,’” The Eagle editorial read. “Not only was Bill Fitch a man of vision, he was also a man of service.
“Be thankful he lived here and cared so much about our community. His vision helped shape College Station into the wonderful community it has become.”
In 1984 Bill Fitch purchased the land that would become Pebble Creek from the widow of College Station homebuilder Bob Spearman. Initially, though, the project had another name.
“Bill first called it ‘Texas Centroid Ranch,’” says Henry Mayo, a longtime local surveyor and chair of the Brazos County Historical Commission. “His vision was to bring the College Station area its first golf-course community,” Mayo relates.
After swapping tracts of land with various other property owners, including the City of College Station, Fitch grew his “ranch” to a size commensurate with the new development he had envisioned. Mayo has preserved the marketing packet used for that project.
In it is a letter to prospective homeowners dated February 1989 from “W. D. Fitch.”
“I’d like to share some background with you about the exciting new Pebble Creeks Golf Club & Residential Development.”
Again, that’s no typo. “Creeks,” as the community was originally conceived, was plural. One of Fitch’s business partners, Dan Sears, is said to have suggested the name in honor of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links near Carmel, California.
Eventually, “Creeks” became “Creek.”
Almost every street in the Pebble Creek community is named for one of the world’s great golf courses, places like “Augusta Circle,” “Spyglass Court,” and “St. Andrews Drive.”
Exceptions to that are “Birdie,” “Bogie,” and “Slice” Courts, and “Spearman Drive,” named for the original owner of the property.
In his initial marketing pitch, Fitch went on to write, “(B)ecause its location fits the goals of College Station’s long range planning, the development enjoys strong support from both City government and the Economic Development Foundation. College Station already has built a new water tower (at Tower Point), wastewater (t)reatment plant and sewer trunk lines to serve this area.”
Fitch called the project a “joint venture” with Young Brothers Contractors of Waco.
F.M. Young, as CEO of his company, was well known in the highway construction business. In fact, his company widened State Highway 6 south of College Station at about the same time that his company became involved with Fitch’s Pebble Creek venture.
According to multiple sources, Fitch was eventually forced to sell out to Young due to financial difficulties.
By the winter of 1991, 21 of the initial 57 home sites offered at Pebble Creek had been sold. Two homes, owned by Larry and Kathy Flynn and Larry and Glenda Mariott had been completed.
The Ken Dye-designed golf course was opened in the summer of 1992. Although no relation to the famed golf-course designer Pete Dye, Ken Dye was at the time and remains a well-regarded golf-course architect based out of Katy, Texas.
Jim Keblinger was one of the first homeowners in Pebble Creek, and he remains in the same house on Muirfield Village he had built in 1992, making him, perhaps, the longest-tenured resident of the College Station area’s oldest golf-course community.
“My wife Carol and I decided to retire here,” Keblinger says. “I’m a former Aggie, Class of ’53, and we moved here from Houston.
“We chose a home site along the 14th hole toward the north side of the subdivision because I’d always wanted to live on a golf course.
“As they were building our house, the golf course was also under construction. The first ‘clubhouse’ was a double-wide trailer.”
Former College Station mayor Larry Ringer came to Pebble Creek a bit later, after a fire had damaged his home in one of Bill Fitch’s other south College Station neighborhoods.
“I wanted an excuse to get on the golf course,” Ringer jokes today of moving to Pebble Creek. “We lived on the 15th fairway. I always told people that when I got home from work, I could tee off on the 15th Hole and play 15, 16 and 17, then play 13 and 14 back to my house.”
Ringer concedes he never gave in to the temptation of trespassing on the golf course.
The Ringers, Larry and his wife, Jean, were friends with Bill and Gail Fitch.
“I remember one time Bill wanted to show me some property he was thinking about buying,” Ringer says, “and the wives went along.
“After they pulled up at our house and we got into their car, Larry’s wife Gail was sitting in the back seat reading a book. I asked her why.
“She said, ‘Whenever we go look at property, Bill will invariably drive across a field, get out and leave me by myself for long periods of time. So I always come prepared with a book to read for those lengthy interludes.’”
Through the years, Bill Fitch donated local land which has become:
Bee Creek Park
Georgie K. Fitch Park (named for Bill’s mother)
Brother’s Pond Park
Brazos Valley Masonic Library and Museum
College Station Medical Center
College Station Library
Lick Creek Park
When the College Station City Council held the “Name That Road” contest to rename the old Greens Prairie Road East in 2006, more than 700 entries were received. The leading vote-getter, by a nearly two-to-one margin, was the previous Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Gillispie.
Bill Fitch received more than 100 votes and it was an easy call for city officials to name that section of State Highway 40 which runs from Wellborn Road to State Highway 30 in his honor.
The William D. Fitch Parkway is also known as State Highway 40.
Shorten those two names and you have W.D. Fitch and 40.
Why not call it “WD-40”?
The WD-40 multi-use lubricating oil website says of its product, “Wherever there’s a job to be done, we have solutions.”
The same could be said for “Mr. College Station.”