Preserving the real places and the real stories of Texas.
  • Fort Griffin State Historic Site reenactmentFort Griffin State Historic Site reenactment
  • San Felipe State Historic Site MuseumSan Felipe State Historic Site Museum
  • Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site ribbon-cutting after restorationSam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site ribbon-cutting after restoration
  • Varner Hogg State Historic Site Friends GroupVarner Hogg State Historic Site Friends Group
  • Levi Jordan State Historic Site restorationLevi Jordan State Historic Site restoration

History Matters: Friends of the Texas Historical Commission Quarterly Newsletter, October 2020

Fiscal Year-End Report — A Note from Executive Director Anjali Zutshi

Lewis Avery Jones, FTHC Trustee Emeritus

We hope you and your loved ones are continuing to stay healthy, and that the “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been too great a burden these last six months. 

August brought an end to a fiscal year that has been unlike any other for the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission (FTHC). We learned new ways to work, and we dealt with losses, including the sad loss of longtime trustee and more recently trustee emeritus and a friend of the FTHC, Lewis Avery Jones. Lewis was an invaluable member of the FTHC Board of Directors, sharing generously of his time and treasure. He steadfastly provided us his volunteer leadership, straight-talking feedback, and his impeccable sense of style, and for that the Commission and the FTHC will be forever grateful.

Amidst all of this, our work in support of preservation continues. As we start our new fiscal year, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a brief report on the impact you have had on Texas history and historic places through your support of the FTHC. Your contributions make preserving the real stories of Texas possible. Thank you for your partnership!

THC Staff Spotlight: Cynthia Evans, Site Manager, French Legation State Historic Site 

Caddo Mounds State Historic SiteCynthia Evans is the site manager for the French Legation State Historic Site. She holds a degree in museum science and has sixteen years of combined experience in the museums, archives, and library fields. 

I am truly thrilled to serve as the manager of the French Legation, the only state historic site in Austin that represents the earliest days of the city's history. The Legation House, which holds a truly unique place in Texas history, was built around 1841 and has been home to three distinct Texas stories. 

First and foremost is the story of diplomacy and politics during the years when Texas was struggling to assert its independence. Second, the Legation was owned by the Catholic church for seven years, and the property is tied to the revitalization of Catholicism in Texas. Third is the Robertson family, who owned the house for approximately 100 years. The Robertson family was one of the first to settle in Austin. Like many pioneers, Robertson was a multifaceted individual who was a civic-minded businessman, politican, and soldier. 

What's Happening at the Legation Now 

Over the past year, the THC has been focused on the restoration of the historic Legation House and the rehabilitation and expansion of the 1970s Carriage House as the new visitors center for the site. The THC's vision for the site includes a preserved and restored historic resource—the Legation House—which provides visitors with a view into the public (diplomacy during the French regent's brief stay in this location) and private (the Robertson family and their legacy) histories of the site. The renovated and expanded carriage house will provide space for exhibits, events, and administration, allowing the French Legation State Historic Site to operate not just as a museum but as a communal gathering space.

The FTHC has been instrumental in securing resources—generous grants from Visit Austin and the City of Austin Heritage Grants Program—that support the development of the site. We look forward to having visitors join us when the site opens in spring.

Preservation Scholars Make Significant Impact on Historic Preservation in Texas

Preservation Scholar Gabriel OzunaThe Preservation Scholars Program Class of 2020 completed their eight-week internship in August, working on preservation projects ranging from the Texas Main Street Program to the Historical Markers Program.

We want to take this opportunity to introduce our scholars from the Class of 2020 and to share some details about their work. Their time with the agency contributed significantly to the THC's mission, and we are certain that this won't be the last time you hear about their contributions to historic preservation efforts in Texas!

Katherine Bansemer: "I am currently finishing my MA in public history at Texas State University. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to participate in the Preservation Scholar Program. This summer I am working with the THC's Museum Services Program to compile quick reference guides for the free webinars available on the website. The goal is to create easy references for people interested in the webinars and to give examples and helpful tips related to each topic. I have a passion for museums, so I’ve loved the opportunity to learn more about the practice."

View a sample of Katherine's quick reference guides here
Learn more about the THC's Museum Services Program and webinars

Lezlie Hernandez: "I am a junior at Texas State University. I am double majoring in history and geography while seeking my teaching certification. I was absolutely thrilled to work with such experienced and knowledgeable people at the THC over the summer. My internship was in the THC's History Programs Division with the Historical Marker team, working to approve, research, and write inscriptions for new markers. I also added over 120 inscriptions to the Texas Historic Sites Atlas database to be used by educators, historians, and other state agencies, and digitized marker files to be uploaded to the History Programs Division server to aid in future research."

Lezlie also researched and compiled a list of historic school houses across Texas and created a Google Map of the locations. View the map and read about the school houses here. Pictured right is the Swante Palm marker Lezlie worked to refinish (before and after) with help from Sarah McCleskey, historian with the THC Historical Markers Program.

