2018 Preservation Summit in Brownsville

Registration for the 2018 Preservation Texas Summit is now closed.

We invite you to the 2018 Preservation Summit in Brownsville!  We look forward to offering you a rewarding, in-depth experience in the Lower Rio Grande Valley as we explore its historic resources and study a range of preservation issues through a local lens, examining regional vernacular architecture and complicated preservation issues along the U.S.-Mexican Border.

The 2018 Preservation Summit is being held February 25th – 28th, 2018.  We are very grateful for the planning support of the Brownsville Historical Association, the Brownsville Preservation Society and the Brownsville Convention and Visitor Bureau.


2018 Preservation Summit Schedule in Brief

Sunday, February 25, 2018

8:00 am – 4:00 pm – Pre-Summit Tour of Roma (National Historic Landmark), Rio Grande City and Hidalgo ($60, includes lunch)

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Reception at the historic Historic Alonso Building (c. 1890) hosted by the Brownsville Historical Association (no charge)

Monday, February 26, 2018

8:00 am – 4:00 pm – Regional Field Sessions and Workshops (A) Recent Preservation Projects in Downtown Brownsville; (C) Regional Brownsville: the Bigger Picture (all sessions include lunch)

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm – Optional tour of Immaculate Conception Cathedral (closes at 6:00 pm)

6:00 pm – 8:30 pm – Opening Plenary at Market Square and reception at the Fernandez Building

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

8:00 am – 4:00 pm – Educational Sessions at the Ringgold Civic Pavilion (lunch included)

6:00 pm – 8:30 pm – 2018 Honor Awards and Most Endangered Places presentation at the 1912 Cameron County Courthouse 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

8:00 am – 2:30 pm  – Post-Summit Tour of Historic Matamoros, Mexico ($85, lunch included)

Detailed Descriptions

Pre-Summit Tour of Roma (National Historic Landmark), Rio Grande City and Hidalgo Sunday, February 25, 2018 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, lunch included Led by Stephen Fox, Architectural Historian $60

When architect and historian Mario L. Sánchez envisioned the Caminos del Río bi-national historical corridor in 1990 it was because he recognized that the 225-mile-long Tamaulipas-Texas border constituted a singular cultural province, especially apparent in the consistency of its nineteenth-century architecture. We will have the opportunity to  visit key sites on the Texan side of the border that, thanks to the Texas Historical Commission’s Los Caminos del Rio program of the 1990s, have been embraced by their communities and preserved (and in many cases rehabilitated) to become landmarks of local identity and pride.

We will visit Roma (pop. 9,765), one hundred miles upriver from Brownsville. The Roma townsite was laid out in 1848 on a sandstone bluff above the Río Grande ten miles east of Mier, Tamaulipas, founded in 1752. Roma is celebrated for the number of buildings it possesses designed and built by the German immigrant brick mason Enrique Portscheller, the master of the 1880s Border Brick Style. In 1975 the Roma Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1993 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1994-96 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Conservation Fund, and the Meadows Foundation undertook the Roma Restoration Project to conserve many of the district’s most important buildings. This was the first phase of continuing efforts to preserve—and populate—the center of Roma. Lying in the historic district, the Roma Bluffs Interpretive Overlook is one the nine sites affiliated with the World Birding Center. Roma is also the location of the Noah Cox House (2011 Most Endangered Places list).

Río Grande City (pop. 13,843) (2004 Most Endangered Places list) lies ten miles downriver from Roma. It too was founded in 1848 across the Río Grande from Camargo, Tamaulipas (1749), the oldest of the historic Mexican river towns. Río Grande City is the county seat of Starr County and was, from 1848 to 1944, the site of the U.S. Army post at Fort Ringgold. Like Roma, Río Grande City was a riverport for the steamboat trade based in Matamoros and Brownsville. Río Grande City’s downtown contains a rich mixture of stone, caliche, and brick buildings, including Portscheller’s masterpiece, the Silverio de la Peña Building (1886). Austin preservation consultant Terri Myers prepared the Río Grande City Downtown Historic District (2005) and, while working with Hardy Heck Moore, the Fort Ringgold Historic District (1993) nominations to the National Register. Fort Ringgold is the most intact of the historic US Army border posts.

