By Rob Hodges, THC Social Media Coordinator
Over the last couple years, our State Historic Sites Program has completed major restoration and rehabilitation projects at many of the THC’s 20 historic sites. These have included not only construction projects, but also archeological, curatorial, and interpretive work that has greatly enhanced the visitor experience. We’re proud of these improvements to our entrusted Texas treasures, and we’re getting the word out—we’ve hosted a number of grand reopening ceremonies, highlighted them in traditional and social media, and released a brand-new Historic Heights publication that details how the sites have been taken to the next level.
It’s encouraging that our hard work has not gone unnoticed. Visitation was up at the sites by 6 percent last year. And we’ve had some incredible feedback from people who have been familiar with particular sites, but returned to find them beautifully transformed. One such visitor was Bee County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, who sent the following statement after visiting Fannin Battleground State Historic Site on Dec. 11, 2012:
“I had the privilege of being on site today after attending a County Judges and County Commissioners conference in Edna. To say the improvements are outstanding is an understatement! The leadership exhibited by the Texas Historical Commission in honoring our Texas heroes at the Battleground is beyond reproach. The much-needed improvements are both bold and dramatic, but reverent to the iconic history of the hallowed ground. I take my hat off to the Texas Historical Commission for their dedication and fine work. I am so proud of the improvements at Fannin Battleground, and recommend a concerted push be made to encourage native Texans and visitors to visit, ponder, and reflect.”
As a retired regional director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department—the state agency that previously managed most of our sites, including Fannin Battleground—Commissioner DeWitt is in a unique position to fully appreciate the changes. Thank you for your support, Commissioner DeWitt!
We take our duty to preserve and protect these important Texas places very seriously. Each and every current and future Texan deserves the chance to walk upon the ground of their forbearers, experiencing first-hand the real stories that compose the rich narrative of the Lone Star State. That’s why we’ve worked so hard during lean years of budget cuts and staff reductions to make the vast improvements detailed in the new issue of Historic Heights. The publication features restoration project details at diverse sites that span the state: Sam Bell Maxey House in Paris, Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazoria County, Magoffin Home in El Paso, Fannin Battleground near Goliad, Sam Rayburn House Museum in Bonham, Starr Family Home in Marshall, Casa Navarro in downtown San Antonio, and Fulton Mansion in Rockport. We hope you’ll invest the time to read about these projects, check out their websites, and visit the sites.
The publication concludes with the newly built Education and History Center at Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, but the preservation stories do not end there. The improvements continue at several of our other state historic sites, including Fort Griffin and Caddo Mounds, where visitors centers are being upgraded and expanded. A new visitors center is being planned for San Felipe de Austin, on adjacent land purchased last fall that also comprised the original Austin Colony. Restoration projects are underway at Fort McKavett, Fort Griffin, and Fulton Mansion, where we're also seeking additional funding to expand the scope of the restoration project. We recently conserved and installed a Civil War gunboat’s “walking beam” (part of a steam engine) as part of continuing interpretive efforts at Sabine Pass Battleground.
Through preservation projects at the THC's state historic sites, we're looking at the past with an eye on the future. "We've come a long way in a short amount of time," says Historic Sites Division Director Donna Williams. "And we plan to continue preserving and promoting these 20 historic sites to reflect their importance in Texas history and always meet our visitors' needs and expectations."
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