Temple Freda Restoration: One Step Closer to Reality

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

As first reported in last November’s newsletter, there is an ongoing push to restore Temple Freda, Bryan’s first Jewish synagogue and one of only three in the world named for a woman. Unfortunately, the process ground to a halt for some months; the last work done on the structure consisted of removing the endangered stained glass windows and boarding up the openings to protect the interior. Those windows currently reside at Foster Stained Glass waiting to be restored.

Twice over the past couple months Randy Hilliard, our Events Chair, and I met with The Friends of Temple Freda, the citizen group heading up the push to restore the synagogue. Brazos Heritage Society has been asked to partner with them, as we are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. As such, we can receive and hold donations for the project, as well as assist in applying for grants and other funding. Not only do we bring 30 years of historic preservation experience to the project, but also we offer an established organization that can serve as an anchor point for the process.

We typically meet at Arkitex Studio in downtown Bryan, the architectural firm involved in the project. The Friends group consists of Dr. William Bassichis (Temple Freda’s caretaker for over 30 years), Stephanie Sale (local artist), College Station Mayor Nancy Berry, Eva Read-Warden (Arkitex Studio) and her husband Robert Warden (Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M), Judge Tom McDonald, Randy Haynes and Lindsey Guindi with the City of Bryan, Nan Ross (Head Librarian for the Carnegie Library), Sylvia Grider (Retired Professor of Anthropology,
Texas A&M University), and Lewis Ford (a physics professor at Texas A&M University).

We’ve spent significant time exploring what needs to happen overall, as well as determining what specifically needs to occur first in order to make this restoration a reality. The final consensus was to start with a comprehensive structural engineering report, provided by Sparks Engineering. This report will detail the issues with the structure and provide a solid sense of the problems that need to be addressed.

This initial structural engineering report costs $2,500. Fundraising is underway, primarily via donations from members The Friends of Temple Freda.

However, we are always open to assistance from interested members and supporters of the Brazos Heritage Society. As soon as the $2,500 is raised, Sparks Engineering will be authorized to start the report process. To date, we’ve raised a little over $1,750.

While we do not yet have hard numbers on overall project cost, we’re honestly estimating approximately $1 million to restore Temple Freda to her former glory. Obviously, this is not a cheap undertaking. However, this beautiful structure is not only worthy of saving in its own right for its historical value, it also adds to the continuing beautification of downtown Bryan, further enhancing the area and increasing public usage. When the restoration is complete, the City of Bryan plans to utilize the venue for community events and appropriate private gatherings.

A Structure Rises: the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin Near Completion

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

Cedar wood walls stand strong and firm once more, cracks in the process of being chinked, while near the wrought iron entrance gates paving stones have been set in place for the amphitheater where six flags will stand tall, representing those symbols of national sovereignty flown at various times over Texas since her birth. This same half-circle will provide seating for 60 and a place for Texas history teachers and docents to lead historical presentations for classes and visitors. The amphitheater is connected to the cabin by a walkway composed of crushed granite composite and paving stones at either end.

The cedar shake roof shelters the two living areas and the dog “trot” from the elements, These rooms will once again hold period treasures, showing how the owners likely lived back when the cabin was new and stood on the open prairie land of what was once Brazos, and later Grimes, County.

The Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin now nears completion of Phase I, with the structure reassembled, roofed and awaiting finishing touches. To the right stands a model of the cistern that would have once been the source of family water. Across from the entry gates, a walkway leads to a shaded area where a replica cannon will sit, patterned on the famous Twin Sisters. This artillery piece has been donated by Samuel W. Smith, a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress pilot awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, former Texas A&M Chemical Engineering professor, and history enthusiast. Mr. George Nelson will serve as cannoneer, heading up a six-man crew for those rare times when the piece is actually fired.

In later phases, bronze statues of Texas Ranger Eli Seale, Hiram Hanover (first Boonville postmaster and later State Representative), and Texas President Sam Houston will be grouped. A fourth bronze of Harvey Mitchell, Father of Brazos County, will be placed near the entrance across from the amphitheater.

A labor of love by the Sons of the Texas Republic, this historic structure is ultimately envisioned as the core of a Boonville Historic Site, with additional representations of pioneer life in the town of Boonville, once the seat of Navasota, later Brazos, County.

