Texas history isn’t as long as some other places in this country. Texas was part of the Western Frontier for many years, which means that when some East coast cities were well established, there was still little more than Spanish missions in what is now the state of Texas. In addition to that, the 1950’s and 60’s saw a societal paradigm shift that ushered out the old in favor of the new.
During that time period, the Lone Star State saw the demolition of many of its historic buildings and courthouses. That’s why well-preserved historic downtown districts are treasures among Texans. The Texas Historical Commission has been working to preserve and revitalize historic downtown districts through the Texas Main Street Program.
Of those dozens of beautiful towns and cities, and others around the state, we could only choose 10 to showcase for their vibrant, active downtown districts and excellent historic buildings that are still in use.
Brenham may be well known for Blue Bell and bluebonnets, but it also has a bustling downtown full of shopping, dining and lively events that draws out the whole city. Here we are looking at a 2006 gathering of “Hot Nights Cool Tunes,” which is a live music series that takes place annually throughout the month of July.
Gruene, Texas, a hamlet of New Braunfels, was abandoned and almost lost to obscurity until rediscovered as a ghost town in 1974. The whole town was placed on the national register of historic places, and the reopening of Gruene Hall led to what is now one of Texas’s most treasured town centers.
Locally known as “The Square”, San Marcos’s downtown district is hopping most weekends due to its vigorous nightlife that is buoyed by its population of college students from the nearby Texas State University. The San Marcos square has preserved its buildings so well that it is frequently used as a filming location for period movies. Recently it was one of the settings for Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some”. San Marcos’s “Kissing Alley” was recently voted the “Most Romantic Main Street in America” by Main Street America. Above we see the Greater Randolph Area trail riders passing through the square.
San Angelo has a bustling downtown where you can always find something going on. The Concho Valley Farmer’s Market sets up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and you can check out Cactus Market Days every third Saturday.
You might have heard of Mineola as the hometown of country songstress Kacey Musgraves, but it’s also got a booming Main Street that is full of life. Mineola has been working on preserving its downtown since 1989. Those efforts are clearly paying off since, in 2015, Mineola was recognized as a National Main Street City.
Since 2003, Winnsboro has reinvested $11 million into their Main Street, and it has revitalized the downtown area. The town has been restoring old buildings and hosts fun events like Easter egg hunts, classic car shows and art walks.
San Augustine may be small, but its impact in the formation of Texas was huge. Founded in 1833, the little East Texas town sits on the historic El Camino Real, and was the home to the first governor of Texas. The downtown district is in the process of being preserved and they have already restored the courthouse and several other buildings.
Not far outside of Austin is the little town of Bastrop. Though Highway 71 runs straight through it, the population remains low, around 7,500. That hasn’t stopped it from maintaining a vibrant downtown district, though. On any given Saturday you can find live music, great shops and delicious food, in fact, it has even been covered in Texas Monthly.
Georgetown may seem like a quiet little hamlet, but its downtown is bustling. Preserved by the Downtown Georgetown Association, the historic square in the little college town is alive with business every day of the week. Georgetown also has fun festivals like the Red Poppy Festival which takes place each spring, and the Christmas Stroll in December encourages local shopping for the holiday season.
Located North of the DFW metroplex on Grapevine Lake, Grapevine has one of the best downtown districts in the state of Texas. Originally named for the wild grapes that grew in the area, Grapevine has recently become home to some great Texas wineries, like Messina Hof. The community is active in restoring their downtown and the history of the city is evident in the well-preserved buildings which are still home to plenty of business.