Ruins of Old Main -- Huntsville's Pompeii
The hallmark of Sam Houston State University since its creation in 1876 was Old Main, the ornate structure at the heart of the campus that housed the school's administration.
For reasons still unknown to this day, Old Main caught fire and burned to the ground in a spectacular blaze before dawn on Feb. 19, 1982. The glow from the fire could be seen 40 miles away.
The university decided to keep the building's remaining skeleton as a reminder of what many considered Huntsville's most beautiful building. Atop the main hill in the middle of the school (which friends and I used to play on as kids), the foundation and partial walls still stand, complete with soot markings and small brick fragments.
After viewing the building's remains, take a walk through the rest of the tree-shaded campus, starting with the Austin Building next to the ruins -- which now houses the university's administration.
Wall of Faces - S.W. Houston Cultural Ctr
This is one tangible mark I've left on my hometown. Near downtown, (1604 10th Street to be exact) there's the Samuel Walker Houston Cultural Center, which has a small museum dedicated to Huntsville's African American history. Outside the museum is a white, curved wall with the casts of dozens of faces of the city's black residents of all ages, completed in 1995.
My face is one of them, so go there and see if you can point me out. (Keep in mind, I was in high school when it was done.) Inside the museum, there are photos and other historical items of the Huntsville area's racial past (which was surprisingly violent according to stories that have been handed down through the generations, including lynchings).
Sam Houston Monument and Grave at Oakwood Cemetery
On the 75th anniversary of the battle San Jacinto, April 21, 1911, the State of Texas erected this monument to the memory of Sam Houston. The honorable William Jennings Bryan spoke to the hundreds of people in attendance, proclaiming General Houston as a national hero as well as a great Texas patriot.
The monument, sculpted by Pompeo Coppini, is of Texas grey granite and represents Houston as the General in command of the Texas Army. On the left is the figure of "Lady Victory" and on the right is "Lady History."
The inscription on the monument's east side was written by Houston's youngest daughter who was in attendance at the ceremony. The wrought iron fence which surrounds the grave site is designed with inverted axes, symbolizing "Peace, the battle is over."
- Historical Travel
Oakwood Cemetery Walking Tour
Prior to Texas winning independence from Mexico, Huntsville was founded in 1835 by Pleasant Gray. Twelve years later he deeded this land to Huntsville for "a place of burial, free to all persons." This cemetery, however, was in use before Gray's deed. The oldest headstone has the date 1842, but earlier graves were either unmarked or the markers have long since disappeared.
The Oakwood Cemetery is the final resting place for many people of historical prominence, also in Oakwood are buried 8 Union soldiers, 123 Confederate soldiers and possibly more.
Just inside the entrance to the cemetery is a covered rack with brochures which lead you step-by-step to 31 gravesites and/or points of interest. A light rain was falling when I was there, but I still found the place fascinating.
To find the Oakwood Cemetery from Huntsville's downtown square, travel east on 11th Street and turn left on Spur 94. This is Sam Houston Memorial Drive, which is Texas' shortest highway. It will lead you one block to the cemetery, at the corner of I and 9th Street.
- Historical Travel
Sam Houston's Steamboat House
Since Texas has flown under Six Flags during its history, one of the more important and influential times was the period in which Texas was ruled by the Confederate States of America. During the time in which Texas fell under this rule, Sam Houston was Governor, however he would not sign his allegiance to the CSA, and therefore he moved from the capital to Huntsville. During this period, Sam was not in the best of financial sorts, and purchased the Steamboat House, since his prior larger estate was not financially possible.
Inside the Sam Houston Statue Visitors Center
Make sure you head over to the Statue during the visitors center hours so you can see some of the memorabilia of Sam. Inside the cabin, they have set up a nice little tribute to Sam Houston with pictures and artifacts of his era.
Its worth a couple minutes of your time!