Hidalgo (pop. 11,198) lies forty-six-miles downriver from Río Grande City and sixty-seven miles upriver from Brownsville. It was founded in 1848 by a Scottish immigrant merchant, John J. Young, opposite Reynosa, Tamaulipas. When the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railway was constructed in 1904, Hidalgo was the only town in Hidalgo County. From 1852 until 1908, Hidalgo was the county seat of Hidalgo County. We will visit the Hidalgo County Courthouse (which has been restored/reconstructed to its 1886 appearance) and the Louisiana-Río Grande Canal Co. Pumphouse of 1911, the last intact river pumphouse built to feed the irrigation systems installed after 1904 that transformed the arid cattle grazing lands of the lower border into extraordinarily productive agricultural fields.

Informal Drop-In Reception at the Historic Alonso Building

Sunday, February 25, 2018 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm Free for all registrants; please RSVP Join Summit participants at the Historic Alonso Building for drinks and light hors d’oeuvres sponsored by the Brownsville Historical Association, RGVMOD, and Megamorphosis.


Historic Alonso Building

Spanish-born Manuel Alonso (1846-1922) constructed the one-story residence on this site in 1877 and added the two story mercantile building by 1890.  His “Los Dos Canones” mercantile was a popular gathering place for local residents.  French and Spanish influences are evident in the cast iron porch elements (probably from New Orleans), French windows and corbeled brickwork.  The complex was again used as a fine goods mercantile from 1925 to 1944.  The Alonso family retained ownership of the complex until 1944.  The Gorgas Science Foundation renovated the dilapidated building and it served as the organization’s headquarters until 2010 when the building donated to the Brownsville Historical Association.

Field Session A: Half-Day Walking Tour of Recent Preservation Projects in Downtown Brownsville
Monday, February 26, 2018 from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm, lunch included Led by Roman McAllen, former Heritage Officer for the City of Brownsville ($40)

This 4 hour walking tour will visit historic buildings under restoration and recently restored in and near the historic core of Brownsville.  Included on the tour will be El Alamo, the Lucio Bouis & Brother Store which was built in 1893 in the classic border brick style, as well as other quintessential 19th century South Texas buildings, including The Tamayo and The Olvera.  The tour will end with lunch at the Stillman House, home of the Brownsville Historical Association.  Wear your walking shoes.  The tour will be conducted by Roman McAllen, former Heritage Office for the City of Brownsville, with special guests.

Stillman House owned by Brownsville Historical Association

Coach will depart from the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520.  Prepare to board at 7:45 am.

Field Session B: Four Mid-Nineteenth Century National Historic Landmark Battlefields in Cameron County: Challenges to Preserving Cultural Landscapes in the Twenty-First Century
Monday, February 26, 2018 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, lunch included Led by Rolando Garza, National Park Service ($60)

Enjoy the magnificent scenery while visiting Palmito Ranch Battlefield National Historic Landmark, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Landmark, Resaca de la Palma National Historic Landmark and Fort Brown National Historic Landmark. We will start the tour visiting the sprawling last battle of the Civil War, Palmito Ranch Battlefield NHL.  Portions of the mid-nineteenth century landscape of the Palmito Ranch Battlefield retain a relatively high degree of integrity, however that could drastically be change in the near future.  After Palmito Ranch Battlefield we will head to Palo Alto Battlefield National Park, which preserves and interprets the sites of the opening battles of the U.S. – Mexican War.  We will start at Palo Alto Battlefield Unit where we will have lunch.  Palo Alto Battlefield NHL remains largely unchanged, however twentieth century activities have altered some of the character of the mid-nineteenth century landscape.  We will examine some of the parks efforts to restore the cultural landscape at Palo Alto.

