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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Visiting Brownsville's Historic Downtown District

Brownsville is about 30 minutes southeast of Harlingen, on the US/Mexican border.

Inhabited by the Spanish since the 1700s, Brownsville became an American outpost during the Mexican American War in the 1840s.  Founded in 1848 and incorporated in 1853, Brownsville is the County Seat of Cameron County.  Situated on the Rio Grande River, with close ties to the Mexican City of Matamoros,  Brownsville became a major trading center, with steam boats stopping regularly.  The last battle of the Civil War was fought at nearby Palmetto Ranch.  Connections to the railroad system increased Brownsville's trade capacity, and wealth, which can be seen in the City's older buildings.

Originally built in 1850,
Market Square served as
the City's shopping area
for 90 years.

opened in 1928.

The windows on the ground
floor were replaced with
chalkboards that serve as
a spontaneous art gallery.

The white building across
the street is the El Jardin

I looked at other photos of this hotel on line and realized that I took a picture of the back of 
the building.

Built in 1927, this large building
has been considered for
renovation projects.

Over the years developers have considered: Restaurant, Coffee Shop and Meeting Rooms; Night Spot for young peopleRestored Hotel with Rooftop Bar and Hospitality Training Center.  El Jardin Loft Apartments are currently under consideration.

This is one of the older
 buildings that catch my
eye...  retail space with
offices or apartments
on the second floor.

After much comparison of
details, I believe that this
building, with a 1930s
look is the former
Merchants National Bank.

I sent an email to the Historic Brownsville Museum to confirm my conclusion, and I was right!

Construction of the Immaculate
in 1856.

The architectural style is

I wonder about the
origins of this

The second floor balcony reminds me of buildings in I've seen in many southern cities: Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans...

Brownsville's wealthy
citizens built grand

I am reminded of homes in Charleston's Waterside Section

I think of this street as
Millionaires' Row

was organized in 1850.

Built in 1912 & dedicated in
1913, Sacred Heart Church
is the first English speaking
Catholic parish in Brownsville.

Nolan Block, built in 1934,
pays homage the City's
Spanish history. 

Brownsville's City Hall is
housed in the former

I admire the ornamentation
surrounding the entrance
of this 1931 building.

I like it when buildings
have names listed on

J.L. Putegnat & Bro. Building

I am focused on older buildings in Brownsville and am ignoring newer ones with active businesses.  This section of East Elizabeth Street is busy with many shoppers, but this isn't seen as I focus on older buildings.

The Seabury, George &
Taylor Building

The Bollack Building

The Majestic Theater,
built in 1947, has
 an open business
on its first floor.

East Elizabeth Street has a lot more activity on it than East Levee Street, where the Capitol Theater sits vacant.

The Payless Shoes Building
interests me....

Was it a hotel, an office
building or apartments?

I like its ornate cornice design.

I love taking pictures of buildings.  They don't move like people, animals or vehicles.  I can take photos from multiple angles and focus of different parts of a building.  Architecture reveals a city's past as well as its public and cultural priorities.

Brownsville is like many cities across America with older buildings in its downtown area, some of which are moldering.  Like Harlingen, many businesses have moved from the center of the city leaving empty buildings behind.

Brownsville's Master Plan focuses on making downtown a pedestrian and bike friendly area.  Strengthening connections  with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas Southmost College includes making downtown accessible to students.  Developing student housing would draw businesses downtown to meet students' daily needs and provide activities that appeal to that age group.  I wish them the best.

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