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Friday, December 3, 2021

Who Built That? Bert Moore & Dencrete

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Article Originally Published by City of Denton Library

Have you ever wondered about the various structures around Denton – or other places – that were constructed using concrete blocks? Some have been spruced up in the past few years, such as a couple of brightly painted homes (yellow, teal, and white) on Crescent Street, while others may have been covered with some type of siding.

It wasn’t until recently that I found out a little about them when someone asked about the history of a home and who the builder was.

The builder’s name was Bert Moore who built many businesses and homes in Denton and surrounding areas during the late 1940s through early 1970s. Mr. Moore was rather unique because he also manufactured his own concrete masonry units1 which were used by other builders. He dubbed his product “Dencrete” and advertised them as being “lightweight, sturdy, fire and rodent proof.”2

Denton Record-Chronicle, October 10, 1955

I read up a little bit about concrete masonry units because I was curious to know just why they seem to show up around the same time period. For those who are interested, there is a thesis by James P. Hall that is very informative. He explained that their popularity arose in the first decade of the 20th century – not because of the first successful commercial machine [to make concrete blocks] – due to the marketing ingenuity of the Portland cement industry and other concrete subsidiaries. But it was after WWII that manufacturing of cement in Texas really peaked as there was a need for building materials. And that is why concrete building blocks became part of postwar Texas architecture.

But back to Mr. Moore.

Bert Riner Moore was born on 28 April 1912 in Tucumcari, New Mexico. He attended UNT and graduated in 1937. Later he owned his own filling station called Bert Moore’s Service (Station). He joined the Texas Defense Guard and before serving in World War II as a lieutenant (junior) in the Navy from 1942 to 1946.Lt. (jg) Bert Moore in uniform, c1942-43.

After the war was over, Bert and a man named Ray Hunt organized and opened Moore Building Products in 1945. And in December of 1946, Moore bought Hunt’s interest. The plant was originally located at the old fairgrounds which was (at that time) just east of the railroad tracks on Exposition Street.

The company made a general purpose masonry for all types of buildings, as well as a pumice aggregate material that formed a light-weight building block (Dencrete). They also made ventilators for use underneath houses. The sand and gravel were obtained from a pit in Carrollton, Texas and the pumice from New Mexico.

In 1954, Bert built a larger and more modern plant at 420 Bell Avenue. The site was convenient because the back faced the railroad tracks which allowed them to deliver sand and gravel right to their back door.3 The building is still there today and is now the current location for SCRAP Denton.

Inside Moore Construction Co. which was located at 420 Bell Avenue. This building is now being used by SCRAP.Inside Moore Construction Co. at 420 Bell Avenue.

Bert also worked with Tom Polk Miller of Mount-Miller Architects. The architectural firm was the pairing of a husband-and-wife team, Abigail Mount and Tom Polk Miller designed many mid-century modern homes and buildings that can still be found around Denton. But Bert and Tom worked on a lot of projects together also. They were, according to Bert Moore’s son, “both extraordinary men who built out of conscience and were creative together. They could read each other.”4

Here are some of their projects:

The Davis Office Building at 531 N. Elm (formerly Joe Alvord Florist); the newspaper plant of the Denton Record-Chronicle; Jim Stone’s and the Collegiate Shop at 1320 W. Hickory (which since then has been many other things); the Denton City-County Day Nursery at 1603 Paisley Street; Denton City Fire Station No. 3 on McCormick Street; and a home on 403 Mimosa Drive. And many, many Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.

This home at 2002 Misteywood Lane was featured in the Denton Record-Chronicle as part of the DHS “Home Pilgrimage Tour” on April 24, 1960.

According to Mr. Moore’s son, Dr. Louis Moore, his dad had stiff competition from Dallas companies who would come to Denton and try to undercut his prices. His other memories of his father’s business included working at the old fairgrounds and that in the early days, they made the concrete blocks by hand. Louis also said that his father had built about (no more than) ten homes made from Dencrete in the African-American part of town and offered them as rent-to-buy, something that was unheard of at that time and it gave people an opportunity for home ownership. Many of the houses (in that area) at that time period, were “just awful” he said, so people were glad to have something new.

Mr Moore was one of many business owners in Denton during the post-World War II and pre-Dynamic Denton period. And you can’t help but run into their name on the side of some of the older businesses, find their names underneath the paint, or displayed on a street sign. And sometimes, we live in their old homes. Such as the case of one of the masonry contractors used by Mr Moore: R. B. Trotter, who lived at 614 W. Parkway Street and was the father of a man I interviewed for an oral history a few years back: Dr. B. B. Trotter.

It is a small world.

With thanks to David Morton of Tim Beatty Builders and Dr. Louis Moore.

Leslie Couture, Special Collections

[1] Conversation with David Morton of Tim Beatty Builders, May 2019.

[2] Advertisement for Dencrete home. Denton Record-Chronicle, Feb. 1, 1948, sec. 10-7.

[3] Phone conversation with Dr. Louis Moore concerning his father’s business, May of 2019.

[4] Ibid.

Leslie Couture, Special Collections Department

Source: City of Denton Library

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