Palo Alto Visitor Center.

The tour will then proceed to the park’s Resaca de la Palma Battlefield Unit.  The integrity of the Cultural Landscape of Resaca de la Palma Battlefield is in an extreme state of degradation due to twentieth century urban development.  We will discuss the importance of preserving what remains of the site.  The tour will then proceed to the site of the 1846 Earthworks of Fort Brown NHL (2017 Most Endangered Places list), where we will discuss the alterations to the Cultural Landscape of the Siege of Fort Brown and the current threats to the site.  We will end the tour of Fort Brown by visiting the remaining late-nineteenth century architecture of Fort Brown. Coach will depart from the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520.  Prepare to board at 7:45 am.

Field Session C: Brownsville: The Bigger Picture
Monday, February 26, 2018 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, lunch included Led by Stephen Fox, Architectural Historian ($60)

The George Kraigher House (1937), designed by Richard Neutra and listed on PT’s 2004 Most Endangered Places list, has been saved.

This tour highlights a range of 19th- and 20th-century sites focusing on different phases of the environmental, economic, and architectural history of Brownsville. We will drive by—and in some cases visit—the Gorgas Science Foundation’s Sabal Palm Grove, the last remnant of an ancient palm forest, and the adjoining Rabb-Starck Ranch House of 1891; the Pan American Airways Engineering and Accounting Buildings of 1935, the remaining landmark of Pan American Airways’s epic connection to Brownsville; and several architecturally remarkable country houses built by affluent newcomers in the 1930s and ‘40s, including the International Style George Kraigher House of 1937 by Los Angeles architect Richard Neutra. We will also have the opportunity to drive through a series of neighborhoods that give a vivid sense of the city’s development in the 20th century.

Rabb House.

Coach will depart from the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520. Prepare to board at 7:45 am.

Opening Plenary and Reception: An Architectural History Overview of the Texas-Tamaulipas Border
Monday, February 26, 2018 from 6:00 to 7:00 pm at Market Square; reception to follow at the Fernandez Building, 1220 E. Adams Street, Brownsville *

This event is included in the basic $100 Summit registration

Tour the beautiful Immaculate Conception Cathedral (closes at 6:00 pm) before walking one block to the recently rehabilitated Market Square. Esteemed architectural historian Stephen Fox, a Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, will provide an overview of the cycles of architecture and city building that have shaped the communities of the Texas-Tamaulipas border since the middle of the 18th century.

After the talk, walk over to the Fernandez Building (c. 1883) at Market Square, constructed by Juan H. Fernandez whose Villa de Llanes was the leading farm and ranch supplier in South Texas, where drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres are sponsored by the Brownsville Preservation Society.

The recently rehabilitated Fernandez Building on Market Square.

For those interested in touring the Cathedral, the first shuttle will depart at 5:00; otherwise shuttles will depart at 5:30 pm and at 5:45 pm from the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520.  The shuttle will return participants to the Homewood Suites beginning at 8:00 pm.

2018 Preservation Summit Educational Sessions
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
Ringgold Civic Pavilion, 501 E. Ringgold Street, Brownsville

* These sessions are included in the basic $100 Summit registration

A full day of educational sessions with lunch will be offered at the Ringgold Civic Pavilion.  Click here for a complete list of sessions and speakers.  Participants will have the opportunity to visit the Gladys Porter Zoo during lunch.

Ringgold Civic Pavilion overlooking the resaca will be the site of educational sessions

Shuttles will depart the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520 beginning at 7:30 am.  Shuttles will return participants back to the hotel at 4:00 pm.

8:00 – 8:30 am

Historical Perspectives on Brownsville
Dr. Anthony Knopp, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Dr. Anthony Knopp

Do you think you know Brownsville’s history?  Bring your coffee and start the day with an overview of the historical development of Brownsville from the Mexican-American War to the current era.

