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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Signing at Landmark Inn

By José Zapata, Site Manager

Last month, the Friends of the Landmark Inn hosted a book signing for Priscilla DaCamara Hancock, whose recently released book, Medina County, was published by Arcadia Press.

Hancock spoke at the event, as did Col. USAF (Ret) Eddie Patrick and Col. USA (Ret) Richard Schott—both of whom are Medina County patriots featured in Hancock’s book.

Well over 60 guests were in attendance to have their books signed and enjoy the refreshments.

Landmark Inn State Historic Site is located in Castroville, approximately 20 miles west of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country Trail Region.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Preservation Work Forges Ahead at the Maxey House

By Lynn Deal, Sam Bell Maxey House Site Manager

The Sam Bell Maxey House exterior preservation project is in full construction mode. In addition to restoring the home’s wood exterior, preservation-related construction is occurring from the top of the roof to the bottom of the basement! The site also recently had six decorative exterior streetlights installed.

This exterior preservation project creates educational and recreational opportunities, and it will also enhance economic growth and development. Even though the project underwent a two-year planning stage and took another year to execute, it will ultimately preserve the house for many years—if not centuries—to come.

When the residence reopens to the public this fall, visitors will gain personal insights about former U.S. Senator Sam Bell Maxey and his family. Like many of today’s homeowners, Maxey’s experiences prior to building this house were complex and interesting. Sam and his wife Marilda had been married for 15 years when they built this home. Maxey had already served both the United States and the Confederate States of America. He had also gained experience as a court clerk, an attorney, and a district attorney. Through it all, he maintained personal relationships, including those of a husband, father, son, brother, and friend.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the house is the brief window of time in which it was built. Construction began in 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction, a time when most people, particularly Southerners such as the Maxeys, had limited funds.

Part of the current construction project involves repairing, stripping, priming, and painting all of the decorative millwork that has been lost or damaged over the past 142 years. This includes the decorations on the top of the front porch capitals and under and around the hooded windows; the carved roof pediment; the widow’s walk; and the upstairs back porch railings. Repairing, re-staining, and returning the shutters to operational condition and repairing and painting the original windows—including repairing and reinforcing the original lead glass windows above the front porch door—are also in the works.

The 2010–11 construction project also involves extensive behind-the-scenes work, which will transition this traditional residential structure into a functional, 21st century museum. These structural changes require a very delicate balance, as the original intent of the home must remain while allowing modern technology to be introduced, creating a safe environment for the entire structure, its artifacts, and the public. 

To achieve a balance between historic and contemporary needs, the original Victorian architecture has been modified so it accommodates items like a fire suppression system. Sprinkler pipes and heads and strobe lights (shown in the photo below) are being added as well. This technology will ultimately preserve and protect the home and its 10,000-plus original Maxey family artifacts. Additional improvements, such as better ventilation, will assist preservation and economic sustainability.

A grand re-opening to the public is currently in the works. Meanwhile, a specially designed, temporary exhibit entitled “Presently Preserving” is open to the public. The handicapped-accessible exhibit is located in the trailer on the grounds next to the parking lot. This exhibit details the story of the tremendous amount of work that was completed before the construction process could begin. The temporary exhibit is free and open 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday at 812 Church St. in Paris.

For more information, call 903.785.5716 or visit The Sam Bell Maxey House is located in the Texas Lakes Trail Region.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Young Texans Experience History in Action

By Cody Mobley, Fort McKavett site staff

For the past four summers, Fort McKavett State Historic Site has worked in conjunction with the Texas State Historical Association to bring history to life for younger Texans. This year, 4th grade junior historians from the Dallas-Fort Worth area joined 4th graders from Menard to attend the week-long summer camp.

The focus of the “Old Stories, New Voices” summer camp is to expose Texas youth to the history of Central-West Texas. The week was divided into theme days: Native American Day, Hispanic Day, Buffalo Soldier Day, Nature Day, and Fort McKavett Day.

On Native American Day, Lipan Apache interpreters visited the campers and taught them about the Apache Scouts (U.S. Cavalry scouts) and the Lipan Apache who were indigenous to the area around Fort McKavett.

The campers also learned how to use a bow and arrow, and later that evening listened to the stories of a Lipan Apache storyteller.

On Hispanic Day, the campers visited the Presidio San Saba in Menard and learned about Spanish Presidiales and soldados de cuera. The Presidiales were Spanish soldiers stationed on the frontier at the presidios. The soldados de cueras (literal translation is “soldiers of the leather") were mounted soldiers who wore a quilted leather vest that served somewhat the same function as a bullet proof vest does today, although only effective against arrows.

During Buffalo Soldier Day, the campers learned about the role played by the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort McKavett, as well as the weapons and drills used by the soldiers.

Later that day, the companies played a game of baseball on the parade grounds. We used the 1845 rules in honor of Abner Doubleday (argued to be one of the inventors of baseball), who was stationed at Fort McKavett after the Civil War.

On Nature Day, the campers scouted and explored down the South Llano River in canoes. Later that day, they set up their tents and spent the night on location at the South Llano State Park in Junction, Texas.

During Fort McKavett Day, the campers learned about the Army in Texas prior to the Civil War as well as the buildings on site. They were especially interested in the 1874 cistern under the porch of the hospital building.

By the end of the camp, the participants were full of knowledge, but ready to go home!

Fort McKavett is located west of Menard on FM 864 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Miss Margie’s Wicket, Wicket Croquet

By Jeff Campbell, Starr Family Home staff

This summer, Texans will be out in backyards playing baseball and pitching horseshoes. In the late 1800s though, the games at the Starr Family Home State Historic Site were croquet and tennis.

For the 18th straight year, the Friends of the Starr Family Home celebrated the Victorian-era game of croquet by conducting “The Wicket, Wicket World of Croquet” tournament. This year’s tournament was bittersweet, as it was the first tournament held without its founder, Ms. Marjorie Perkins.

Ms. Perkins started the Friends of the Starr Family Home in 1986, shortly after the state began its stewardship. Serving as the board president for 25 years, she established the croquet tournament as a fundraiser. Ms. Perkins passed away in January of this year. In her honor, the tournament was renamed “Miss Margie’s Wicket, Wicket Croquet.”

Starr Family Home Office Manager Marylin Hocutt said, “The tournament was fun, but without Ms. Perkins it felt like something was missing.”

The 18-team tournament started at 9 a.m. on June 4 with temperatures that steadily rose into the upper 90s. After five rounds of sweat, celebration, and frustration, two teams advanced to the championship game. The team of Dare and Grant Westmoreland were victorious over three-time champions Bryant Perkins and Aurelio Ortiz, who settled for second place. Dare and Grant Westmoreland are direct descendants of the Starr Family.

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