Heritage, Summer 2005 Page: 6
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By Kelly A. Rushing
It's so much easier to just tear things
down and start over. Out with the old and
in with the new. How American is that? I
remember my disappointment when legendary
wildcatter Glenn McCarthy's
Shamrock Hotel was torn down. An interesting
part of Houston's history was lost.
However, we can take solace in the fact
that where the Shamrock once stood is an
excellent parking lot. A good parking
place is a wonderful thing to find.
While it may have been impractical or
impossible to restore the Shamrock to its
former glory, there are numerous organizations
in Texas that are devoted to similar
tasks. Most preservation efforts are conducted
by local communities out of a sense
of civic pride or by individuals attempting
to preserve their family history. HERITAGE
magazine often makes note of significant
local and regional efforts, and the
Texas Historical Foundation frequently
makes grants to aid these worthwhile causes.
There are several other statewide
organizations that have historic preservation
as at least one of their goals. Here at
THF we have a rather lengthy mission
statement that in essence means we work
to preserve our Texas heritage. We define
that to include education as well as preservation.
We have made grants to preserve
buildings, documents, flags, and archeological
sites and artifacts, to name a few.
We receive no tax dollars either. Our
funding is totally from private sourcesmeaning
people and businesses.
Another statewide organization is
Humanities Texas, the state partner of the
National Endowment for the Humanities.
Research and education are part of this
group's mission and that includes providing
grants that educate and inspire efforts
to preserve Texas history. Funding for
Humanities Texas comes primarily from
federal appropriations to the NEH, though
they receive additional support from corporations
The Texas Historical Commission is the
state agency for historic preservation.
THC is composed of 17 commissioners
appointed by the governor to staggered
six-year terms. The agency employs about
100 people who work in various fields,
including archeology, architecture, history,
heritage tourism, and urban planning.
THF was at one time linked to the THC as
its fundraising arm. Now the THC is state
funded, but the agency frequently partners
with other groups to extend the effectiveness
of its available funds. The THC is
nationally recognized for its preservation
The Texas State Historical Association
is the oldest learned society in the state,
having been organized in 1897. In that
year the association began publication of
its widely recognized Southwestern Historical
Quarterly, and the group published its
first book in 1916. While the association's
preservation activity may be considered
indirect, there is no doubt that the group
is composed of those who are actively
engaged in historical preservation, and its
members have inspired countless others.
TSHA produces a treasure of research
information, much of which is available in
their Handbook of Texas Online.
The appropriately named organization,
Preservation Texas, is the statewide part
ner of the National Trust for Historic
Preservation. Preservation Texas is a privately
funded non-profit dedicated to promoting
preservation by building partnerships
between government and nonprofit
organizations, advocating for local, state,
and national policies, and educating
through conferences and seminars.
Preservation Texas has been instrumental
in initiating the Texas Historic
Courthouse Preservation Program. With
220 historic courthouses, 80 of which were
built prior to 1900, restoration is clearly a
formidable task. In 1998 when the
National Trust for Historic Preservation
placed Texas courthouses on its list of
"America's 11 Most Endangered Historic
Places," it prompted an effort that was
statewide and necessarily included the
THC as well as many local organizations.
The county courthouse represents the
community and its citizens. We cannot
avoid the business of the courthouse even
if we wish. In it are housed our birth,
death, and marriage records. Approximately
39 Texas historic courthouses have
been restored. With these restorations has
come a renewed sense of dignity to the
communities where they are located.
There has been an additional benefit that
is much more mundane-capitalism and
economic promise. Thousands of jobs
have been created, and tax revenues have
increased. It is wrong to assume that there
is a natural conflict between historic
preservation and business interests.
So the next time you are in a town that
has a restored courthouse, like Llano or
Waxahachie, tip your hat to the people and
organizations that made it happen. And the
next time you are near Main and Holcomb
in Houston, and you find a good parking
place, tip your hat to Glenn McCarthy.
Send your comments to Kelly Rushing,
Texas Historical Foundation, P.O. Box
50314, Austin, TX 78763.
HERITAGE SUMMER 2005
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2005, periodical, Summer 2005; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45369/m1/6/: accessed November 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.