Manor – Texas ghost towns have a lore of their own. Stories of the Old West and a connection to the past makes these sorts of places the perfect stop to ponder what life was like in the good ole days. In the ghost town of J. Lorraine, just off of 290 in Manor, you won’t find hardcore history because this place is here just for fun.
“Before I retired, I started the ghost town,” George T. Richards said.
George is about as much a cowboy as his town deserves a historical marker.
“I wear a cowboy hat, but I’m afraid of horses,” George said. “ They could step on you.”
For some reason, he really likes old western towns. George’s family moved to San Antonio when he was a young boy, and after getting his degree at Texas State University, he went on to serve in Navy.
“At one point I was on the flight deck of the USS Independence, we were off the coast of Florida, and we watched one of the Apollo rockets,” George said. “I felt like singing The Star Spangled Banner, or something. So here I’m on an aircraft carrier watching a moon rocket go up.”
Eventually he went on to work for the Texas Attorney General’s office as a system analyst, but before he retired, he took to the town, his own town. He began building everything on this 15-acre estate.
“My mantra was, at least one more board a day,” George said. “Every day I would come out, on the weekends. I would come out and just keep adding to it.”
Since he was not a craftsman by trade, there were a few learning curves.
“I will say I wasn’t a carpenter, and whatever I’m doing wrong, I’m really good at it now, ’cause I keep doing it the same way,” George said.
He kept on hammering and gave his retro retirement community a name that was close to his heart.
“I named it after my daughter, Jennifer Lorraine,” George said. “It’s J. Lorraine, Texas.”
20 buildings make up the majority of J. Lorraine, and each little corner has its own unique characteristic about it. It’s as if each little part of the place could tell a story of its own.
“I thought I was gonna make a big western perimeter, and in the middle would be the bar and the dance hall area,” George said. “Then I started that front façade and I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing.”
All kidding aside, the most common theme you’ll find in these parts is a place to pop a top.
“That just happens to be,” George said. “This is a bar town, I guess. Every other building’s a bar I guess.”
What exactly would convince a man to build his own world, his own reality? Well, he just wanted his own magical place.
“I remember as a kid, I was watching TV and this guy would come on T.V., and he had built a place that had Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland … It was Walt Disney,” George said. “And it stunned me as a kid that grownups would build something that was just for fun. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty neat. When I grow up, I’m gonna build something just for fun.’ So this is my little tiny Disney World.”
J. Lorraine is open to the public and has a maze, a theater, and all sorts of places to explore. What you won’t find here are ticket booths. This small world comes with a small price: Free.
“I always say we’re kind of desolate out here, and we have been,” George said. “It’s hard enough to get people to come out anyhow, so if I charge them to come in, I don’t know if I’d have many people anyhow.”
Walt Disney once said that the real trouble with the world is that too many people grow up. For a guy like George, well if the boot fits. Exploring J. Lorraine is well worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“Well, I’m glad y’all stopped by, and get anybody else who wants to stop by to an old western town, we’d be glad to have them,” George said.