By Chris Florance, THC Public Information and Education Division Director
On Sunday, May 3, all THC historic sites will offer free admission—from the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg to Casa Navarro in San Antonio, and from frontier forts along the Texas Forts Trail to the Magoffin Home in El Paso. With 21 diverse sites across Texas, chances are there’s a fun Texas heritage experience waiting for you next door or within an easy drive.
The sites below will offer special programming as part of the annual Historic Sites Free Day.
Alto—about 25 miles west of Nacogdoches; 2.5 hours southeast of Dallas; 2.5 hours north of Houston
Caddo Indians known as the Hasinai built a village 1,200 years ago, the southwestern-most ceremonial center for the great Mound Builder culture. Today, three earthen mounds still rise from the lush Pineywoods landscape at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, where visitors discover the everyday life and history of this ancient civilization. On Free Day, an expert on native plants and foraging will offer two guided, hour-long walks at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. showcasing edible and medicinal plants on the grounds of Caddo Mounds. Also, the East Texas Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists will have a booth and special activities. For more heritage tourism sites in the area, visit the Texas Forest Trail Region website.
Confederate Reunion Grounds
Mexia—about 45 minutes east of Waco; 1.5 hours south of Dallas; 2 hours north of Austin
This year offers a poignant opportunity to visit Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site, near the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end (May 9 is the “official” declared end of the war, although hostilities had largely ceased by April 1865). The site will host an open house with refreshments and a hospitality table provided by the Friends of the Confederate Reunion Grounds. Visitors can enjoy the grounds and landscape that provided a meeting place for Confederate veterans in the decades following the Civil War and learn about efforts these soldiers and their families took to maintain a fellowship as the world changed around them. For more heritage tourism ideas nearby, visit the Texas Brazos Trail Region website.
Castroville—just west of San Antonio; about 1.5 hours south of Austin
Built in the 1840s, this unique bed and breakfast is closed for preservation work until fall 2015. But Landmark Inn State Historic Site will be open and staff will hold free hard hat tours from 1–4 p.m. on May 3. If you love the nuts and bolts of historic preservation, the hard hat tour offers a unique opportunity to see state-of-the-art restoration efforts on a large scale. For more heritage tourism ideas, visit the Texas Hill Country Trail Region website.
Sam Rayburn House Museum
Bonham—just east of Sherman/Denison; about an hour north of Dallas
Home of the legendary Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the 20th century’s most influential politicians, the Sam Rayburn House Museum maintains his 1916 home with his family’s furnishings, his 1947 Cadillac, vegetable garden, and more. It’s a snapshot into the private life of one of Texas’ greatest politicians. The museum will serve refreshments to visitors all day on May 3. For more heritage tourism ideas in the area, visit the Texas Lakes Trail Region website.
Starr Family Home
Marshall—about 2 hours east of Dallas; 45 minutes west of Shreveport, La.
Starr Family Home State Historic Site highlights the contributions and lifestyle of the Starr family, who created a thriving land management business across Texas after the Civil War. Free programming on May 3 focuses on the family’s history of gardening and nature. With participation from Master Gardeners and Naturalists, Texas A&M Forestry Service, and a THC Archeological Steward, the event will be a treasure trove of fun and learning for families, students, and gardeners on the beautiful grounds of the Starr Family Home. To see more heritage tourism opportunities in the area, visit the Texas Forest Trail Region website.
This is just a hint of what visitors will experience at the THC’s 21 state historic sites on THC Historic Sites Free Day. To see heritage tourism attractions and sign up for free publications and downloads, visit www.texastimetravel.com.
Historic Sites Free Day is part of Texas Travel and Tourism Week, May 2–10. To learn more about the wide diversity of travel opportunities across Texas, visit www.TravelTex.com.