Museums of Texas

Sam Houston Memorial Museum

Written by Kay Boothe

September 28, 2021

Sam Houston Memorial Museum

With summer quickly approaching, many families are making plans for exciting vacations. While beaches, amusement parks, and campgrounds tend to be the obvious choices, those looking for unique vacation opportunities – as well as the chance to keep young minds learning even though school is not in session – may be interested in considering the wide variety of museums sprinkled throughout the Lone Star State.

 

Sam Houston Memorial Museum – Hunstville

 

As many Texas residents and history buffs are aware, former Republic of Texas President Sam Houston once resided in the city of Huntsville, and today, the city keeps his memory alive in a number of ways. A university is named for him, and a large statue of him towers over a portion of I-45. A city street is also named after him – dubbed Sam Houston Ave. – and on this street is the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, which occupies what was once the homestead Houston shared with his wife, Margaret.

 

“Today, we’re about 15 acres,” said marketing coordinator Megan Buro. “We have a memorial museum, which houses our permanent exhibits, and then, we have historical homes on the grounds that visitors can visit and that we use for demonstration purposes.”

 

Among these structures is the Woodland Home, which Sam and Margaret had built after they purchased the property, and the Steamboat House, where Sam passed away.

 

The museum building, Buro said, is home to a collection of Sam and Margaret’s possessions, as well as items recovered from Gross’s Plantation in Hempstead and the site of the Battle of San Jacinto.

 

“We even have Santa Anna’s saddle,” Buro said. “One of the displays in the museum talks about the Texas Revolution and the events leading up to the Battle of San Jacinto and the Runaway Scrapes.”

 

Also located on the grounds is the education center, which hosts various temporary exhibits throughout the year. From April 1-June 28, Buro said, the exhibit in the education center will be The Faces of Sam Houston.

History of West Museum – West

 

2020 was a rough year for many individuals and businesses, and the History of West knows that all too well. Opened in 2015 as a means of preserving the city’s heritage, the establishment is looking forward to getting back on track after a few recent setbacks.

 

“When COVID came along, we shut down and have been closed,” said Georgia Hutyra, Museum Board of Directors President. “Then, we ended up having some roof damage, which caused us to have other construction issues. So, the last six months, we’ve been really working hard on that. So, we’re ready to get up and running.”

 

As the museum gets back into the swing of things, the normal hours of operation will be reduced to Friday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

 

The doors will open Thursday, March 12, on a special, temporary exhibit, Hutyra shared.

 

“We’re gonna be sponsoring the Cynthia Quanah Parker exhibits through May 1,” she said. “That one should be really nice.”

Other exhibits visitors can expect to see include one paying homage to Westfest, the community’s annual celebration of its Czechoslovakian heritage.

 

“Westfest has been going on for 40 or 45 years – something like that,” Hutyra said. “We have a booth that looks like some of the Westfest booths, where they sell hot dogs and beer bread sandwiches. We have lots of photos of that event from over the years.”

 

Another new exhibit pays tribute to the many ladies who have been crowned Westfest Queen throughout the nearly five decades over which the festival has been held.

 

Cotton Gin Museum of Texas – Burton

 

Those searching for an up-close look at a vital part of America’s history are encouraged to make the trip to the Cotton Gin Museum of Texas in Burton, which is home to the 1914 Burton Farmers Gin. Recognized by ASME, the National Register of Historic Places, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Smithsonian Institution, the gin is the oldest working gin in the country.

 

In addition to the Farmers Gin, those who visit the museum can enjoy exhibits designed to captivate both the eyes and ears, including ‘Cotton: From Wagon to Finished Bale’ and ‘Our Place in the World Cotton Created.’ The museum also features a gift shop, where guests can commemorate their visit by purchasing cotton-themed souvenirs, such as books and T-shirts.