The site is scheduled to open after Labor Day with a small public event; the first general opening for public visitation is scheduled to coincide with Boonville Days on October 10. A formal dedication will take place in Spring 2016 in conjunction with the Brazos County Historical Commission’s celebration for the 175th anniversary of Brazos County’s creation, and with all planned features in place.

The site will need docents who can be available whenever a school tour or other event is held. If you are interested, please contact us at brazos.heritage@gmail.com. We are functioning as a liaison on the project for the Sons of the Republic of Texas and can help you connect with the appropriate people. In the meantime, I urge you to stop by the site, located east of the Kroger center on Boonville Rd. and view the progress that is being made. It is really a beautiful development and I am excited to see it come together at last. If you would like to donate to the costs of restoring the cabin, or its operation as an historical site, please visit our website at http://brazosheritage.org/projects/turner-petersdogtrot-cabin-project/ where you can securely donate via PayPal. You may also send a check, made out to Brazos Heritage Society, to P.O. Box 1776, Bryan, TX 77806. Any and all assistance is appreciated.

President’s Message – September 2015

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

The Stars and Stripes boldly flared, driven by a strong July breeze, while The Star-Spangled Banner rang out acapella from the bandstand. Softly singing along, tears came to my eyes as they usually do when I see the flag raised and sing our national anthem.

My love for this musical tribute to our American flag was deepened back in September 2014 when I learned the story of how the anthem came to be written. In 1814 (during the War of 1812), Francis Scott Key was tasked to make a POW exchange with the British. Shipboard during the negotiations, he was informed that the British planned to end the war with a massive bombardment of Ft McHenry, which was full of non-combatants as well as soldiers. The British demanded that the Americans strike the colors or face the wrath of the entire British Navy. They declined. After a hellish night of heavy shelling, including multiple direct hits on the flag, when dawn finally came Key saw that the flag miraculously remained. Shredded, canted at a weird angle, it yet stood – because men physically held it in place. Throughout the night, as defenders died others took their place. Our flag still flew, a symbol of our determination, because it was held in place by the bodies of dead American patriots.

The flag raising and anthem that so touched me this particular July morning officially opened the Brazos Heritage Society’s 29th annual Independence Day in Heritage Park. The day turned out quite beautiful, warm but with that strong breeze, and no rain. After the incredibly wet spring we just endured, that was a blessing. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, if you didn’t mind chasing a few papers. Reverend Ross Hooks, husband of long-time member Fran (Lamb) Hooks, started us off with a wonderful invocation, followed by the flag raising, anthem, and a tribute to the flag by The National Sojourners.

As President, I added a few of my own thoughts about the significance of the day, sharing some of the history of what their bid for Liberty cost our Founding Fathers, followed by a reminder that our freedom is dearly bought by the service and blood of our soldiers, past and present.

After the opening ceremony, I lined up a large group of children of all ages near the bandstand where Sheila Fields, our parade mistress, quickly passed out colorful red, white and blue leis. We actually started a couple minutes early because if I didn’t let the kids run, they were going to mutiny! While the band played, they made multiple laps around on the park on their gaily decorated bikes, scooters, skates, wagons, and strollers. This colorful, joyful parade of youngsters is always the highlight of the event!

For the remainder of the time our visitors enjoyed wonderful popular music by Proud Country, a group that has played the event for a number of years. They munched on hotdogs, popcorn, and watermelon while strolling among the different exhibitor booths under the shade of the park’s tall trees. This year’s exhibitors included the A & M Garden Club, Brazos Spinners and Weavers Guild, Brazos Valley African American Museum, Brazos Valley Farmer’s Market, Central Texas Historical Association, NS Daughters of the American Revolution, The Brazos Bluebonnet Quilt Guild, The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, and The James C. Taylor Association (a local veteran support group).

Along the street, the Bluebonnet Streetrodders displayed a variety of gorgeous vintage cars. The antique cars were joined by a 2.5 ton LMTV (Light Medium Tactical Vehicle) and the well-known High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), or Humvee, provided by our local U.S. Army Reserve 420th Engineer Brigade. Being able to climb around on the military vehicles was a big hit with our visitors! In turn, we were delighted to share the day with a few of our soldiers.

