Good morning and thank you for joining the City of Brownsville as we announce the honor and recognition bestowed upon the City by the National Park Service.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list by the National Park Service of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.

As the most historic city in the state south of San Antonio, within our city limits lies a drive of historical buildings, architecture, and stories of our nation’s past, which must be preserved for the education and enjoyment of future generations.

It is with great pride that I share that the Central Brownsville Historic District has been designated a National Historic District.

There are 337 historic buildings in the Central Brownsville Historic District, most notably our Downtown Market Square, the Dance Building and the very building we stand in, Brownsville City Hall.

The Central Brownsville Historic District is bounded by East Levee, East 10th, East Monroe, and East 15th/East 14th Streets, as well as a two-block extension along the 800 and 900 blocks of East Elizabeth Street.

I would like to extend my great appreciation to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) which in January provided an endorsement for placement on the National Historic District Designation.

Economic development is a key driver of Brownsville’s success. 

In 2016, the Texas Historical Commission designated our Downtown Brownsville a Main Street District. Since then, our mission to revitalize and re-establish Downtown Brownsville has come to fruition as new businesses open and the arts and culture of our community find a place to thrive. 

National Historic District Designation provides incentives to invest in our Downtown Brownsville, including:

  • Valuable consideration in planning for Federal, Federally licensed, and Federally assisted projects
  • Eligibility for 25 percent State and 20 percent Federal Historic Tax Credits programs; and 
  • Qualification for State and Federal grants for historic preservation.

I thank you all for joining us and look forward to more celebrations in our beautiful Historic Downtown Brownsville.

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was provided by Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez at a news conference held at Brownsville City Hall on Thursday, August 9, 2019. Local officials were celebrating the designation of the Central Brownsville Historic District as a National Historic District. Other speakers at the news conference were architect Calvin Walker and City of Brownsville Historic Preservation Officer Juan M. Velez.

Mendez interview

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – After the news conference, Mendez spoke to Rio Grande Guardian reporter Steve Taylor about the designation. In the interview, Mendez pointed out that he has purchased historic buildings in Brownsville in order to help preserve them.

Asked how many he has purchased, Mendez said: “Over the last ten years, I would have to count them all, but probably around seven or eight and I still own about four of them. They are not within the boundaries of the district that was recognized today but they are in the historic district of the city.”

During the news conference, Mendez said historic buildings were “near and dear to my heart.” Asked about that afterwards, Mendez said:  

“Historical preservation is a passion for me. I certainly have not made money off of the buildings I have purchased – it has been a hobby for me. I just love the architecture, I love the materials, and I just love the history and the story that the buildings tell.”

Asked why the historical designation is important, Mendez said:

“It creates opportunities for investments, people that want to invest will get some of that money back in tax credits. It also allows them to get certain economic benefits. Studies show that historical preservation and redevelopment and adaptive reuse in historic districts is actually more beneficial to cities and spurs economic development more than anything else. New construction does not have the same effect. It is the charm that they bring. Having a mix of old and new buildings attracts people from all sorts of demographics. Young or old, people have interest in the history and the buildings and the spaces that are here.”

During the news conference, Mendez made the bold claim that Brownsville is the most historic city in Texas, apart from San Antonio. He was asked afterwards how many people in Brownsville appreciate this. Mendez responded:

“It is something that is taken for granted. Brownsville is the second most historic city in Texas, after San Antonio. And when you start looking at cities that have the same sort of historic fabric that we do – you think of San Antonio, you think about Galveston, you think about New Orleans, and some of the other sea ports, such as Charleston. You see that there is a lot of the same architecture. If you go back far enough you will see some of the same people were involved, some of the same architects, some of the same builders. Even some of the materials that we have in Brownsville were imported at one time from New Orleans or from Galveston.”

The difference between Brownsville and San Antonio or New Orleans or Charleston, Mendez said, is that Brownsville has not capitalized on its history. He said getting the national designation will help.

“We have a lot of what these other cities have but what we have not had is the leadership to capitalize on it and take advantage of our historical charm. Other cities have done so and they have attracted a lot of tourism. Brownsville has that ability and that potential and we have to capitalize on it.”