As a native-born Texan who's lived here all but four years of my life, I am pretty familiar with the events surrounding the settling and establishment of Texas, but this modest, beautiful state historic site - much of which is free - fills in the gaps. For my wife, who grew up in Virginia, the information presented was mostly new and fascinating.
The park has several parts:
- visitor center and gift shop: contains an exhibit highlighting the details of the founding of Texas during Spanish and Mexican ownership; the establishment of Washington, at one point one of the largest towns in what would become Texas and later known as the "Philadelphia of Texas," events leading to the creation and signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence and constitution; the war of independence from Mexico, the decade of Texas as an independent country, and, finally, annexation by the US and the decline of Washington post-Civil War.
- recreation of Independence Hall, where the declaration was created and signed by representatives from what is now the eastern third of the state (the western two-thirds were basically wild, unsettled lands)
- the town site of Washington, with walking trails leading to overlooks of the Brazos and the historically significant Robinson ferry crossing of the Brazos, the impetus for the creation of the town
- picnic areas
All of the above are available without charge. Other facilities on-site, well worth a visit despite a small admission fee, are:
- Guided tour of the townsite: park rangers provide a great deal of information about the township and the tumultuous times surrounding the creation and declaration of independence
- Star of Texas Museum: two story museum including a theatre and exhibits with more detail about Texas, pre- and post-independence
- Barrington Living History Farm: Anson Jones' farmstead, restored/re-created with historical re-enactors to show you what a typical day in the 1840s would be like. Jones was the last president of the Republic. Authentic clothing, tools, farming techniques, crops, and farm animals enhance the experience.
At this time, each of the above are $5 for adults, with an "all event" pass for $9.
We spent most of a day here on Labor Day weekend. The park was never crowded, though more people arrived in the early afternoon. Everything is in easy walking distance, and there is parking available close by for those for whom walking is an issue. The staff and re-enactors were all friendly and willing not only to share their knowledge but to answer any questions you might have.
This is not a fancy, Disney-like attraction, but if you want to get a better feel for the founding of Texas, the Washington-on-the-Brazos state historical park is a superb way to get it.
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