Street Address
Sam Houston State University, PO Box 2057
Huntsville, TX 77341
Mailing Address
Sam Houston State University, PO Box 2057
Huntsville, TX 77341
phone: 936-294-1832
fax: 936-294-3670
e-mail: smm_pbn@shsu.edu
web: www.SAMHOUSTON.org
Museum Type(s)
Staff
Dr. Patrick B. Nolan, Director

Description

Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville, TX is one of more than 15,400 museums in the MuseumsUSA directory. Find an exciting museum to visit where you live or vacation today.

History

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum historic site is located within the city limits of Huntsville, Walker County, Texas. It occupies some 18 acres of the original farm of over 200 acres owned by General Sam Houston and his family from 1847 until 1858. The movement to preserve Sam Houston's Huntsville homestead began in 1905 at the instigation of history students from Sam Houston Normal Institute (now Sam Houston State University). The students, having acquired several acres of the original Houston tract, moved the Houston's Woodland Home and Law Office back to their original site in 1911. Subsequent years of neglect and improper maintenance prompted the school to seek financial assistance from the State of Texas for preservation of the structures. In 1927, the Legislature appropriated $15,000 for development of the home and site and a restoration and reconstruction project was undertaken. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission used a $35,000 appropriation for construction of the Rotunda section of the present Memorial Museum building, a modem facility designed to preserve and exhibit artifacts of the Houston era.

Sam Houston State University owns and manages the Museum as an integral part of the academic structure of the University; the Museum is not self-governing and there is no separate board of trustees or directors. In recognition of the state and national historical significance of the site, the entire complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Woodland Home was declared a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in May of 1974.

The current complex of 18 acres contains ten buildings and is divided between areas of natural woodland and landscaped spaces adjacent to the historic buildings. "Lake Oolooteka" is an artificial pond named in honor of Sam Houston's adoptive Cherokee Indian father. The lake was constructed in the shape of the state of Texas by the W.P.A. in 1936. It is a popular spot for picnics and many children have fond memories of feeding the ducks which gather along the shoreline.

Woodland Home is the most important structure on the grounds of the Museum complex. It was built in 1847 when Houston was serving as one of the first United States Senators from Texas and was spending more than half of each year in Washington, DC. His wife Margaret Lea Houston wished to live in a town house where she could have better access to medical care and the spiritual comfort of the First Baptist Church. The traditional-style, double-pen "dogtrot" log cabin was home to the Houstons until 1858 and four of their eight children were born here. The house is accurately furnished with several original Houston pieces offtimiture along with other items representative of the period.

Also dating to the 1847-1858 period is the Law Office, a single-room log cabin which served Houston as a study and gathering place for political discussions. It functioned as a cradle of Masonry in the early days of the Texas frontier. The Steamboat House, a building of unusual architectural design, was built by Dr. Rufus Bailey, a language professor at Austin College, in 1855. It was rented by the Houstons when General Sam returned to Huntsville in 1861 following his dismissal as Texas Governor for failing to pledge his loyalty to the Confederacy. On July 26, 1863 he died in the house and was buried from the front parlor. The Museum moved the house onto the grounds of the historic site in 1936.

The Rotunda is the most distinctive landmark on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum complex. It was constructed in 1936 at a cost of $35,000 by the Texas Centennial Commission as a memorial to General Sam Houston and a museum to house his artifacts and collections. The original plans included a tomb on the lower level for the remains of the General and his wife, Margaret Lee Houston. These plans were never carried out. The building is built in the Jeffersonian classic style similar to Jefferson's home, Monticello, and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. It has been expanded three times with north, south, and west wings and was most recently remodeled and renovated in 1995.

The Katy & E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center, completed in 1995, contains the museum store and gift shop, an exhibit gallery for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, and teaching and activity rooms. A blacksmith shop, pottery shop, and log cabin kitchen offer spaces for a variety of living history on-site demonstrations. School children and visitors study Texas history by doing it themselves, instead of watching others show them how to do it. Visitors learn about farm chores in "Work on the Farm," what kinds of games and toys Sam's children played with on "Play on the Farm," basic pioneer survival skills in "Frontier Skills," and how Sam's teenaged children interacted with society in "Social Customs of the Ante-bellum South."

The museum has a permanent professional staff of thirteen and averages 80,000 tourists per year. It offers guided tours of the historic homes, numerous living-history on-site demonstrations with costumed interpreters, and provides traveling trunks and lecturers to visit schools. The annual General Sam Houston Folk Festival features the folk crafts and life styles of pioneer East Texas. The collections house over 5,000 objects and artifacts and extensive archival and manuscript holdings, including the letters of Sam and Margaret Houston.

Artifacts Collections

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum (the"Museum") is an important educational institution dedicated to and responsible for the collection, preservation, conservation, exhibition, research, and interpretation of the historic buildings, landscape, artifacts, manuscript collections, other archival material, and objects of material culture witin its care. The Museum's primary concern and focus relate to Sam Houston, Margaret Houston, other membver of the Houston family and their descendants, and other individuals and events important in the early history, cultures, and development of Texas and the Southwest, particularly during the period from 1832-1863.

Artifacts, manuscript collections, and images of Sam Houston, Margaret Houston and Houston family; Early Texas objects of material culture from period 1830 - 1870; Senator Dixon H. Lewis Papers; Texas, Walker County, Huntsville manuscripts from period 1830-1870

Educational Programs

Traveling trunks, Early Virginia Life Trunk; American Indian Trunk; Early Texas Life Trunk; Toy Trunk; Cowboy Trunk; Fee $25 per trunk plus shipping cost by Texpak each way. Call for further information. Outreach programs.

    Publications

    Newsletter twice yearly