As humans, we tend to be passionate about the brands we wear, the teams we love and the hobbies we enjoy. However, there is no passion quite like that of someone who’s attached to a certain place or space.

When we think about attachment to place, I have always wondered why we grow so fond of buildings, homes and landmarks. Aren’t they just buildings? If that’s the case, why the upheaval when cities choose to tear down old buildings? Where DOES this attachment come from?

As time goes on, it becomes clear to me that this type of emotional attachment is not only physiologically normal and expected, but vital to the sustainability of our community’s history. Our memories and past behaviors draw and connect us to places in ways that Nike tennis shoes and Dallas Cowboy football simply cannot. The memory of reading children’s books and exploring our favorite characters within the vibrant walls of a community library, as with this highlighted space, is much stronger than the many passions we enjoy in our daily lives.

No community understands and appreciates this connection better than that of Nacogdoches and now, during this beautiful spring season, is a perfect time to celebrate our preservation efforts and highlight our rich history.

When looking at downtown Nacogdoches, even a blind eye can recognize its charm, history and uniqueness. Viewers will always associate with various nuances and elements differently, but the historical pulse one feels when walking in downtown Nacogdoches is undeniable.

When asked to showcase our historical downtown buildings, my first choice was undoubtedly the Charles Bright Visitors Center, which houses the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When you enter the building, you begin to understand why it’s so special. It is full of life, history and nostalgia. When the early 1900s photograph below is shared on the Nacogdoches Main Street Facebook page, people tune in from around the country to view our city’s “old post office building.” Memories of a first job at the public library or daily visits to the post office are quickly shared. I too, have heard first-hand charming stories and memories from many about this building.

Photo circa 1917 courtesy of Stephen F. Austin State University East Texas Research Center

It is clear that 200 E. Main Street may look like a visitors center to a newcomer. However, for those who grew up in Nacogdoches, this building means so much more.

The nucleus of our downtown was designed by United States Treasury Department architect James Wetmore and was completed in 1917. After differences in opinion from community members not wanting to develop “the square,” minds were changed when the proposed building—to be used for federal purposes—was proposed. In April 1914, voters elected to sell the site to the Federal Government for $5,000. 

This space represents one of the few local examples of Classical Revival architecture and is a Registered Texas Historic Landmark (1999). Although the south facade, second story edition was added in later years, the building remains enchantingly intact.

In 1964, a new post office was constructed on Main Street and the building was sold to the city in 1973 to house the public library. In 1997, it became the visitors center we know and love today, now lovingly named after Charles Bright – a beloved local philanthropist and business man whose legacy has provided countless blessings to the community.

Photo circa 1996

Regardless of its storied and enchanting life, the building is a true treasure for downtown Nacogdoches. Today, one can enter the building and feel a sense of joy and welcoming—something I know we are proud to share with residents and visitors for many years to come.

To learn more about Nacogdoches historical buildings, contact Stephen F. Austin State University’s Center for Regional Heritage Research.

Post contributed by Amy Mehaffey, City of Nacogdoches Communications and Main Street Director

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