Even though I’ve been in hundreds of them, I don’t normally think of tourist information centers as tourist attractions. However, today I’m making an exception. The Charles R. Bright Visitor’s Center in Nacogdoches, Texas, is the best one I’ve ever been in.
The first time I visited Charles R. Bright was several years ago when Ruth, who had to work on Friday, flew to Dallas in the evening to join me for a long weekend. I drove from St. Louis to meet her plane. I claim I didn’t see her suitcase on the floor on the other side of the bed and assumed she had taken it to work. She claims I forgot it. In any event, she faced a weekend without clothes other than what she wore on the plane, cosmetics, contact lens solution, etc. But that’s another story.
On my way back to St. Louis by myself, I stopped in Nacogdoches and fell in love with the town. I walked its historic streets for hours, visited several attractions, etc. When I go somewhere I really like and Ruth isn’t with me, I can’t wait to go back. But this time it took a few years. Ruth & I visited Nacogdoches in February, 2016. I noticed some changes, not necessarily good ones.
Between 1918 and 1997, what is now the Charles R. Bright Visitor’s Center was a federal building, a post office, a library. It opened as a downtown visitor center in 1999 at 200 East Main Street after extensive renovations had been made to the building. The 1st floor provides a warm welcome from the staff, info about a number of tours, a walking tour map, brochures about most of the things to see, etc. In 2005 the basement was renovated to make space for historical displays, provide a place for meetings, etc. Don’t just stop in to chat, plan to spend some time in the Charles R. Bright Visitor Center. You can usually park for free right in front of it.
Nacogdoches celebrated its 300th birthday last year. It’s the oldest town in Texas and a place of many state firsts, like ceiling fans. A downtown drugstore installed them. The blades rotated thanks to a mule drawn treadmill outside. I read this on Nacogdoches’ Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Few American towns have such a varied or lengthy history. Nine flags have flown over Nacogdoches. The town’s population reached 5,000 in the 1920s. By 1980 it was 46,786. Today it’s about 33,000. I’ll tell more tomorrow, including why it’s still a mostly fine travel destination.