8:30 – 8:45 am

Welcoming Remarks from Preservation Texas
Ann Benson McGlone, President, Board of Directors (San Antonio)
Nydia Tapia-Gonzales, Member, Board of Directors (Harlingen)
Evan Thompson, Executive Director (Austin)

Ann Benson McGlone

9:00 – 10:00 am (two concurrent sessions)

Birds and Buildings: Adaptive Use Strategies for Nature-Based Tourism
Nydia Tapia-Gonzales, Director, South Texas Nature (moderator)
Andres Flores, Director, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse
Keith Hackland, Owner/Operator, Alamo Inn, B&B, Gear and Tours
Colleen Curran Hook, Manager, Quinta Mazatlan

Nydia Tapia-Gonzales

Andres Flores

Keith Hackland

Colleen Curran Hook

Learn how non-traditional audiences are experiencing historic places in South Texas. Representatives of three adaptive use projects will discuss how historic resources have been saved to support nature-based tourism.  The Quinta Mazatlan, built as a private residence in 1935 in McAllen and one of the largest adobe structures in Texas, is at the center of a 20-acre urban sanctuary and a World Birding Center (WBC) site.  Another WBC site is the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, built in the early 20th century; today it interprets the agricultural history of the region while trails and waterways harbor special South Texas birds and butterflies.  And the Alamo Inn, located in a 1919 building on the town square in Alamo, has been converted to lodging for the many international birding enthusiasts who visit South Texas.


Latino Heritage Conservation: Locating Equity & Social Justice in Preservation
Sarah Zenaida Gould, Lead Curatorial Researcher, UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures
Sehila Mota Casper, Field Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sarah Zenaida Gould

Sheila Mota Casper

The speakers will consider the role of social justice in historic preservation, how we can increase equity in historic preservation, and current challenges in preservation policy, education, and recruitment. Comparative case studies will include Rio Vista Farm in Socorro, Texas, recent landmarks in California, activated communities in El Paso and San Antonio, and current efforts to create a protected category for historic murals. The speakers will open the floor to discussion on how we can build alliances with underserved communities in Texas and beyond, and create a vision for a future of historic preservation that connects to multiple campaigns for social justice.

10:00 – 10:15 am 


10:15 – 11:15 am (two concurrent sessions)

National Park Perspectives: Cultural Landscapes
Rolando Garza, Archaeologist/Chief of Resource Management, Palo Alto Battlefield National Park
Julie McGilvray, Cultural Resources Program Manager, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Rolando Garza

Julie McGilvray

Participants will learn about cultural landscapes from the perspective of the National Park Service in Texas. Julie McGilvray from Guadalupe Mountains National Park will present an introductory overview of cultural landscapes, entitled Cultural Landscapes: Systems Thinking for Historic Preservation. Rolando Garza will then focus on strategies for restoring and maintaining the integrity of cultural landscapes through the example of Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.


Bridging the Past and the Present with the Texas Department of Transportation
Rebekah Dobrasko, Historic Preservation Specialist, Texas Department of Transportation
Chris Ringstaff, Staff Archaeologist, Texas Department of Transportation

Rebekah Dobrasko

Chris Ringstaff

Much of our heritage is found in buildings, bridges and other structures lining our streets, while roads themselves contain evidence of the land’s first people. Brainstorm with the Texas Department of Transportation on how you can partner in revealing these hidden histories and tell a unique story of place.  In the spirit of preservation, TxDOT aims to collaborate with tribes, county historical commissions, the Texas Historical Commission, and local organizations to share these stories with the public. Not only does TxDOT wish to give local historians access to our materials for future research, but we want to give communities content they can use in their museum, website, or exhibits.  This session will introduce TxDOT as a resource and producer of history-related content and will explore ways that TxDOT can partner with you to produce public history projects that have a life beyond the transportation process.

