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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Landmark Inn and Casa Navarro Join Forces at San Antonio’s Founders Day

By Jose Zapata (Landmark Inn) and Maureen Brown (Casa Navarro)

Casa Navarro and Landmark Inn state historic sites were among the many exhibitors celebrating San Antonio’s Founders Day on October 22 at the Alamo. In its eighth year, San Antonio Founders Day celebrates the area’s rich cultural heritage through live music and dance; historical, cultural, and educational displays from more than 40 organizations; and hands-on crafts and educational activities for children. This was a free, family-oriented event, and we had plenty of local, national, and international visitors. Event organizers recorded more than 8,800 visitors to the event at the Alamo that day!

Landmark Inn staff set up a booth featuring a laundry area, photos, and a general store. Visitors of all ages had a great time in the laundry area, viewing the historic photos and the general store display.  

The Casa Navarro (and Friends) booth featured two hands-on activities this year. One activity allowed visitors of all ages to sign their names with quill feathers and ink on a large sheet of paper. The aim was to provide a fun activity that connects the past with the present as well as awareness of the fact that José Antonio Navarro was one of two native Texans to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Signatures at the event included visitors from all over the U.S., Canada, and China. We even had “Flat Stanley’s” signature.

Another “History Detective” activity involved searching for clues to Casa Navarro and Navarro’s past with copies of key historical primary sources and magnifying glasses.

We are looking forward to participating in next year’s event. Landmark Inn is located in Castroville, approximately 20 miles west of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country Trail Region. Casa Navarro is located at the corner of S. Laredo and W. Nueva streets in downtown San Antonio, in the Texas Independence and Hill Country Trail Regions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Young Texans Experience Living History at Fort Griffin

By Mitch Baird, Fort Griffin Site Manager

Fort Griffin State Historic Site held its annual living history event last month, with a school day on Friday, October 7. The weather was windy with steady 20-30 mile-an-hour winds, but no one seemed to mind. More than 750 students and 120 teachers and parents traveled from as far away as Abilene and Oleny to attend.

To help educate the students, volunteers from all over Texas came to teach traditional activities, including stage coach rides, corn shucking and grinding, and laundry demonstrations. Oddly enough, teaching the students how to wash and iron clothes the old-fashioned way, with a scrub board and sad iron, was very popular!

The students also loved seeing the big longhorn steers on display and listening to tall tales of cattle rustling, drives, and stampedes. But most of all they seemed to be attracted to Drummer Boy Ice Cream, which was selling homemade ice cream, root beer floats, and more. 

Another annual favorite is the large cannon and mortar from Fort Concho. This is always an exciting demonstration for the students because it is loud and produces lots of smoke. Bruce Frazer of Frazer Brothers Sutlery entertained the kids with tales of Indians and how to use an atlatl, while his wife, Gay, watched over the military clothing, buttons, and kepis for sale in their store. Overall, the school day was great success.

Saturday morning was met with clouds and the threat of severe weather. Who would have thought that during Texas’ most severe drought in 50 years, Saturday’s living history event would be washed out? Nonetheless, word was given early to “bug out if you don’t want to get wet!” Canvas dropped, cannons flew onto trailers, horses and stagecoaches flew off site, and within an hour and a half only a few brave souls remained.

About an hour later, the rain came and stayed for three days. In the end, we received 4.5 inches of much-needed rain. But Saturday was also the day that the Texas Forts Tour was due to ride through Fort Griffin, and by golly the cyclists still came—wet, cold, and hungry, but they still came. In the end, more than 62 riders stopped at the Fort Griffin rest stop to get a snack of fresh fruit and a drink before pedaling off in the pouring rain for the final 15 miles of the day’s ride. 

By 4 p.m., only staff remained at the site. We all looked at each other and then the rain and laughingly agreed, “If this is what it takes to get rain, we’ll do it again next weekend!” 

Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy 283, in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Preserving the Past at Magoffin Home

By Leslie Bergloff, Magoffin Home Site Manager

For the last four months, the Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso has been undergoing a transformation. This historic adobe building has been the focus of an important preservation project that combines the materials of the past with the best preservation technologies of the present. The renovations will ensure that many more generations of visitors can be transported back in time to enjoy and learn more about the Magoffin Home and early Southwest history.

More than 50 El Pasoans have been hired to work with Stoddard Construction Management, Inc. on the project. The leaking roof is being replaced and the wood exterior trims repaired and repainted. Repairs to the adobe are also included in the work, along with updates to the electrical and mechanical systems. New drainage and grading around the building will prevent any more damage to the adobe bricks.

Each contractor is dedicated to making sure they meet all the requirements of the Antiquities Code as well as the Secretary of the Interiors standards for the preservation of historic buildings. It won’t be long before the home is open and in better condition than it has been for many years.

During a recent paint analysis, some unusual paint finishes were discovered. These “faux finishes” will be restored the building’s exterior doors, windows, and screens. This will more accurately represent the exterior of the Magoffin Home in the late 1800s, when the scoring on the plastered adobe was originally completed. The new paint will make the home even more authentic for visitors.

Community support has been positive throughout the project. People stop by to see what is going on and call to thank the Texas Historical Commission for making sure this El Paso treasure is being preserved. The outpouring of their encouragement and support shows the level of commitment the community has for preserving this historic site. Hardly a day goes by without someone asking when it will open again. Although the work will not be completed until spring 2012, it will all be worth the wait!

For updates and more photos of the project, go to The Magoffin Home is located in downtown El Paso and is part of the Texas Mountain Trail Region.