Steve Radack, Commissioner

Harris County Precinct 3
Cypress Top Historic Park
November 2017

  • Sam Houston Corvette Club
  • St Mary’s Catholic Church
  • history of St Mary’s
  • participants at alter
  • church exterior
  • Fernland
  • Dana Bickford
  • log cabin interior
  • roller organ
  • patented food warmer
  • Hulon House
  • 600yr old tree

Commissioner Steve Radack wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving. We hope you enjoy the holiday with family, friends, football, shopping, and turkey with dressing and pumpkin pie. May we all return to work more “well-rounded!”

This October, Cypress Top Historic Park was more active as we completed our first full month of being open three days per week. The park is now open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. As always, park grounds are open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

October is a popular month for groups to visit the park. Group visitors this October included the Sam Houston Corvette Club and the Spring Branch Independent School District retirees. The Sam Houston Corvette Club took advantage of a beautiful October Saturday to visit Cypress Top for a BBQ lunch and tour of the site. Founded in 1993, the club has around 165 families with over 200 Corvettes. While 38 club members enjoyed the amenities provided in our picnic grounds, nearly two dozen gorgeous Corvettes graced our parking lot alongside the historic Juergen House. After lunch, club members gathered for a tour. They enjoyed the displays in Juergen’s Store and were fascinated by the old bar and saloon counters. Their enthusiasm rose as they went from building to building culminating at the Humble service station. The Spring Branch ISD retirees were all former schoolteachers and were interested in every facet of the buildings and their contents. They enjoyed their guides’ stories and laughed at their jokes. The convivial group especially enjoyed the student quizzes Cypress Historical Society volunteer Jay Gavitt shared with them. He too is a former history teacher. In the Juergen House they listened carefully to the story of how the building, though an odd residence, perfectly fits the idea of being an 1856 railroad stop hotel.

The October History Bus Trip made a pair of interesting stops about an hour north of Cypress Top. Our first stop was in Plantersville, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The site for the church had been purchased in 1894 by the Diocese of Galveston and had once been a part of John Landrum’s Austin Colony grant. A parish was soon established and a church built to accommodate the original 70 families. In 1917, the bell tower of this original church was struck by lightning and the church burned to the ground. The present church quickly replaced it—albeit without the bell tower. St Mary’s is one of Texas’ famous “painted churches,” renowned for their vibrant and bright colors. Painted churches are known for the elaborate faux-finishes found on interior surfaces, many of which mimic stone and polished marble. Itinerant artists who advertised their services in church bulletins did much of the painting. The painted interior of St. Mary’s originally reflected the heritage of the first parishioners, largely of German and Polish descent. Over the years, much of the interior was painted over or otherwise covered. Beginning in 2002, a careful restoration project at St. Mary’s began. Workers removing paint layers discovered original paint colors and patterns, which have now been faithfully recreated. Our group was graciously offered the opportunity to take with them some of the flowers being removed from the sanctuary and many went home with some beautiful bouquets.

From St. Mary’s we headed east into Montgomery, where participants enjoyed a fine lunch at a local roadhouse and grill adjacent to historic downtown. After lunch, we traveled to the other side of historic downtown, where we were met by our tour guides, Dana and Julie, at Fernland Historical Park. Here we toured a collection of historic buildings, which had been acquired by Carroll and Mae Tharp. Mr. Tharp was a preservation architect by trade and a former member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Over a period of 20 years, the Tharps located, acquired and then took great care in assuring authentic restoration of these buildings. The Tharps eventually donated the buildings to Sam Houston State University. The University and the City of Montgomery developed a partnership and moved the buildings to Montgomery. The Montgomery site provides more people easier access to the buildings and their histories. In 2013, management of the park was taken over by the City of Montgomery. In addition to the buildings, there are a plethora of early artifacts typical of the later portion of the 19th century. They included a “roller organ” a type of early hand cranked music box and a patented foot warmer. Foot warmers were designed to sit on a stove to take up the heat and were then placed in the wagon floorboard to keep your feet warm while driving.The park also has this pine tree cross section which is more than six feet in diameter from a tree more than 600 years old. Such trees were common and provided a quality of lumber unsurpassed for early Texas homes and industry. Fernland Historical Park truly brings together early Texas life and architecture. The log homes and cabins presented within the park are some of the oldest remaining structures in Texas. The docents suggested we take a stroll through neighboring Memory Park and even provided some goodies to feed the fish. We rounded out the day by making one last stop at an ice cream shop.

There is an event calendar button on the Cypress Top Historic Park web page or click the Community Center events calendar located on the home page.

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