The Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park will soon receive $8 million in funding from the Texas state budget for renovations and other projects.
Additionally, the museum’s operations will, by next year, be organized and run by the Texas Historical Commission following after the passage and subsequent signing of Texas Senate Bill 2309, which was sponsored by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and state Rep. Ben Leman, R-Iola.
“The Star of the Republic Museum is already a popular tourism destination, and thanks to Senator Kolkhorst securing an $8 million appropriation, the Star of the Republic will become one of the top attractions in the region,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the Texas Historical Commission.
Blinn College officials testified in favor of SB 2309 during the committee process. According to the bill’s text, Blinn will still own the museum, the artifacts inside it and the land it rests upon. On June 10, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law.
In a statement, Kolkhorst said she was excited about the funding and is grateful for Leman’s support.
“For years, I have been laying the groundwork for the state to substantially invest in Washington-on-the-Brazos,” Kolkhorst said. “The Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association has been striving to enhance the visitor experience, but costs have been prohibitive. With these state funds, we will see the needed updates and renovations.”
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park, along with other state parks, will be transferred from Texas Parks and Wildlife to the Texas Historical Commission under House Bill 1422.
According to Chris Florance, the Texas Historical Commission’s communications director, the commission also now has jurisdictional authority over the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park as well as Barrington Living History Farm.
“I think probably the biggest thing the commission is excited about is the opportunity to create a more integrated visitor experience,” Florance said of the THC’s plans for the area.
Florance cited the Casa Navarro and San Felipe sites as other examples of commission-affiliated historical sites that the Texas Historical Commission hopes history-inclined visitors include on a larger tour of Republic of Texas locations.
“We really feel that we will be able to develop this portfolio of sites related to the Texas Revolution and the Texas Republic,” Florance said. “We’re excited to bring in the Star of the Republic Museum and view that as one of the critical places where we’ll be able to share that history and attract visitors.”
In 1965, then-state Rep. Gus Mutscher, who later became Texas House speaker, introduced a bill appropriating $800,000 for the construction of a museum “at the Birthplace of Texas that would be a Star upon a Star.” In 1969, Mutscher wrote House Bill 634 transferring the ownership of the museum to Blinn College. The Star of the Republic Museum was formally dedicated March 1, 1970.
“For nearly a half century, Blinn College has been a trusted steward of the Star of the Republic Museum and they will continue to be involved in enhancing the learning experience,” Kolkhorst said in a statement. “I want to especially thank former House Speaker Gus Mutscher who had the vision for a museum at this hallowed park. This new funding and collaboration is furthering his vision, to tell the important story of The Republic of Texas and its founding fathers.”