In the last quarter of the 19th century the first 21 miles of the Tyler Tap Railroad were completed from Tyler to Ferguson, where it tapped the Texas and Pacific Railway. This helped Tyler become a principal railroad center in the area and precipitated new growth. A public school system was established in 1882. Tyler Electric Light and Power Co. supplied city residents with electricity starting in 1888. By 1890 there were four sawmills, an ice factory, brick and tile kilns, a chair factory, a coffin and truck factory, car factory and six canning establishments in the area.
The son of German immigrants, Alexander and Elizabeth Bergfeld, Rudolph Bergfeld came to Tyler in 1878. He previously worked for the family business, Koch & Bergfeld, in Brenan, Germany and as a bookkeeper for Anheuser Busch in his hometown of St. Louis.
Over the next 52 years, Bergfeld’s business interests ranged from saloons, hotels, and banks to later legacies in commercial real estate, philanthropy and community service. Rudolph owned commercial real estate in Downtown Houston, Dallas, Wichita Falls and Tyler. He was the developer for much of the Tyler residential neighborhood known as the Azalea District.
After Rudolph passed, his son, Julius Alexander (J.A.) Bergfeld, returned to Tyler to take over the family real estate business.
By mid-summer of 1931, oil production in East Texas was booming. Operations were producing 900,000 barrels of oil per day from approximately 1,200 wells. During this time J.A. Bergfeld platted more residential developments in the Azalea District on land owned by the Bergfeld family.
J.A. Bergfeld’s dream of a suburban “shopping center” was realized in the 1940s with the creation of Bergfeld Center. Over the next 55 years, J.A. Bergfeld, Julius L. Bergfeld Sr., and Julius L. Bergfeld Jr. continued to develop the 20-acre commercial real estate area known as Bergfeld Center. A few of the tenants over the decades have included:
In 2004, Julius A. Bergfeld Sr. merged his legal practice with the business of his father, Julius L. Bergfeld Jr., creating a full service commercial real estate firm. Bergfeld Realty Company began offering a full range of commercial real estate services including office leasing, retail leasing, tenant representation, site selection and property management.
Andy Bergfeld and his partners have acquired Wal-Mart shadow centers in Terrell, Sulphur Springs, Lindale and Brownwood.
In 2004, the Bergfelds and the Brookshires focused their longstanding relationship on the redevelopment of Downtown Tyler.
After decades of lying discreetly in Downtown Tyler’s shadows, the People’s Petroleum Building (formerly known as Old People’s Bank Building) underwent a major revitalization, returning the timeworn structure to its earlier glory. Tylerite investors Garnett Brookshire, his father Tim Brookshire and Andy Bergfeld were diligent in working to preserve the Art Deco essence and historical integrity of this magnificent landmark, while emphasizing the use of local contractors and resources. Their goal was to incorporate all the conveniences of a modern, upscale office building while retaining its historical character.
In August 2018, the Bergfelds and Brookshires undertook their second venture on College Avenue, Plaza Tower. They purchased the iconic building on the downtown square and have recently finished the renovation process of bringing the relic up to date. Plaza Tower is now a host of office and retail tenants including: