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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Maxey House and Starr Family Home Celebrate Reopenings

After undergoing necessary restoration for more than a year, both the Sam Bell Maxey House and the Starr Family Home recently reopened their doors. Visitors can now experience the significant upgrades made to preserve these historic Texas gems.

Officially reopened at a ceremony in Paris on January 13, the Sam Bell Maxey House showcased its comprehensive exterior preservation work, including an exterior repainting; repairs to framing, wood siding, doors, and windows; stabilization of the pier-and-beam foundation; roof replacement; and installation of a new central heating and air conditioning system. The restoration project allows visitors to experience the elegant structure as the Maxey family did in the 19th century. A new interpretive plan is also underway to identify additional improvements to help educate visitors about the Maxeys’ experiences in the home.

The Starr Family Home in Marshall officially reopened on November 30. Upgrades to the main house, Maplecroft, included the addition of a central air conditioning/heating system, accessibility improvements, extensive carpentry repairs, and a complete repainting of the home’s interior and exterior based on a professional analysis of historic paint colors. Interior rehabilitation projects ranged from period-appropriate lighting fixtures to a visitor orientation area with changing exhibits. Other buildings at the site have also been repaired and repainted, and restrooms are now available to visitors.

In an ongoing effort to restore the Starr Family Home to its 1870s splendor, the site will temporarily close for tours January 25–February 8. During this time, the home will undergo a series of restoration projects, including installation of ingrain carpeting and chandeliers in the dining room and parlor, reconversion of a bathroom to its original use as a nursery, and overall painting and sprucing of the bedrooms.

Sam Bell Maxey House is located in Paris at the corner of Church and Washington streets in the Texas Lakes Trail Region. Starr Family Home is located in Marshall on the corner of Travis and S. Grove streets, in the Texas Forest Trail Region.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Victorian Holiday Cards at Varner-Hogg

By Sue Miller, Varner-Hogg Plantation site manager

Last month, a group of creative, young visitors joined Varner-Hogg Plantation staff in celebrating the Christmases of the past by making authentic Victorian holiday cards based on examples from the 1800s.

During the craft, students learned that Christmas cards were not commercially produced on a large scale until the 1860s, and that many were small, homemade, and only printed on one side, like a postcard.  Cards also lacked the famous images of Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa commonly seen today, and were covered in ornate pictures of flowers, nature, and children, as well as elaborate bits of fabric, fringes, and tassels.

After comparing several card samples, our eager designers went to work making their own Victorian Christmas cards, complete with dainty embellishments of lace doilies, ribbons, feathers, birds, and even a picture of the Loch Ness Monster! Once each student placed the finishing touches on their creation, the group was treated to a batch of homemade cookies and cider provided by the Varner-Hogg Friends group, leaving everyone with full bellies and a unique memento to share with friends and family in the spirit of a 19th-century holiday season.

Varner-Hogg Plantation is located approximately 60 miles south of Houston and is part of the Texas Independence Trail Region.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fulton Mansion Student Interns Get to Work

By Marsha Hendrix, Fulton Mansion site manager

The Friends of Fulton Mansion, with funding from the City of Rockport, are participating in a new student intern program in partnership with the Aransas County Education Foundation and the Aransas ISD. Three high school seniors began training in December to give tours and perform other special projects. These paid interns will work 10-15 hours per week during the school year, and potentially have the opportunity to continue working through the summer. The students are Victoria Garner, TJ Hill, and Johnna Ashcraft.

Each student will work on special projects during their internship. Johnna, as marketing specialist, will post to the Fulton Mansion Facebook page and distribute event materials throughout the community. Victoria will research and propose two new products for the gift shop as our retail specialist. TJ will gather materials about nearby places to eat and visit as our visitor services specialist.

Intern Johnna Ashcraft selects slides of the mansion restoration to have digitized for research projects and exhibits.

Fulton Mansion
is located in the resort area of Rockport-Fulton, 30 miles north of Corpus Christi. The site is part of the Texas Tropical Trail Region.