For a second year, we were also joined by local radio station KORA, who broadcast live from 9 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. I personally want to thank Fran (Lamb) Hooks for her wonderful help again this year in coordinating our pre-event advertising with KORA and the broadcast. KORA’s presence was made possible by donations from Mervin and Annette Peters, Bookman and Florence Peters, and Tom and Caroline McDonald.

All of this Independence Day fun was made possible thanks to the support of BSA Troop #383 (St. Joseph Catholic Church), Dent Magic, Dixie Chicken Inc., HEB, Kroger, Saint-Gobain Norpro, The Downtown Bryan Association, and The Farm Patch. We are very grateful for their continuing support of this free community event.

We could not possibly host this event without the help of all our fabulous volunteers. My deep personal thanks to Cathy and Alice Cox (Children’s Games), Shirley DuPriest (Setup/Rover/Cleanup), Sheila Fields (Parade Mistress/Silent Auction booth), Tim Gray (Setup/Cleanup), Samantha and Natasha Gray (Setup/Face Painting booth/Cleanup), Zachary Gray, BSA Troop #1114 (Children’s Games/Cleanup), Daniel Hilliard (Setup/Cleanup), Nat Hilliard (Setup/Silent Auction Booth), Fran (Lamb) Hooks (Public Relations and Advertising), Reverend Ross Hooks (Invocation), Dena Kahan (Exhibitor Setup/Ticket Booth/Cleanup), Homer and Beverly Myers (Setup/Watermelon Booth/Cleanup), Ulrike Smith (Ticket Booth), and Helen Wise (Setup). Last but not least, I want to thank my husband, Randy Hilliard, who always does such an amazing job as our Events Chair. Without his logistical skill, this event would never get off the ground.

The 4th of July celebration is not a fundraiser, but our annual silent auction helps offset the costs of putting on the event. This year we raised over $700 thanks to a variety of great items donated by sports teams from around the state including Dallas Stars Hockey, FC Dallas Soccer, the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation (Dallas Cowboys), the Houston Rockets, the Texas Rangers, and Texas Stars Hockey. Local donors include the Benjamin Knox Gallery, Blue Baker, Patty Clark, Brazos Glassworks, the Brazos Valley Bombers, Jim.n.i, Kwik-Kar, Lady Camo, Beverly Myers, Steve Miller, Old Bryan Marketplace, Southern Grace, Texas Rose Boutique, The Chocolate Gallery, Harvey and Helen Wise, and Studio Yoga. We also received a monetary donation from Fran (Lamb) Hooks. Due to July 4th being on a Saturday, and part of a long weekend, it seemed like our turnout was not quite as high as last year, but the feedback has been uniformly enthusiastic, which is all we ask. While we are busy wrapping up the after-event paperwork, rest assured we are also already making plans for our 30th annual Independence Day in the Park for July 4, 2016. Our 30th year coincides with the 175th anniversary of the founding of Brazos County and the 150th year of the founding of Bryan, so it will be a time for celebrating some auspicious anniversaries.

Moving on from the 4th of July event, I wanted to discuss a few other items of business. First, our next event will be Boonville Days on October 10. We’ve had a booth at the event multiple years and we always enjoy getting to share local history with visitors. We also offer a butter-churning demonstration, complete with snacks. We showcase vintage school books, a Brazos County timeline, and antique pioneer items loaned to us by Dr. Lou Hodges. I hope you’ll think about attending the event, which is always a wonderful look at our pioneer period. If you do, be sure and stop by our booth and say “hi!”

As you can see, we’ve been working on the look and content of the newsletter. As well as the new features, we also plan to start publishing quarterly in order to make our newsletter a more useful tool for sharing what is going on with BHS. The changes in our newsletter would not be possible without the help of Stephanie Snyder, a BHS member in San Antonio who stepped up and offered to do much of the production. Don’t forget, however, that if you are a social media user, we also post regularly on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/brazosheritagesociety. Not only do we share BHS events and information, we also share both local and national items of historical interest. It is a great way to stay in touch in between newsletter issues.

In separate articles, I provide updates on the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin project and the revitalized effort to restore Temple Freda, Bryan’s first synagogue, located on Parker Street just off downtown behind Old Bryan Marketplace. If you would like more historical information, you can visit our website at brazosheritage.org under Projects.

