HARLINGEN — For decades, the two old buildings formed the Harlingen Historical Museum, standing along the courtyard of the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum.
Five years ago, city leaders envisioned reviving its exhibits to tell the story of a town that rose from the White Horse Desert.
Now, the money’s rolling out to help preserve parts of the city’s legacy.
The Rio Grande Valley Museum Association has raised $119,900 to complete the five-year renovation of two buildings that once housed the Harlingen Air Base’s police squadron and brig.
The project includes upgrading exhibits to tell the story of the city’s evolution from a rough-and-tumble railroad stop to an agricultural center, Joel Humphries, the city’s arts and entertainment director, said yesterday.
As part of the project, the city will recognize the residents whose donations will help turn a vision into a historical treasure trove.
“The idea is to completely revamp all the exhibits to make them more pertinent to people today — for young people to relate,” Humphries said. “Our goal is to tell our story of Harlingen and the surrounding area — to tell it in a more compelling way.”
Exhibits will showcase the city’s development from a railroad stop known as Six Shooter Junction to its role as home of the Harlingen Air Base, which closed in 1962.
“This will focus on the history of the area,” Humphries said. “As you’re guided through, you’ll see the area before it was developed, through the history of commercial agriculture to the influence of the military.”
The $300,000 project includes the creation of a mural that will honor the donors committed to preserving the city’s rich history.
The 8-foot by 20-foot mural will stand in front of the buildings featuring donors’ names engraved on acrylic plaques in the form of airplanes.
“There’s an Air Force theme,” Humphries said.
To help fund the project, the Rio Grande Valley Museum Association has raised $65,000, which the city has matched.
Meanwhile, volunteers raised about $40,000 while H-E-B, which has secured the buildings’ naming rights, has donated $100,000.
In 1964, the grocery chain’s Howard E. Butt donated the buildings to the city.
Humphries said the museum plans to raise an additional $40,000.
So far, the city has remodeled the buildings’ interiors, adding restroom space and three archways that will connect exhibits.
“There’s a greater flow in the building with the two existing exhibit halls being joined together,” Humphries said.
The city estimates the project will be complete in about a year.
The Arts and Heritage Museum’s courtyard features the Air Base buildings, city founder Lon C. Hill’s home, the city’s first hospital and a replica of the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn.
To donate, contact the museum at 956-216-4901 or visit the museum at 2425 Boxwood St.