By Rob Hodges, THC Communications Project Coordinator
2016 was a very busy year for us at the THC. We acquired a new state historic site, hosted our first conference in five years, conducted and reviewed countless preservation projects at historic sites, issued many preservation grants and awards, commemorated various anniversaries, placed numerous historical markers, and on and on and on. Looking back at all the year's work, it’s hard to choose our most significant events and activities, but these are the ones that rose to the top.
- 2016 was the 35th anniversary of our Texas Main Street Program, which we commemorated throughout the year with our Celebrate Main Street Sweepstakes, giving away weekend getaway packages to Marshall, Denton, Seguin, and Denison. We also welcomed Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Sherman as new designated Main Street cities.
- Another major milestone was the centennial anniversary of the Bankhead Highway, which we commemorated with a video contest and by sharing Bankhead Highway videos and event info throughout the year.
- On January 28, a historical marker was dedicated for the Southwell Company, the 150-year-old San Antonio foundry that makes our markers. Southwell was also presented our Texas Treasure Business Award at the marker dedication ceremony.
- Our Fort Lancaster State Historic Site near Sheffield hosted a grand reopening ceremony on May 21 as part of its annual Western Frontier Days. The site had recently completed a two-year renovation of its visitors center, which now features a new, expanded exhibit gallery and other upgrades. It was the first major site improvement since the 1970s.
- Our first-ever heritage travel conference, Real Places 2016, was held June 13–15 in Austin. It featured Chet Garner, aka The Daytripper, destination business expert and speaker Jon Schallert, Texas food historian and writer Robb Walsh, and an amazing performance by award-winning jazz artist Kris Kimura and his 10-piece Wasabi Big Band. Gov. Greg Abbott also spoke about the importance of heritage tourism and gave special recognition to representatives of the Texas Heritage Trail Regions. Aaron Day of the Texas Land Title Association also presented Potter County with our Courthouse Stewardship Award at the conference.
- On July 9, the Navarro County Courthouse in Corsicana was rededicated. A participant in our Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, the 1905 Classical Revival-style building with Beaux Arts influences received a full restoration. On July 22, courthouse restoration grants were announced for the current grant cycle. Construction grants for full restorations were awarded to Fannin, Karnes, Lynn, and San Saba counties, while emergency grants went to Cameron, Kleberg, and Willacy counties, and a planning grant went to Hunt County.
- Also in July, we completed the construction of a traditional Caddo grass house at our Caddo Mounds State Historic Site near Alto. The project included Caddo tribal members, site staff, and community volunteers, and it was made possible by a $15,000 grant from the MICA Group, as well as support from the Friends of Caddo Mounds and Friends of the Texas Historical Commission.
- Although it was announced earlier in the summer, Mission Dolores State Historic Site in San Augustine officially joined the THC family as our 21st historic site at a special open house celebration on September 9.
- The next day, we presented the John L. Nau, III Award of Excellence in Museums to the founders of the Bryan Museum, Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan. The award was presented at a special gala called the Inaugural Evening at the Bryan, which featured entertainment by Lyle Lovett.
- On October 10, Gov. Abbott presented our most prestigious annual award, the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, to the Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) in recognition of its important contributions to courthouse preservation. Since 2007, the THC and TLTA have presented more than a dozen Texas Courthouse Stewardship Workshops across the state, representing over 140 training hours to more than 500 attendees.
- October 15 was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by President Lyndon B. Johnson. THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe helped commemorate the monumental occasion by writing the text and selecting the photos for a new exhibit about the NHPA at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin.
- On October 20, we hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new museum at our San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site near Sealy. When complete, the new, world-class facility will tell the story of the founding of Texas and the Texas Revolution on the ground where they happened.
Did we miss any of the most significant THC events and activities of 2016? What about other historic preservation happenings in Texas that may not have involved our agency? Let us know in the comments field below.