Finally, if you are a newsletter subscriber but not a member, I would like to encourage you to formally join the Brazos Heritage Society. Memberships are as low as $10/individual or $15/family. We are only as strong as our membership, and we truly value your support and your ideas.

2015 Annual 4th of July in Heritage Park

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

It’s that time of year again when we start planning to host the annual Old-Fashioned 4th of July in Heritage Park! This free community event will be held on Saturday, July 4 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

One thing that makes our 4th of July event a continuing success each year is the participation of local individuals, businesses, and organizations. In the past we have been blessed with everything from monetary donations to support KORA doing a live broadcast to the free watermelons we serve to the guests. Many of our donors also provide items for our silent auction. Additionally, each year we have a wonderful group of exhibitors who set up booths and share their organization’s unique message/function with our attendees.

Based on prior years, I estimate that the 4th of July will cost between $2,200 and $2,500 for us to host. These are draft numbers; I will not have finalized numbers until May or June. The past few years we’ve been able to about break even or come out a little ahead solely due to the generosity of our sponsors and donors.

While last year’s event was very successful, we are always looking to improve and make this an even better community experience. We would like to call on all our supporters to help expand our list of sponsors/donors/exhibitors for the 2015 4th of July event.

First of all, if you know an individual or organization who might be wiling to sponsor some aspect of the event, or donate to the event or the silent auction, please contact them. We can provide you with a fundraising request letter as well as an electronic version of the IRS 501(c)(3) letter, our EIN letter, and our bylaws if your contact needs or requests any of these supporting documents. If you are not comfortable contacting them, we would at least appreciate an introduction so that we don’t have to “cold call” on anyone.

Second, if you know any non-profit organizations in Brazos County who might like to be an exhibitor, please extend them an invitation. Inviting non-profit exhibitors highlights the wonderful and varied services provided by these organizations in our community. For-profit groups are welcome as long as their purpose is to provide some type of free activity or educational message to the community, rather than advertising or selling their products (e.g., Home Depot’s craft activity booth). Interested exhibitors are welcome to contact me with any questions.

Below is a list of last year’s donors and exhibitors to give you an idea of who has supported our event in years past. Any sponsors/donors or exhibitors will be acknowledged in our program, on social media, on our 2015 4th of July webpage, and with a written thank you letter acknowledging their contribution for tax purposes. The Brazos Heritage Society is a 501(c)3 organization for purposes of donations.

Sponsors/donors and exhibitors from last year:

BSA Troop 383 (St. Joseph Catholic Church)
Dent Magic
Saint-Gobain NorPro
The Downtown Bryan Assn.
The Farm Patch

Sheila Fields
John and Keith Halsell
Catherine Herrin
Dan and Nat Hilliard
Fran Hooks
Henry Mayo
Tom and Caroline McDonald
Homer and Beverly Myers
Bookman and Florence Peters
Mervin and Annette Peters

Baylor Athletic Department
Benjamin Knox
Brazos Glassworks
Brazos Valley Bombers
Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History
Dallas Stars (Hockey)
Disneyland California
FC Dallas (Soccer)
Gene and Jerry Jones Family Charities (Dallas Cowboys)
Lady Camo
Steve Miller
Beverly Myers
Southern Grace
Texas Rose Boutique
The Chocolate Factory
Helen Wise

A & M Garden Club
American Red Cross
Bluebonnet Streetrodders
Brazos Spinners and Weavers Guild
Brazos Valley Veterans
Daughters of the American Revolution
Habitat for Humanity
Home Depot
Museum of the American GI
The American Legion Earl Graham Post #159 Auxiliary
The Brazos Bluebonnet Quilt Guild
The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History
The James C. Taylor Assn.

Gerald Garcia

National Sojourners
Proud Country

FINALLY, we cannot truly put on a good community event without the help of volunteers. This is a labor-intensive project and we can use help in the following areas:

Setup (active position in the sun)

Children’s Games (active position in the sun)

Face painting (sitting under canopy)

Ticket Sales (sitting under canopy)

Silent Auction (sitting under canopy)

BHS Booth (sitting under canopy)

Concessions – 2 booths (active under canopy)
Clean up (active position in the sun)

Thanks for your help!

Stephanie Hilliard, President and Randy Hilliard, Events Chair

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