Nine flags have flown over Nacogdoches. Six of them–French, Spanish, Mexican, Lone Star, the Confederacy, and the USA– were not just local. A 7th was local and the result of the Fredonia Rebellion, an attempt to gain independence from Mexico in Texas’ eastern gateway city, Nacognoches.
I have not seen 3 major Nacogdoches attractions-The Fredonia Hotel, Millard’s Crossing Historic Village, and the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. The foreclosed Fredonia is a 1950’s style downtown hotel that is being redone as a boutique property. It is scheduled to open next autumn. Its new owner, Nacogdoches native Richard DeWitt, is to be congratulated for supporting a new project in a town with its head in the past. I might be wrong, but I suspect that the Village, a 37 acre sampling of East Texas architecture from log cabin to the 19th century, would be an extension of what I had already seen in town. Late March/early April is when local azaleas are in bloom, and I haven’t been in Nacogdoches during this time. This is just one of the gardens in the “Garden Capital of Texas”. The one that sounds most interesting is the new Spanish colonial demonstration garden at the Stone Fort. Travelers there in the summer can observe seasonal plants associated with the Camino Real.
Ruth and I did visit 3 attractions that I would not rate 5 Compass. When I first visited Nacogdoches, the Sterne-Hoya House Museum seen above was my favorite stop because I learned so much local history, including Nacogdoches’ role in the Fredonia Rebellion. Sam Houston was baptized in this house. Sterne-Hoya is the oldest building in town on its original site. If Victorian antiques, a genealogy focused library, and a recently rebuilt basement wine cellar sound interesting, check it out.
The 115-year-old, very traditional railroad depot was deserted when we were there. It has the reputation for being a noted community asset with changing exhibits and is said to be a place to do heritage research. If you simply love old depots, it’s worth stopping by. Call 936 560 5426 for a tour.
The Old University Building was opened and became, for me, the symbol of what is wrong with generally calling Nacogdoches a 5 Compass destination. This landmark, classic-Greek-temple-style structure has a fascinating history. The 1st nonsectarian university in Texas, it opened in 1845 with 104 students. 41 were female. It became a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and then a school district building. It’s last major refurbishment occurred in 1960, and that’s the problem. If old school desks and textbooks, an original school bell, and a hodge-podge of period furnishings interests you, stop by between 1 and 4 pm Tuesday through Friday or from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday.
And that’s what’s disappointing about Nacogdoches, which is losing population. It’s focus is too much on the past. There’s not a single new attraction that would have appeal to travelers who are not especially interested in regional history, antique shops, and brick streets.