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, March 28, 2012

Learn About Longhorns on the Great Western Trail

By Will Cradduck, Herd Manager, Fort Griffin State Historic Site

As the grass greens and the wildflowers bloom along the Great Western Trail, the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd and herd manager Will Cradduck are on the trail again, traveling to a number of events. Meet us on the trail for an opportunity to see steers from the state herd at Fort Griffin, hear about historic frontier and ranching life and trailing Texas cattle in 1870, and be a part of historic reenactments and events.

We’ve already participated in several events so far, including Pioneer Days in Paducah on March 12 and Fort McKavett’s West Texas Heritage Days on March 23-24. Upcoming events include Hardin-Simmons University’s Western Heritage Day in Abilene on April 12 and Fort Richardson’s Living History Event in Jacksboro on April 13-14.

Check out the Fort Griffin event calendar for more events this summer, and come see us on the Great Western Trail at Fort Griffin! If you’d like to schedule a group guided tour of the longhorn herd and Fort Griffin, please call 325.762.2356 at least two weeks in advance. 

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring is in the Air at Fort Griffin

By Mitch Baird, Site Manager, Fort Griffin State Historic Site

Signs of spring have begun popping up across Fort Griffin State Historic Site. Small purple flowers have appeared in the fields, the first iris has bloomed, and now large patches of yellow flowers are turning everything into fields of gold, which also smell fantastic!

The plum bushes are abuzz with small white flowers and honey bees flying about, the hackberry trees are putting out blooms, and many other plants—like the algeritas—are putting on spectacular color shows. Even the wild garlic is blooming with white and purple flowers.

And to set the stage for spring, the cardinal boys are bright red and singing their song, while other boy birds are putting on color. They are all busy gathering nesting material in preparation for spring. The harvester ants have come out of the ground—with their appearance, the horned lizards won’t be far behind. If things continue like this we are going to have a beautiful spring!

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 14, 2012

Nearly 1,000 Attend Casa Navarro Reopening Events

By Mo Brown, Site Manager, Casa Navarro State Historic Site

After closing for a year and a half due to major construction renovations as well as the design and installation of new state-of-the-art interpretive exhibits, Casa Navarro State Historic Site in San Antonio reopened with two special events during the last week of February 2012.

The first event on February 21, “Fat Tuesday,” was co-sponsored by the Friends of Casa Navarro, the Cortez Family of Restaurants, and the Texas Historical Commission (THC), as a “thank you” preview and opening reception for our sponsors, project architects, contractors, exhibit design partners, and Friends supporters and descendents. The event was celebrated in Mardi Gras style with colorful beads and purple, green, and gold decorations (José Antonio Navarro had lived in exile twice in New Orleans, and conducted business between San Antonio and New Orleans as a merchant).

An estimated 156 people attended the preview to see the newly renovated 1850s historical home and store (now our visitors center, gift shop, and offices), interact with new exhibits highlighting Navarro’s contributions to Texas history, partake in delicious food and drink, and hear guitar and banjo music by Ben Tavera King. In addition, the Cortez Family and co-sponsors announced a surprise. Event attendees were invited to hop on a rotating shuttle bus and preview the beautiful 40 x 8 foot hand-glazed tile “Casa Navarro – Laredito” mural (still in the making) and meet the artists, Jesse Trevino and Elizabeth Rodriguez Trevino. When completed, the mural will be installed on the exterior wall of the site, along Nueva Street. Stay tuned for a future Casa Navarro “Mural Unveiling” event!

Our main reopening event and José Antonio Navarro Birthday Celebration was held on Saturday, February 25th, and an estimated 800 visitors came to the site that day. The City of San Antonio provided complimentary parking, and Laredo Street in front of Casa Navarro was closed to vehicular traffic, allowing food vendor trucks to provide food throughout the day.

The event opened with a flag ceremony by the San Antonio Police Honor Guard and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the front porch of Casa Navarro. Program speakers included Maclovia Perez from the Friends of Casa Navarro as “José Antonio Navarro,” who acknowledged and introduced local and statewide dignitaries and legislative representatives, including U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzales, State Representative Joaquim Castro, State Representative Lloyd Doggett, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkinson, and District I City Councilman Diego Bernal. THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe spoke about the renovation project and acknowledged the preservation project partners, THC project staff, Friends’ President Troy Salinas, and Founding President Sylvia Navarro Tillotson, as well as preservation supporters in the community, including Nancy Avellar from the San Antonio Conservation Society.