11:15 – 11:30 am


11:30 am – 12:00 pm (two concurrent sessions)

Restoring Brownsville’s Historic Resacas: A Deep History View of the Old Distributaries of the Rio Grande River Delta
Dr. Jude Benavides, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Dr. Jude Benavides

Dr. Benavides will discuss his work restoring and protecting critically important historic watersheds that are an essential part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s landscape.  He will also present the Rio Grande River delta’s distributary river network from a geological and hydrographical perspective.  The Rio Grande River delta remains one of the world’s most understudied deltas and presently faces a host of anthropogenic and environmental challenges.  Brownsville area resacas are a critical component of this thousands year old delta that serve vital functions to our water resources, ecological habitat, and cultural and historic heritage.


Historic Tax Credits and Tax Reform
Anna Mod, MacRostie Historic Advisors

Anna Mod

The federal tax reform bill passed before the end of 2017 and the 20% federal historic tax credit (HTC) was retained with some changes. This session is an overview of the historic tax credit program and new language in the law, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, and the submittal process. Several case studies will also be presented and how the program can be combined with the State of Texas 25% Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Enjoy a box lunch and take a walk to the nearby Gladys Porter Zoo and enjoy the City of Brownsville-owned zoological and botanical park.  Opened in 1971, it welcomes over 400,000 visitors each year.

1:30 pm – 2:00 pm (two concurrent sessions)

Unlocking the Hidden Secrets of South Texas Ranching
Christopher Rincon, Executive Director, The River Pierce Foundation

Christopher Rincon

An intimate look into a decades long journey to preserve a Mexican ranch settlement on the lower Rio Grande in Zapata County. By pulling together different disciplines to research the cultural background of a community like San Ygnacio, a unique and complex story unfolds about vernacular architecture, ranching traditions, geopolitical struggles and immigration. The River Pierce Foundation is a recent participant in this process of Cultural Resource Management, but because of its unorthodox approach, they live up to their motto of “Crossing borders of awareness, but bringing awareness to the border.”


Texas Courthouses of the Modern Era
Anna Mod, MacRostie Historic Advisors

Anna Mod

The Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Courthouse program has restored and rehabilitated many courthouses statewide and renewed civic pride in these important examples of civic architecture. Representative examples of modern era courthouses have not yet applied to the program despite eligibility. This session is an overview of Texas’ modern era courthouses, their National Register of Historic Places eligibility, and their importance in the continuum of Texas architecture.

2:00 – 2:30 pm (two concurrent sessions)

Envisioning Brownsville: Design Proposals for a Vibrant and Diverse Downtown
Dr. Murad Abusalim, Texas Southmost College

Dr. Murad Abusalim

Revitalization of historic downtowns has been associated with diversity and mixture to create vibrant and attractive places for residence and visitors alike. A collection of specific design proposals for Downtown Brownsville by students from Texas Southmost College Architecture Program explore the making of “spaces” that promote social interaction and a sense of community and evoke multi-sensory experiences.


Texas Preservation Trust Fund Grant Projects in South Texas
Sara Luduena, Project Reviewer, Texas Historical Commission

Sara Luduena

This session will focus on projects in South Texas that received grants through the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Preservation Trust Fund program. What sorts of grants are available and awarded, what made these applications successful, and what advice participants have for potential applicants.

2:30 – 2:45 pm


2:45 – 4:00 pm

Preservation Summit Closing Forum
Moderated by Amy Hammons, CHC Outreach Coordinator, Texas Historical Commission

Amy Hammons

Preservation Texas has a variety of goals in mind when developing its Preservation Summit. One of these goals is to provide a forum that encourages participants to share experiences and ideas. To this end, join fellow Summit attendees as we compare how our individual preservation successes and challenges relate to those presented during Summit tours and sessions. We’ll share perspectives about ongoing projects across the state, and find out how experiences created in this year’s Summit have changed perspectives about south Texas and preservation, in general.