 

The busiest day for the museum occurs during the third weekend of each April when the Burton Cotton Gin Festival comes to town. A family-friendly event, the festival offers up plenty of fun-filled activities sure to delight both the young and the young at heart, as well as food, live entertainment, and educational demonstrations. At 3 p.m. on the day of the festival, the Burton Farmers Gin gets its chance to shine as it goes to work on a bale of cotton. Tours of the structure housing the gin are also offered. Attendance to the festival is free of charge for guests of all ages. During years in which Easter falls during the third weekend of April, the event is rescheduled for the fourth weekend.

 

Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center – La Grange

 

The Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center (TCHCC) incorporated on March 24, 1997 and received 501(c) 3 status in July of the same year. The location for this non-profit corporation was finalized when a lease was signed with the City of La Grange in November 1997. Statewide efforts by Czech-founded organizations to raise money to develop a Center that would preserve and promote the history, heritage, and culture of the people of Czech ethnicity began in 1995.

 

In December 1995, Texans of Czech Ancestry (TOCA), an umbrella organization that serves to improve and facilitate communication among Czech-founded organizations, called a meeting to hear a proposal offered by the Czech Heritage Society of Texas to build a library for the preservation of books and documents significant to Texas Czechs. Following presentations and discussion, TOCA voted to support building a statewide Czech cultural center with a library, museum, and archives.

 

Fayette County was selected as the site for the center because of its significance in the history of Texas Czechs. It has the largest Czech population per capita and the most Czech communities of any county in the state. More immigrants from the Czech lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire settled there in the second half of the 19th century than any other county in Texas. Many Czech-related historical sites and events, as well as prominent Texas Czechs, can be linked to Fayette County. The development of TCHCC was made possible through many generous monetary contributions, countless volunteer hours, and numerous in-kind donations from people living in all parts of Texas, some from other states, as well as grants from the Czech Foreign Ministry. All contributors can take pride in building a Czech Center for future generations to enjoy.

 

SLAVNOST JUST AROUND THE CORNER…

 

The Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center (TCHCC) in La Grange invites you to pay homage to spring with a family Sunday filled with music, food, laughter, and remembrance during the 19th Annual Slavnost ‘May Fest’ on May 17. Festivities begin with a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. paying tribute to all Czech-Texas immigrants. If you would like to recognize Czech immigrants in your family, contact TCHCC for a recognition form. Your family will be named during the ceremony. Forms are due by May 11.

 

A delicious fried chicken dinner will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m. Plenty of Czech-style desserts will also be available, along with refreshing beverages of all kinds. The Czech Harvesters Band will provide the music from 11:30 to 4 p.m. The day’s activities also include a traditional May Pole Dance at 1:30 p.m. and demonstrations at the Zapalac Saw Mill and Czech Newspaper Museum at 2 p.m. You’ll also have a chance to shop in the Country Store and the Kopecky Gift Shop, where you’ll find unique gifts for dads, grads, newlyweds, and Christmas ornaments in stock year-round.

 

HAVE YOU SEEN THE CZECH VILLAGE?

 

During Slavnost, tour the TCHCC Czech Village, which includes structures from the late 1800s and early 1900s depicting what life was like for Czech Texans back then. See the latest additions – the Czech Newspaper Museum and SPJST Lodge 19 Velehrad. The village also features houses from the Kalich, Hoelscher, Migl, and Hluchanek-Salas families. The Hoelscher Haus is home to to Polka Lovers Club of Texas Museum, and the Kalich house serves as the Czech Music Museum of Texas. The village also includes the Hospoda (Tavern) & General Store, Zapalac Saw Mill, Janak Barn & Texas Czech Agriculture Museum, and a double log crib.

 

Visit TCHCC and enjoy a family day full of culture and exciting history! For more, call TCHCC at 888-785-4500 or email info@czechtexas.org. The website is www.czechtexas.org. TCHCC, PO Box 6, 250 West Fairgrounds Road, La Grange, TX 78945.

 

Article and ad compliments of Theresa Parker, PolkaBeat.com/The Texas Polka News and TCHCC.

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