Rebuilding History Lost in Fire
We have the distinct privilege of partnering with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) on many critical programs and projects, each one unique and exciting. Doing so has challenged us to think outside the box to identify and secure resources for these projects. Now we are thrilled to celebrate the completion of an incredible new outdoor exhibit that opened to the public in November of 2021: the Villa de Austin townsite.
This ambitious exhibit, funded through the generosity of private donors, allows visitors to experience the town of San Felipe de Austin as it once was—before it was destroyed in a fire during the Runaway Scrape of 1836.
The townsite exhibit includes representative construction of important buildings of the time, including the Farmer’s Hotel, the courthouse, the schoolhouse, Celia’s Bake Oven, and more.
Bringing the Project to Life
In the fall of 2018, following the opening of the new Museum at San Felipe, we began working with THC Historic Sites’ staff on the Villa de Austin project. The idea was to bring private, nonprofit sector efficiencies to bear in support of the THC’s efforts to create the exhibit. On this project, we helped with both fundraising and implementation.
Dealing with Challenges Head-On
Nothing has challenged us more than the Villa de Austin townsite at San Felipe! Just as we launched the development of the extensive exhibit, the pandemic hit and impacted our ability to effectively finance the project, forcing us to explore and implement alternative financing options to manage cash flow.
Then, right when victory was in sight, the courthouse—one of the most important buildings in the exhibit—burnt to the ground in a nearly catastrophic fire. Working with the Project Manager and THC staff, we navigated the impact of the fire and rebuilt the burnt courthouse.
On November 12th, 2021, we finally celebrated the opening of the Villa de Austin townsite exhibit.
All Thanks to Our Donors and Stakeholders
We want to once again thank all of our capital campaign donors for their incredibly generous support for the San Felipe Museum project and Villa de Austin exhibit. These projects were supported by foundations, corporations, and individuals.
Stakeholders that played a vital role in this project included Michael Moore of Moore Consulting and Contracting, Forney Construction of Houston, SMS Engineering, JQ Engineering, and the many artisans and craftspeople who hewed logs, poured concrete, framed walls, laid brick, shingled roofs, crafted windows, moved dirt, built furniture, sewed textiles, and forged ironwork for the Villa de Austin.