Farah Merchant: "I am a third-year English major pursuing my bachelor of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, and this summer I worked as a Preservation Scholar with the THC's Communications Division and also in the Archeology Division. I am thrilled to be one of the six students interning this summer. My focus with the Communications Division was on writing blog posts about historical sites in Texas that showcase minority populations and contributions. I wrote travel guide webpages for regions in Texas to create a resource for people interested in road-tripping around the state. I also wrote blog posts that showcase Asian American history and legacy to educate people about the influence of Asian heritage in the Lone Star State. For the second half of the internship, I worked in the THC's Archeology Division working to develop web content for the THC's Archeology Month. I am a firm believer that history needs to be shared to be preserved. Without knowledge and awareness of history, people cannot learn and grow from the past, which is why I want to highlight the history of marginalized minority groups who are rarely included in Texas history."

Read Farah's published blog posts for the THC here:

Farah also wrote two articles for the Texas Archeological Stewards Network, one of which has been published, and the second is pending publication: THC Welcomes Nine Archeological Stewards

Preservation Scholars Class 2020 Zoom PictureWilliam Polley: "I recently finished my master's in Community Development at Prairie View A&M University. My undergraduate degree, also from PVAMU, is in political science. I was blessed to be selected for the Preservation Scholars Program and work with Texas Main Street under the supervision of Jamie Crawley and Alan Cox. For the first half of the internship, I learned the Main Street program's four-point approach—organization, economic vitality, design, and promotion—and how it is used to understand historic buildings and the importance of place. I have also had the opportunity to study the Standards of Rehabilitation, which is the approach to preservation the Main Street program uses. I have been working in collaboration with Gabriel Ozuna, also a Preservation Scholar this summer, gathering all the information we can on the Marquez Building in Eagle Pass and the Jamison Building in Texarkana (pictured left). 

So far, we have been able to connect with the Main Street manager in Texarkana, Ina McDowell, and residents of Texarkana to gather oral history to get the feel of the community as well as learn the history of the area that might not be recorded."

Watch a video compilation of photographs and oral history audio recording put together by William Polley as part of his research on the Jamison Building in Texarkana. 

Gabriel Ozuna: "I worked remotely as a Preservation Scholar from my hometown in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. I have my undergraduate degree in history from Yale University and will be starting an M.A. program in history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley this fall. I am excited to have interned with the Texas Main Street Program this summer and learned a lot about the work this team does to keep Texas' main streets and downtown areas strong. In particular, I researched the history of two buildings: the Jamison Building in Texarkana, and the Marquez Building in Eagle Pass. Working with William Polley, our research contributed to a design report that Main Street managers in those cities will use to plan future restoration and downtown revitalization efforts. I hope that our contributions help bring lasting change to these communities."

Richard Quiroz: "I am working on my bachelor of art in English as well as my minor in history at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. I am grateful that I was chosen to intern through the Preservation Scholars Program for the summer of 2020. For the first four weeks I interned with the staff at the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission and then worked with the Archeology Division for the next phase. Some of the projects I’ve worked on included creating a visual map of the FTHC website to determine the organization and accessibility of content for users. I also worked on creating a list of prospects for educational programs such as the Preservation Scholars Program itself. I learned about the operations behind the nonprofit, such as administration and policies, and also attended workshops presented by the FTHC on the elements of philanthropy and foundation grant prospecting. For the second half of my internship, I worked in the THC's Archeology Division on refining web content for the Marine Archeology Program. The Preservation Scholars Program has taught me the importance of diverse community involvement, and how the FTHC serves as a partner to the state agency by building private support for programs and projects."

Read about the THC's Marine Archeology Program.

Upcoming Trainings

The FTHC offers development and fundraising trainings geared toward nonprofit volunteer leadership (board members and advisors) and staff who want to learn more about securing philanthropic support for their organizations. The series of workshops and webinars is suited for large and small organizations from any discipline with limited development staff. Upcoming trainings:

  • Four-part Online Workshop: Elements of Successful PhilanthropyBuilding a Comprehensive and Sustainable Development Program for Your Organization 

    Time & Date: Sessions will be held 9:00 a.m. to noon, November 12, 13, 19 & 20
    Virtual Platform: Zoom
    Read session information and register here. Register for all four sessions for a single price of $189 ($169 early bird pricing until October 16) or individual sessions for $59!

Archived Webinars

The FTHC has presented five webinars since April as part of the THC's Museum Services Program webinar series. Topics include "COVID-19 Resources for Texas Museums," "Creating Successful Case Statements – A Case Study," and "Together in the Sandbox: Board and Staff Relationships." The webinars are free to attend and have been recorded. You can access them on our archived webinars page.

Building Villa de Austin Discussion

The FTHC has contracted with a local construction company to develop the Villa de Austin townsite exhibit at the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site. Construction is expected to be completed by spring 2021, following which the exhibit will be open to the public.

Last month, site manager Bryan McCauley interviewed project manager and historian Michael R. Moore, discussing the Villa de Austin outdoor exhibit. Watch the recorded webinar to learn about the craftsmen who are assisting in putting this unique offering together.

With support from our donors, the FTHC has played a vital role in the construction of Villa de Austin by providing funding and contracting with a local construction company.