Submitted by Ralph R. Wallace III
Preservation in Texas has become endangered.
Statewide efforts to protect and
save the valuable remnants of our past
have been hampered by the 69th State
Legislature's cuts to the budget of the
Texas Historical Commission (THC).
The THC, originally the Texas State
Historical Survey Committee, was a creation
of the 53rd State Legislature in 1953
under Governor Allan Shivers. It is the
state agency for historic preservation.
Since its organization the THC has developed
one of the most effective preservation
programs in the United States.
The THC's most visible program is the
Historical Markers Program. More than
9,000 official historical markers, paid for
by private contributions, line Texas'
86,000 miles of major and secondary road
systems. According to a survey by Southern
Living magazine, historic places are
number one on their readers' agenda for
touring. This means that preservation
brings visitors and tourist dollars to Texas.
The THC's Main Street Project was established
in 1981 to initiate the reha
Representative Ralph R. Wallace III
bilitation of existing structures in towns
with populations of 50,000 or less. It
capitalizes on the unique character of the
buildings and emphasizes the development
of progressive marketing and management
techniques. The preservation
and rehabilitation of historic commercial
buildings provides a culturally rich and
attractive image for the downtown area
and encourages area merchants and building
owners to reinvest there. The agency's
Main Street Project has seen more than
35 Texas towns stimulate $113 million in
private sector reinvestment in historic
downtown buildings. These figures indicate
that the Main Street Project's premise
that economic development within
the context of historic preservation does
Preservation pays-it has been economically
proven that the programs of
the THC pay for more than themselves.
The THC programs dealing with historical
markers, Main Street Project, national
register, archaeology, and museums
generate for the state an estimated annual
economic benefit of $356,141,000. For
every dollar of general revenue funds
invested in the programs of the THC
the state receives an estimated $323 in
Despite the economic success of the
programs of the THC, the state legislature
has been forced to cut its budget,
with additional future cuts likely. Individuals
and organizations can help to
keep preservation alive by investing in it.
*Support the efforts of the THC.
*Visit historic sites, museums, and
*Patronize businesses in historic buildings
*Inform the THC of endangered sites,
landmarks, and structures.
*Contact your county historical commission
chairman for information on how to
become involved in preservation efforts
in your local community.
*Encourage your elected officials to support
the efforts of your organization and
Elected officials, be they city council
members, county commissioners, or state
and national representatives, affect the
way in which county historical commissions,
museums, and other history and
heritage groups conduct business, because
they are the decision makers. Preservationists
may develop strength in the political
arena in a number of ways, the first
of which is to get to know elected officials
personally, as well as their key staff members.
Maintain communication with
them by monitoring pending legislation
and voting records of officials; sending
them thank-you notes for support; inviting
them to special gatherings, programs,
and activities in your area; and by promoting
media coverage. Watch the legislative
agendas, and be aware of pending
legislation that affects your organization's
preservation interest, such as funding and
A very important way to maintain
communication with your officials is by
writing them individual letters. Send information
about your community or organization-keep
them informed as to what
you are doing to promote preservation in
your area. Do not use form letters or petitions.
Attend local meetings of the city
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed July 24, 2014.