2018 Preservation Texas Most Endangered Places and Honor Awards
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
1912 Cameron County Courthouse (Dancy Building), 1150 East Madison Street, Brownsville, Texas

* This event is included in the basic $100 Summit registration
** Tickets to just this event are available for $40.Join us at the old Cameron County Courthouse (1912), now known as the Dancy Building, for the announcement of the 2018 Preservation Texas Most Endangered Places and Honor Awards, followed by a reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres.  The courthouse was designed by architect Atlee B. Ayres (1873-1969) and restored as part of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.  Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. will provide welcoming remarks.

Now known as the Dancy Building, the 1912 Cameron County Courthouse will be the venue for our 2018 Honor Awards presentation.

Shuttle will depart at 5:15 pm and at 5:45 pm from the Homewood Suites, 3759 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas, 78520.  Shuttle will return participants to the Homewood Suites following the event.

Post-Summit Tour of Historic Matamoros, Mexico
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm
Led by Clemente Rendon De La Garza (historian), Mauricio Ibarra (architect) and Nydia Tapia-Gonzales (PT board member and Matamoros native) ($85)

Coach will depart from the Homewood Suites (for those staying at that hotel) at 7:45 am and will then proceed to the  Brownsville Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB), 650 East Ruben M. Torres Boulevard, Brownsville, Texas 78520 where it will pick up all others; free parking available at the CVB.  

After crossing the Gateway International Bridge, we will pass through Colonia Jardin, the quintessential midcentury modern neighborhood of the city. We will drive by houses that have maintained their architectural integrity before stopping at a shopping center currently under restoration. The shopping center consists of several buildings and was designed by renowned Mexican architect Mario Pani (1911-1993). We will drive by the new and under construction Consulate General of the United States. The next stop will be at another midcentury modern building that houses the Contemporary Art Museum of Tamaulipas. The guide will walk us through nearby buildings and a park. We will then visit the newly restored railroad station that has been rehabilitated into a Railroad Museum and visit the Arts Center housed in a recently restored former mid-19th century military hospital. Then, a drive through the 9th Street tourism corridor will end at the Market Square.

Casa Mata, Matamoros.

Insurgencies in the mid-19th century with imminent threats of expansion from North America and the Texas Independence Movement demanded for the city to be walled with trenches and forts. The only remaining fort is named Casa Mata and today it is the Museum of Regional History. The group will visit Casa Mata and continue to the city’s main “plaza,” Plaza Hidalgo, to admire some of the original buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Numerous buildings are gone, but the centerpiece remains, and the group will visit the Cathedral of our Lady of Refuge.  The construction of the cathedral was supervised by Father (Padre) Nicolas Balli – the same person referred to in the name of the city of South “Padre” Island – and began in 1820 and under the direction of New Orleans native Mateo Passement who along with other American builders, including several African Americans, developed what we now know as the “Border Brick Style” which originated in Matamoros and spread throughout the region.

Casa Cross (1885), built for Meliton Cross.


Reforma Theatre (1860)

Additional drive bys and stops will include the Casa Cross, an eclectic Victorian style home built for Meliton (Middleton) Cross in 1885;  the Colegio de San Juan (1837), Casa Yturria, the first US Consulate in Matamoros (1860) and the Reforma Theater (1860). Group lunch is included with the tour at Garcia’s, where participants can also enjoy free time shopping for souvenirs before heading back to Brownsville with wonderful memories of this trip. A brief presentation on a new bi-national cultural tourism project will be conducted by architect Mauricio Ibarra.

*Estimated time of arrival back at the hotel is 2:30 p.m. Times are subject to change due to bridge crossing lanes and immigration and customs processing time. Wednesdays are not considered heavy traffic days at the bridge.  Don’t forget to bring your passport.*