BROWNSVILLE — The city hasn’t always shown love to its historic buildings.
But Historic Brownsville Museum Site Manager Eugene Fernandez says preservation efforts made during the past five years illustrate how attitudes have changed.
The museum continued its National Preservation Month celebration with the opening of a photo exhibit entitled “Brownsville: This Place Matters.” It showcases before and after images of the city’s preservation success stories and will run through June 30.
Fernandez said historic buildings like the Brownsville Opera House were lost during the 1960s, ’70 and ’80s to the modern design movement. There’s a growing culture of residents who are passionate about preserving those that remain.
“They’re putting up a fight,” he said.
Local governments, residents and developers alike have been part of restoration efforts. The City of Brownsville restored the downtown Market Square, and Cameron County restored the more-than-100-year-old Dancy Building. Structures like the 1882 Fernandez Hide Yard were refurbished by a private owner.
“We are called by these new owners (asking), ‘Can you show me what it looked like in the old days?’” Fernandez said. “We get a great amount of gratitude.”
He said larger Texas cities covet the number of historic sites still standing in Brownsville, and revenue generated by historical tourism is another incentive for the preservation push. As the chair of the plaque program for the local branch of the state historic society, Fernandez said he’s been bombarded with applications.
“It goes to show you it’s not only individual citizens. The city’s behind it, the politicians are behind it,” he said. “It’s a moment in Brownsville to capture our history.”
The museum held a book signing this month for “Brownsville Architecture: A Visual History” by Pino Shah and Eileen Mattei. Its exhibits celebrating Brownsville’s pioneering families and Incarnate Word Academy’s 165th anniversary also will be on display until June 30. It’s Father’s Day Classic Car Rally is June 17.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 641 E. Madison St. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for college students with ID. Children under 6, museum members, Brownsville teachers and students, and active or retired military members get in free.