Heritage, Summer 2005 Page: 18
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
Buildings in Rio Grande City's historic district
were in ruins until the Main Street Program provided
the motivation for restoration.
Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2 in 1983. It is the last pumphouse
of its type in South Texas.
In 1987, the HCID No. 2 donated the pumphouse to the City of Hidalgo
for preservation as an agricultural heritage museum. Dr. Robert Norton and
a group of dedicated volunteers re-activated the dormant, non-profit
Heritage Foundation of Hidalgo County. That group acquired donations
from individuals and local businesses, and began slowly restoring the pumphouse
building and machinery with help from ROTC and other youth
groups, bricklayers, probationers, and many volunteers.
Because of the age and the size of the building and remaining machinery,
and the degree of deterioration, restoration was long and arduous. In 1987,
a rise in the Rio Grande River flooded the engine galleries. Asbestos
removal caused delays. Temperatures exceeding 100 degrees inside the
building, with humidity almost as high, made for extremely difficult working
However, volunteers experienced in steam-powered machinery cleaned,
rebuilt, rustproofed, and painted boilers, engines, and pumps. Others
cleaned and catalogued every artifact, from small bolts to a 5,000-pound flywheel.
Two cranes lifted an 80,000-pound Ingersoll-Rand engine, one that
matched the original, over the pumphouse wall and into the engine room,
where it fit perfectly onto the block.
After receiving a Community Development Block Grant in 1992, a grant
from the Meadows Foundation (1993), and ISTEA funds (1995), the City
of Hidalgo authorized the final phase of restoration. This included replacing
the windows, roof, and 12 feet of the smokestack; painting the exterior;
reinforcing or replacing catwalks above the engine galleries; and adding an
air-conditioned visitors center, office space, and restrooms. Installation of
interpretive exhibits followed, and the Hidalgo Pumphouse Heritage and
Discovery Center opened in April 1999 as a museum and visitors center.
Today it plays an important heritage tourism role, along with Los Caminos
del Rio, The World Birding Center, and the Texas Tropical Trail, which all
draw thousands of tourists to the area every year.
Most restoration in the lower Rio Grande Valley focuses on buildings
that are not as old as the commandant's quarters or as massive as the
Hidalgo pumphouse. Standing on the west side of the square in downtown
Donna (population 12,600), is the two-story brick structure known as The
Donna News Building, where various local newspapers were produced from
1920 until the 1960s. Between 1968 and 1988, the structure housed the
Donna Chamber of Commerce and the Donna Hooks Fletcher Historical
Museum. In 1988, a fire gutted the building, leaving only a shell. The
museum moved its few remaining collections into the small American
Legion Border Post 107 building, a registered Texas Historic Landmark
erected in 1920, and they remain there today.
In 2000, the City of Donna deeded The Donna News Building to the
Donna Hooks Fletcher Historical Museum. Since then, restoration has proceeded
under the supervision of museum director Laura Lincoln. A Texas
Historical Commission subject marker will be dedicated later this year.
Through local fund raising efforts such as spring trips to Mexico, raffles, and
musical performances, the museum has been able to complete Phase I of the
restoration. This consisted of cleaning out the building and securing its
structural integrity, putting on a new roof, installing windows, and replacing
the stairway and second-story flooring.
Phase II, now underway, addresses the interior. A section of the original
brickwork will be sealed and left exposed for architectural interest.
HERITAGE W SUMMER 2005
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2005, periodical, Summer 2005; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45369/m1/18/: accessed February 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.