From western forts to Victorian mansions and pivotal battlegrounds, the Texas Historical Commission's 20 state historic sites exemplify a breadth of Texas history. Come explore the real stories at the real places.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

History and Heritage: Keys for the College Bound

By José Zapata, site manager for Casa Navarro State Historic Site

In honor of Navarro’s passion for education, the Friends of Casa Navarro initiated the José Antonio Navarro Distinguished Student Scholarship Award. A total of 40 high school seniors from throughout the San Antonio area applied for the scholarship this year.
The scholarship committee met on Saturday, February 20. Among the criteria considered by the scholarship committee were the student’s scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and a demonstrated awareness of the needs and issues within his or her community.
Interested students were asked to visit Casa Navarro State Historic Site to inspire a two- to three-page essay portraying the student’s experience in reflecting on José Antonio Navarro’s life and spirit. The students were asked to refer to their own reflections upon visiting Casa Navarro and how Navarro’s historical participation influenced their world and how his contributions are relevant today.

This year’s $1,000 scholarship awards recipients were honored at a recent reception.

1) Haley Michelle Hoekstra — Comfort High School
2) Jenna Caroline Barnett — John Marshall High School
3) Eric Andrew Johnston — Sandra Day O'Connor High School
4) John Alexander Ferguson III — Alamo Heights High School
This year’s scholarship committee members were Dr. Felix Almaraz, Dr. Betty Barrett Garza, Clemmie Rodriguez, Sarah Salinas and John Tillotson.
***Casa Navarro is located at the corner of S. Laredo and W. Nueva streets in downtown San Antonio in the Texas Independence Trail Region and Hill Country Trail Region.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Interpretive Panels Installed in Fort Griffin Visitor’s Center

by Eric Abercrombie, assistant site manager at Fort Griffin State Historic Site

After many months of planning with THC staff, local historians and the 106 Group, we have new interpretive panels on display in our visitor’s center and throughout the site. The panels outside of the visitor’s center were placed to provide interpretation of the buildings and locations of significance. We’re thrilled to have new displays that will help tell the real story of the rich history of Fort Griffin.
The planning for these interpretative panels began in May 2009, with the visitor experience in mind. Covering a broad range of subjects allows visitors to see the big picture of the fort’s history and use. Each subject falls under one of four themes: the natural resources of the area, the regional center and local economy, the daily life of the military and soldiers, and the military outpost. Each theme is represented by a different color, which is consistent throughout the site.
Fort Griffin has a long history with many different stories to be told. Beginning as a lonely military outpost on the western frontier of Texas, the fort grew in significance when a thriving, Wild West town developed nearby. Years later, after the threat of hostile Indians had been eliminated and the fort and town abandoned, the site became a place for the skilled work of Company 3803 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC worked on restoring what was left of the old fort. Shortly afterward, the site became a state park and eventually the home of the Official State of Texas Longhorn herd. Each time period provides great stories, and our new interpretive panels attempt to share a few of them in a brief and concise format.
In addition to the new panels, other improvements were made to the interior of our visitor’s center. They include new wood shelves and countertop, a large floor map of Texas illustrating the location of forts and trails, and overhead displays with photos and symbols. Overall, the new displays and panels will tell the real story of this real place and add tremendous value to the visitor experience.
**The Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy 283 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Starr Family Home Discoveries

by Megan Maxwell, site staff at Starr Family Home

We’ve had lots of excitement at the Starr Family Home over new artifact discoveries and donations. During inventory last fall, a ledger book from Frank Starr’s land agency was found hidden away on an upper closet shelf. Several months later, an old umbrella was found tucked away among some fireplace fenders in the attic. The umbrella fabric was long gone, but the handle is a carved dog’s head with a wonderful facial expression.
In January, we were fortunate to receive a donation of two original letters from Frank Starr to the land commissioner of Cherokee County about a road being built through Starr’s land. Amanda and Jason Childress donated the documents that were found in her stepfather’s house.
This winter we also welcomed 25 Starr descendents for a birthday party and tour of the house museum.
John Rodriguez, our maintenance manager, recently restored our spare front gate and installed it. We are told that Mrs. Ruth Starr Blake always kept an extra gate ready when the old one needed to be replaced. There is an even older gate on site; John believes it might be the original gate, dating to the 19th century (old gate pictured at right).

**Starr Family Home is located in Marshall on the corner of Travis St. and S. Grove St. in the Texas Forest Trail Region.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One Trip, Three Unique Historic Homes

By Jennifer O’Hair, web content coordinator

One of my favorite parts of my job is when I get the opportunity to get out from behind my desk and visit our state historic sites. Recently, I took a trip to three of our historic homes in North Texas — Sam Bell Maxey House, Sam Rayburn House Museum and Eisenhower Birthplace. The close proximity of these three sites makes for a great one- or two-day itinerary.

My first stop was Sam Bell Maxey House in Paris. Built in 1868, this home is chock full of fascinating stories and artifacts, including a massive shell once used by the family as a punch bowl and a very unusual-looking service bell.



The town of Paris is also a great place to take in some good eats and shops — it even has its own Eiffel Tower, topped off with a cowboy hat, of course.

About 45 minutes west of Paris is Bonham, home of U.S. Congressman Sam Rayburn’s 1916 home, now the Sam Rayburn House Museum. This historic site is incredibly interesting in that all of the rooms including furnishings, were left virtually as they were when Rayburn and his family lived there. The guest room (shown below) is where former President LBJ and First Lady once stayed. Truly a step back in time.

My last stop was Eisenhower Birthplace, located about 30 minutes northwest of Bonham in Denison. Despite the pouring rain during my visit, this site was full of the energy of the 34th U.S. President. I will make a point to go back there in the springtime when the landscaped grounds are known to be blooming with flowers.

Have you visited these sites yet? If so, leave a comment below and let us know what you thought. To trace my route, see the Google map below. All three sites are located in the Texas Lakes Trail Region.