The Old Place at Sam Houston Park

The 1823 Old Place was moved from the bank of Clear Creek to Sam Houston Park in 1973 and is an example of early Texas frontier architecture. Roughly hewn cedar logs and mortise and tenon jointure are defining elements of the structure. The interpretive features of the cabin illustrate the hardships faced by immigrants permitted to settle in colonial Texas in Austin’s Colony.

360-degree Panorama : See it on Google Maps here

O. Henry Short Story Writer born on September 11, 1862

ohenrySeptember 11, 1862 – Birthday of Austin resident and short story writer, William Sydney Porter better known as O. Henry.

Porter was born North Carolina and moved to Austin, Texas in 1884. In Austin Porter worked as a draftsman for the general land office and later as a teller for the First National Bank. Porter left the bank a few years later and founded the Rolling Stone, a weekly humor newspaper. The newspaper was not successful and he became a columnist for the Houston Daily Post.

In 1898 Porter was found guilty of embezzlement during his employment at the First National Bank in Austin and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison Porter wrote dozens of short stories.

On or about 1901, Porter was released from prison and changed his name to O. Henry to hide his true identity. Porter moved to New York City where he published over 300 short stories and was fondly thought to be America’s favorite short story writer.

Porter was an alcoholic and penniless when he died on June 5, 1910 at the age of forty-seven. 

HISTORIC HARRIS COUNTY COURTHOUSE IS RESTORED

On August 23, 2011, Harris County officials, historians, downtown office workers and local citizens gathered for the dedication and ribbon cutting for the grand re-opening of the historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse in downtown Houston.

The courthouse square was designated by the Allen Brothers when the city was first platted in 1837.  Harris County officials at the time wanted a large, grand structure, significant of the county’s importance in Texas.  The courthouse was opened in 1910 on the same site as the 1884 courthouse which was demolished earlier because it was too small.

Designed in the popular Beaux-Arts style, the 1910 courthouse featured Corinthian columns on all four sides.   At the front entrance was a grand monumental staircase, and the interior public area featured a large rotunda and circular staircase.   Building materials included Texas pink granite and light brown St. Louis brick, with extensive use of marble on the inside.

Over the years Harris County outgrew the building and larger structures nearby began to house county offices and district courts. Drinking troughs for horses on the San Jacinto Street side were removed in 1941, and in 1954 the historic courthouse underwent extensive alterations in an effort to modernize it.  The grand staircase at the Fannin Street entrance was demolished, and inside the atrium was eliminated and covered up to add more usable square footage.  The courtrooms were downsized and balconies eliminated.

By 2000 the building was in need of major renovation and upgrading.  Harris County decided to completely restore the beloved building to its original appearance and make it a landmark for the historic area of downtown Houston. The false floors were removed and the atrium was restored with a beautiful stained glass window lit by sunlight from the building’s dome and skylight.  The pinnacle was replaced on top of the dome and the courtroom balconies restored.   The ornamental plaster detailing has been carefully redone and all the marble, which came from a Georgia quarry, has been replaced in the lobby and hallways.

The old courthouse seems to glow with a sense of pride and dignity in its historic role as a “temple of justice.”

Texas historian Nancy Burch attended the ceremonies and stated, “The building is beautiful.  I think it’s a great thing when they bring these historic buildings back to their original elegance.”

The historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse, which saw some of the most colorful criminal trials and major civil lawsuits in Texas, will now house the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals.

(Texas Foundation for the Arts, in association with Sunset Productions and Fast Cut Films, is producing a PBS television documentary about the history and the restoration of the 1910 Harris County Courthouse)

GONZALES PLAYED EARLY ROLE IN TEXAS’ FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE

Founded 186 years ago, Gonzales is one of the earliest and most historic Anglo-American settlements in Texas, and the first west of the Colorado River.  It was named for Rafael Gonzales, the governor of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas.  Tracing its beginning back to 1825, the town of Gonzales played an important role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico.

