Editor’s Note Worthwhile Destinations Preservation work at historic sites highlights state’s architectural legacy
photo courtesy Texas HIstorical Commission
by Stephen Sharpe, Hon. TSA
n addition to the destinations featured in this edition, recent improvements to several historic sites around the state have further broadened the itinerary of places worth a visit. Among them is the Starr Family Home in Marshall and Casa Navarro in San Antonio, two nineteenth-century residences that illustrate the spectrum of our state’s rich architectural and cultural patrimony. Both have either reopened or will reopen soon following extensive preservation work under the auspices of the Texas Historical Commission’s Historic Sites Program. In 2008, the two residences were among 18 historic sites transferred to THC from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. (TPWD still operates 12 historic sites around the state.) Other THC sites include Caddo Mounds State Historic Site west of Nacogdoches, where Bailey Architects in Houston designed a new visitor center with interpretive signage to help explain the legacy of earlier inhabitants of the region. Meanwhile, as some sites have reopened to the public, preservation work continues on other THC properties, such as El Paso’s Magoffin Home State Historic Site, an adobe structure that dates to 1875. Killis Almond Architects of San Antonio is in charge of that project. The Starr Family Home in Marshall officially reopened last November after a major restoration led by Clayton & Little, an architecture firm in Austin. The scope of work ranged from rebuilt
windows and carpentry repairs to southwestern restored furnishings and repainting the home to match its original 1871 colors. The Casa Navarro State Historic Site at the southern edge of downtown San Antonio will reopen this spring event with events that will showcase improvements to visitor services and accessibility. Enhancements by local firm Fisher Heck Architects include extensive exterior preservation, a new visitor reception area, new air conditioning systems, and accessibility renovations. Parts of the three structures – all built of limestone, caliche block, and adobe – date to the early 1830s. José Navarro, who would later sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, moved there with his family and made many improvements over the following two decades. Field notes by preservationists in 1963 state: “The house and kitchen house are typical examples of the Republic of Texas domestic architecture with sloping roofs, in preference to the wattle and adobe flat roofs typical of contemporary Mexican houses in the area. The store is a unique example of dignified Spanish Colonial architecture, featured by bold stone quoins on all corners.” The complex, located at the corner of Nueva and South Laredo streets, was acquired by the San Antonio Conservation Society in the early 1960s and the group subsequently undertook a comprehensive restoration of the buildings.
The newly restored buildings of the Casa Navarro Historic Site still stand in what once was the heart of old San Antonio, in the thriving Tejano neighborhood known as Laredito.
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