Where Texas became Texas
Birthplace of Texas to undergo $44 million restoration of key historic site
Sure, the Fourth of July was earlier this month, but in Texas, our Independence Day is March 2. So it's fitting news this month that a key symbol of Texas Independence is getting a major upgrade starting in the fall.
When it comes to symbols of the Texas Revolution, the Alamo is usually top of mind, but Washington-on-the-Brazos holds the memory of an equally significant moment in the birth of the Texas Republic.
Located about three-and-a-half hours from Dallas, Washington-on-the-Brazos is where 59 delegates gathered in March 1836 to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. They also drafted the Constitution of Texas and named General Sam Houston commander in chief of the fledgling Republic's military. The Alamo fell just four days later; the rest — as they say — is history.
Today, the site's 293 acres of lush park land contain the Star of the Republic Museum, Independence Hall, and Barrington Plantation — each offering visitors unique insight into the lives of the men who fought and won Texas' independence from Mexico. New restoration efforts from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) will not only preserve but reimagine this visitor experience.
According to a release, the restoration of the site's visitor center will bring to life the events that took place at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836 and explore the significance of the Convention of 1836 within the story of the Texas Revolution. The Star of the Republic Museum will explore the wider context of the Republic of Texas by providing visitors a sense of what life was like for the diverse groups of people who lived in Texas at the time.
Renovations will include updated gallery exhibits, outdoor interpretive installations, and compelling high-tech interactive displays. A new brick entrance gate is also under construction and will create a welcoming gateway to the historic site, while the updated conference center will maintain the site's focus on providing corporate retreats and community meeting spaces.
Phased over two years, construction will start in fall 2023, implementing partial site closure that will continue into 2025. During this time, tours of Independence Hall, Barrington Plantation State Historic Site, walking trails, and the picnic area will remain open to the public during regular hours.
The restoration is in part the result of a $34 million fund appropriated by the Texas Legislature under the leadership of state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. The Washington on the Brazos Historical Foundation is also working to raise an additional $10 million, launching the 2023 "Where Texas Became Texas Campaign," led by Co-Chairs Lois and Jim Kolkhorst, Cyndee Smith, and Honorary Chair John Nau, III.
"We are thrilled to announce the complete re-envisioning of Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site," says THC Chairman John L. Nau, III, in the release. "As a Texas Historical Commission state historic site, it is our mission to share the important history of this site with visitors from around the world ... we are confident this project will provide an unparalleled visitor experience.”