Lead photo: Discovering San Filipe de Austin Historical Site – Texas. Photo courtesy Texas Historical Commission
Discovering San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, Texas
A Special Feature from our friends at the Texas Historical Commission
On a road trip, knowing where to stop along the way is almost as essential as knowing the final destination. Conveniently located off of I-10 just west of Houston, San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site is a truly Texan destination with historical exhibits and programs as well as some of the cleanest bathrooms around.
Now that the word is out, savvy roadtrippers are planning their trips to include a stop at San Felipe de Austin Historic Site for the clean, surprisingly upscale and convenient restroom facilities, and the opportunity to stretch their legs while learning about the history of the early social, economic and political center of Texas.
After taking a break from their travels, visitors can enjoy a walk in the footsteps of the early pioneers who lived in Stephen F. Austin’s colony from 1823 to 1836, and learn about the crucial role the site played in the Texas Revolution.
In the war for Texas Independence, San Felipe de Austin was lost in true Texan spirit. A small garrison burned their town to the ground as the community evacuated during the Runaway Scrape of 1836. San Felipe de Austin was one of a few communities that did this to prevent their town from falling into the hands of the Mexican army.
The tough, can-do attitude of these early settlers lives on in Texans today, and is worn as a badge of honour. Travellers can tour San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site’s 10,000 square-foot visitor center, explore the outdoor exhibit that showcases reconstructed buildings based on structures that were part of the town 200 years ago and brush up on their history with the interpretive signage located along the walking trails. Stephen F. Austin State Park is also conveniently located nearby and offers five miles of hiking and biking trails to round out a day of exploring the area.
Now is the time to make the pitstop at the site since this year marks the 200th anniversary of the town’s founding. A momentous celebration will take place at the annual Father of Texas event on Saturday, November 11, 2023 with a day of free activities commemorating the story of San Felipe de Austin.
Visitors can enjoy interactive demonstrations spread throughout the site and in the Villa de Austin exhibit as they travel back in time to experience what life at the site was like in the early 1800s. Living historians will portray some of the daily activities including cooking, baking, woodworking and drilling with the militia leader. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet with the alcalde in the courthouse and discover the origins of the Texas Rangers and their equipment. They can then explore what the printing process entailed as one of the earliest newspapers in Texas, the “Texas Gazette,” originated in San Felipe de Austin and learn about how clothing was made.
To round out their day, guests are invited to learn about the process for early settlers to join the colony and will have the unique opportunity of “becoming a colonist” themselves. Similar to what the early settlers were required to do, visitors will be able to create their own certificate of character, which was used as a benchmark for the acceptance into San Felipe de Austin, and present it to the secretaries of the land office for approval. If approved, participants will then make their way to talk with surveyors and receive “surveyor notes” followed by final approval from Stephen F. Austin who will be waiting at the site’s schoolhouse to receive and sign all of the documents they have collected. The land title and any other documents they received will be theirs to take home.
Stopping by during the 200th anniversary celebration is not only a great way to explore the site in an immersive way, but also check out some of the coolest and cleanest bathrooms in Texas. A quick rest break during a long road trip can turn into an opportunity for roadtrippers to become an “official colonist” of San Felipe de Austin.
For more information please visit: https://www.thc.texas.gov/historic-sites/san-felipe-de-austin-state-historic-site