Inside, birthday cake and cupcakes were sponsored by Cupcake Coutier and the Friends of Casa Navarro, and hot cocoa was provided by La Margarita Restaurant. Tejano and Buffalo Soldier reenactors provided entertainment and photo ops throughout the day. Music was provided by Charlie Cruz, who played a cigar box guitar. A large number of visitors and Navarro descendants came from all over Texas and the U.S. and everyone seemed to enjoy interacting with the new exhibits and gift shop.

A special and BIG thank you to the THC’s Public Information and Education Department for the invitations and programs, and especially to all our generous volunteers—including many from the San Antonio Professional Tour Guide Association—family members, and personal friends (amigos). And a special thank you to my site staff, Rob Abodeely and Dino Pena, for helping to make the event a HUGE success!

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, March 7, 2012

Landmark Inn’s 16th Annual Kid Fish

By Jose Zapata, Landmark Inn Site Manager

On February 25, Landmark Inn State Historic Site hosted the 16th annual Kid Fish, sponsored by the Friends of the Landmark Inn. Several Friends members were in attendance to hand out hot cocoa and cookies. The day started off a bit chilly, but this didn’t seem to bother the children one bit.

The Landmark Inn staff was assisted by friends and family, as well as staff from Academy Sports & Outdoors (Loop 1604 & Potranco Road in San Antonio) and Time-Warner Cable of San Antonio. Area vendors donated t-shirts and food for the volunteers, as well as door prizes consisting of rod and reel sets, fishing tackle, free meals, and gift cards.

A total of 277 children participated this year, which was held in the mill stream that had been stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout. Boy Scout Troop 471 of Rio Medina provided the cane poles and bait, and assisted the children with baiting and collecting the fish that were caught.

A tent was set up in the waiting area, where the children learned about and played with old-fashioned toys and games. Young and old enjoyed walking around with stilts and playing with spindle tops. Old favorites like the ring toss and jump rope were also popular. Girl Scout Troop 76 of Castroville assisted with these activities.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

19th-Century Fashion of the Starrs

By Megan Maxwell, site staff

The Starr Family Home State Historic Site is currently displaying three 19th-century dresses in its opening exhibit, “Fashion of the Starrs.” The three dresses represent different time periods in the lives of the women who lived in the site’s Maplecroft mansion. Each of them also tells a story.

The lavender dress with its two bodices—one for daytime and one for evening wear—dates to around 1870. The dress belonged to Sarah Fry Clapp, Clara Starr’s mother. The dress was probably first worn by her in the 1860s and later altered to keep up with changing fashions. Mrs. Clapp may have just liked the dress, but it was also a cost-saving measure to re-use the dress during the economically stressed times just after the Civil War. The changes to the hemline, including the removal of a bottom ruffle, and the expansion of the bodice are easily visible, telling us that the outfit was altered more than once. Sweat stains indicate that the dress was worn a lot, possibly for dancing in a hot, crowded ballroom.

The black dress is one of our favorite collection pieces. It, too, belonged to Mrs. Clapp and was altered accordingly so she could continue wearing it. It’s easy to see why. It is an elaborate late 1870s formal dress with nearly 20,000 beads, 250 silk tassels, and 175 feet of cording decorating it. Black was very fashionable, especially for older women to wear. With the organdy collar pulled back, you can see that two separate rows of buttons were added to accommodate Mrs. Clapp’s increasing size and allowed her to continue wearing a dress she liked. She wore this dress when her portrait was painted and also for photographs. The fragile condition of the original dress made it too damaging to display on a mannequin, so we had a replica made so it could be displayed in all its glory.

The pink silk dress dates to 1895, when the Starrs’ oldest daughter, Clara, was married to Ben Pope. The bride’s wedding dress is in the same style. It isn’t recorded which one of the Starr girls the pink dress belonged to, but the big puffed sleeves were the height of fashion in the mid-1890s. This may have been another favorite dress special enough to save for future generations. Dirt stains around the hem suggest that it was worn often while it was in style.

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