PRESERVING THE PAST WITH AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
Walk the brick-paved streets of Nacogdoches and you’ll find yourself on the path to early Texas history. The entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the city claims bragging rights as the “Oldest Town in Texas.” In 1837 the town was incorporated and grew as a gateway for trade with New Orleans. Nacogdoches today is a Texas Main Street City, honored in 2010 with a First Lady’s Texas Treasures Award for conserving its heritage for present and future generations of residents and visitors. A statue honoring Gil Y’ Barbo, the city’s founder, stands on the downtown square; a replica of his home, built in 1936 with the original stones, now serves as the Stone Fort Museum on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University. The museum displays and interprets artifacts including examples illustrating the Spanish and Mexican periods from 1690 through 1836.
The Sterne-Hoya House Museum and Library, built by the merchant and Texas independence advocate Adolphus Sterne in 1830, reflects the lives of its earliest occupants. Another residence of Texas pioneers is the Durst-Taylor Historic House and Gardens, which includes a blacksmith shop and smokehouse. The wood-frame home is interpreted to the period of the 1840s to the 1860s. Its occupants included Thomas J. Rusk, one of four signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. North of town is Millard’s Crossing Historic Village –– a collection of relocated 19th-century buildings, including a schoolhouse, church and boarding house –– which illustrate Texas architecture from a humble log cabin to the Victorian era. The African American heritage of Nacogdoches is represented in the Zion Hill Historic District, which developed after the Civil War. Home to service workers employed by affluent Anglo families living nearby, the district is dominated by one-story frame residences called “shotgun houses.” The Gothic Revival-style Zion Hill Baptist Church is the centerpiece of the neighborhood and dates to 1914.