Many historians contend that Brownsville is the second most historic city in Texas, ranking behind only San Antonio. Facts to back up that claim abound, with the Brownsville Historical Association acting as a primary resource to discover that story.
With a valuable arsenal of facts, information and buildings that open doors to the past, the association offers a look back to the original city founders, battles fought in this part of South Texas, historic buildings and the stories of settlers that found fertile territory for farming, ranching and other commercial ventures.
The BHA manages four city-owned complexes and owns two others. The first ones are The Brownsville Heritage Complex, Historic Brownsville Museum, Market Square Research and the Old City Cemetery centers. The latter ones are The Historic Alonso Building and Los Laureles Ranch House Museum.
BHA Executive Director Tara Putegnat said that since the mid-1940s volunteers and employees have dedicated themselves to working diligently to educate the public about the region’s past and to preserve that history.
“We hold a number of events throughout the year,” she said. “We have book signings, art exhibits and lecture sessions.”
Since May was Preservation Month, an art exhibit called “Impressions from Brownsville” opened and will remain on display through July 11 in the Venezzi Room of the Heritage Museum at 1325 E. Washington St.
The artist, Juan Velez, who has lived in Spain and now serves as the city’s historical preservation officer, compiled a collection of 32 impressions of some of Brownsville most historical buildings for the exhibit.
Another BHA-sponsored event called Historical Happy Hours brings people together for two-hour sessions usually held on the last Friday of the month. It’s free for association members and $5 and $10 if one reserves a spot beforehand or pays at the door. Guided walks of historic sites like the old City Cemetery and downtown are also offered, along with other special events.
Some buildings strictly present history, while others can also be rented for social and political events, such as The Alonso Building, a residence built in 1877 for Manuel Alonso, a Spaniard who died in 1922.
Running an organization like BHA takes money, time and personnel. The association receives a $300,000 a year allocation from the city of Brownsville, and generates other revenue through fundraisers, donations, grants and rental fees.