Because Gonzales was the site of the first gunshot of the Texas Revolution, it became known as the “Lexington of Texas.”  The story began in 1831, when the Mexican government gave a small cannon to the Gonzales settlers for protection against Indian attacks.  When hostilities broke out between the Texas settlers and the Mexican government, a contingent of Mexican soldiers was sent from San Antonio to retrieve the cannon. The Texans, however, were prepared and had created a flag with the words “Come and Take It” written on it.  They successfully resisted the Mexican troops in what became known as the “Battle of Gonzales.”

In 1836, Susanna Dickinson, the widow of one of the Alamo defenders, and Joe, the slave of  Colonel William B. Travis, fled to Gonzales with news of the massacre at the Alamo.  General Sam Houston was in Gonzales organizing the Texas army and anticipated the town would be the next target of the Mexican troops.  He had the town burned to the ground and ordered the Texans to retreat, in what became known the Runaway Scrape.

Downtown Gonzales, Texas; photo by James Bailey

After Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, the town of Gonzales was rebuilt on the original site which is near the Guadalupe River.  It was designated the county seat of Gonzales County, and by 1850 had a population of 300 people.  The population of the town grew to 1,703 in the 1860s, and reached 4,297 in 1900.*  The town’s newspaper, The Gonzales Inquirer, was established in 1853, one of the first in Texas.

Just like other counties in Texas at the time, Gonzales wanted a grand, impressive courthouse that represented the wealth of the county.

Construction began in 1894 on the Gonzales County Courthouse, which is still standing.  It is the second building to serve as the county courthouse; the first one burned in1893. The three-story building– designed by prominent architect J. Riely Gordon in Romanesque Revival style–was built with red brick and a white limestone trim.  Gordon also designed the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio.

Gonzales County Courthouse; photo by James Bailey

The building has many architectural features such as cupolas, verandas, and arched entrances at the corners of the building.  The imposing clock tower overlooks all the other structures in the town.  The courthouse, which was the most important building in the county, was completed on April 8, 1896 at a cost of $64,450.

The courthouse went through a detailed historic restoration in 1997, and today it still serves the people of Gonzales County, standing majestically on the town square.  On the same square is the historic Gonzales jail, now a history museum.  The courthouse and the museum, as well as an authentic 1840s log house, are popular sites where heritage tourists visit.
Gonzales is located about seventy miles east of San Antonio; it maintains the same street pattern today, just as had originally been surveyed.  The 2010 population of the town is estimated to be 7,500.

*In comparison to other Texas cities in 1860– San Antonio had an estimated population of 8,235; Galveston, 7,307; Houston, 4,845; New Braunfels, 3,500; and Dallas, 2,000.

(The Gonzales County Courthouse was featured in a television documentary series, “The Golden Age of Texas Courthouses,” produced by Sunset Productions and Texas Foundation for the Arts, in association with HoustonPBS.)

Music Legend Don Robey to receive State Historical Marker today

[from 29-95.com] Those who knew Don Robey shout praise and whisper condemnations about the legendary and notorious record man. But more than 30 years after his death, Robey is still a vaporous figure — photographed infrequently and written about minimally despite living a large life that could inform a feature film. A State Historical Marker to be dedicated Saturday in the name of his famed Peacock Records is another small piece of solid proof that he existed. read story: http://www.29-95.com/music/story/30-years-after-his-death-don-robey-still-vaporous-figure

Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins Birthday, March 15, 1912

Born Sam John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas,[3] Hopkins’ childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas.[1] That day, Hopkins felt the blues was “in him” and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger “Texas” Alexander.[1] (Hopkins had another cousin, Texas electric blues guitarist, Frankie Lee Sims with whom he later recorded.[4]) Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings. In the mid 1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm for an unknown offense.[1] In the late 1930s Hopkins moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there. By the early 1940s he was back in Centerville working as a farm hand.

Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston’s Third Ward (which would become his home base) he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angelesbased record labelAladdin Records.[1] She convinced Hopkins to travel to L.A. where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin’” and Wilson “Thunder”.

Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947 but soon grew homesick.[citation needed] He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. During the late 40s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. However, he recorded prolifically. Occasionally traveling to the Mid-West and Eastern United Statesfor recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career. He performed regularly at clubs in and around Houston, particularly in Dowling St. where he had first been discovered. He recorded his hits “T-Model Blues” and “Tim Moore’s Farm” at SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid to late 1950s his prodigious output of quality recordings had gained him a following amongAfrican Americans and blues music aficionados.

In 1959 Hopkins was contacted by folklorist Mack McCormick who hoped to bring him to the attention of the broader musical audience which was caught up in the folk revival.[1] McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. Hopkins debuted at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960 appearing alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger performing the spiritual Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep. In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. Solid recordings followed including his masterpiece song “Mojo Hand” in 1960.

By the early 1960s Lightnin’ Hopkins reputation as one of the most compelling blues performers was cemented. He had finally earned the success and recognition which were overdue. In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally. He travelled widely in the United States, and overcame his fear of flyingto join the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival; visit Germany and the Netherlands 13 years later;[5] and play a six-city tour of Japan in 1978.

Filmmaker Les Blank captured the Texas troubadour’s informal lifestyle most vividly in his acclaimed 1967 documentaryThe Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.[1]

Houston’s poet-in-residence for 35 years, Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman.[5]

Hopkins died of esophageal cancer in Houston in 1982 at the age of 69.

A statue of Hopkins sits in Crockett, Texas.

from: http://www.wherelightninstrikes.com/sam-lightnin-hopkins-born-march-15-1912/

March 11, 1878 students enroll in first college for blacks known today as Prairie View A&M University.

In 1876, the Fifteenth Texas Legislature, consistent with terms of the federal Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, which provided public lands for the establishment of colleges, authorized an “Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Benefit of Colored Youth” as part of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University).[1] Governor Richard Hubbard appointed a three-man commission, including Ashbel Smith, a long-time supporter of public education. The Commissioners bought Alta Vista Plantation, near Hempstead in Waller County, Texas for $15,000, and turned the school over to the A&M board. Texas A&M President Thomas S. Gathright selected L. W. Minor of Mississippi as the first principal, and on March 11, 1878, eight young African-American men enrolled in the short-lived Alta Vista Agricultural College. They were charged tuition of $130 which included nine months of instruction, board, and one uniform.[1] In 1879, as the institution was struggling to find resources to continue, Governor Oran Roberts suggested closing the college. But Barnas Sears, an agent for the Peabody Fund, persuaded the Sixteenth Texas Legislature to issue charters two normal schools for the training of teachers, one of which would be called Prairie View Normal Institute. The Texas A&M College board met at Hempstead in August 1879, and established thirteen elementary and secondary subjects, and founded the coeducational institution. Women were housed in the plantation house called Kirby Hall (no longer exists), and boys were housed in a combination chapel-dormitory called Pickett Hall. Among the first faculty appointed to the new normal school was E. H. Anderson. In 1882, a strong storm damaged Pickett Hall. This came at the same time as state funds ran out. State Comptroller William M. Brown refused to continue paying the school’s debts from the state’s university fund, so Governor Roberts had to solicit money from merchants. E. H. Anderson died in 1885, and his brother L. C. Anderson became the principal of Prairie View. A longstanding dispute as to the mission of the school was resolved in 1887 when the legislature added an agricultural and mechanical department, thus returning the college to its original mission.[1] Historian Dr. George Wolfok wrote, Prairie View, A Study In Public Conscience 1962) “Prairie View is an institution—a public institution. But an institution is an empty thing without the beating hearts and yearning souls of mortal men. And down the seventy-five years of Prairie View’s existence, men have lived and dreamed here until every blade of grass and every rock, in that wise primordial way in which the primitive earth knows and cares, has joined the choir invisible to bless their memory. For every man whose foot has touched this hallowed soil, has found a spirit, and has broadened and deepened it until what started out as an ambitionless meandering stream has become a purposeful river upon whose tide, now turbulent, now tranquil, floats the destiny of countless human hopes and dreams.”