Museum to celebrate history at April 27 event

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A 10,000-square-foot museum, said to be Austin County’s crown jewel, will be unveiled at a grand opening ceremony at 1:30 p.m. April 27.

Board members have been aggressively soliciting donations from local government entities for the $12.5 million facility at 220 Second St. in San Felipe. The state has pledged about $5.2 million, which leaves more than $7 million to be raised by charitable donations for the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site Museum.

“The first chapter of Texas gaining its independence from Mexico started in San Felipe, and it’s so overlooked because, if you recall in your seventh-grade Texas history, the town was ordered to be burned by Sam Houston when Santa Anna was coming up,” museum advocate Chris Beckendorff said during a recent address before the Sealy City Council. “They burned everything … That’s probably the most important chapter of this convoluted history that the state of Texas has. It’s quite colorful.”

According to the Texas Historical Commission website, the new San Felipe museum “will offer visitors a chance to see unique objects on display including a desk that once belonged to Stephen F. Austin, an 1830s cast iron printing press and many artifacts recovered during archaeological investigations at the site.”

Austin County has been waiting a long time for a landmark visitors’ center “that would share the stories of Stephen F. Austin and his early colonists with people from all over the world,” said site manager Bryan McAuley.

“As planning gets underway for just such a visitor experience, Austin County has shown its support in many direct ways,” McAuley said. “Most notably, the county has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the [Texas Historical Commission] to share staff and resources to achieve parts of the development project. Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King and his staff have taken an active role in clearing some of the acreage that will be part of the new development. Currently, they are assisting in land clearing for areas being considered as the location for the planned new visitors’ center. The Precinct 4 staffers are very skilled at these land management tasks and also have equipment that is capable of clearing brush and small trees with very minimal surface disturbance — an important consideration for such a significant archeological site.”

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