BLUEBONNETS AND BLUE BELL DREAMS
Plan a visit to Brenham, the seat of Washington County, and visions of bluebonnets and Blue Bell ice cream will dance in your head. Wildflowers proliferate in springtime; tours of Blue Bell Creameries, producer of Texas’ favorite ice cream since 1911, end with a complimentary serving. A Texas Main Street city, Brenham’s lively downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pick up a map at the Visitor Center for a walking tour past antiques stores and gift shops, restaurants and cafes, bed and breakfast inns and the massive 1940 Washington County Courthouse. Get a taste of local history at the Brenham Heritage Center, housed in the former post office, a 1915 Classical Revival structure. Adjacent to the museum is a horse-drawn, Silsby steam-powered fire engine, purchased for the fire department in 1879. The C.W. Parker antique carousel resides in Firemans Park a few blocks north of downtown. Rescued from a field in 1932, the carousel was restored and is housed in a 16-sided building constructed by the WPA in 1935.
Brenham was founded in 1844 and prospered as a cotton, retail and wholesale hub thanks to a railroad line, German immigrant farmers, and Jewish merchants. The town celebrates its German heritage at Maifest each spring; Brenham’s Jewish past is preserved at the oldest Orthodox synagogue in continuous use in Texas, B’nai Abraham. Built in 1893, it resembles a rural Gothic-style church with a Hebrew-inscribed cornerstone. But fire and water also are part of this bucolic community’s history. In 1866, occupying federal troops burned a city block after a clash with Brenham residents. That incident and conflagrations in the 1870s led to construction of 27 public and private cisterns that collected rainwater to fight fires and for household use. A Texas Archeological Landmark, this network of underground cisterns is interpreted at Toubin Park, which features a restored cistern dating to the 1880s.