As we travel we are always on the lookout for small
local museums that give us a good picture of the local area
and/or people. In many cases we rely on recommendations to guide
us in our choices. On this particular day, Lynn Davis and his
wife Sue, said they had driven by the Rio Grande Valley Museum
and thought that possibly we might be interested in looking it
over. Well, we did and found it a very charming little museum. When we arrived at
the main building a young lady by the name of Celina explained to
us that they currently didn't have an exhibit in the main
building (which they normally do). However, they were presently
between exhibits. She did say that there was a film that we could
watch that gave an overview of the history of the valley and
explained the buildings that we would be seeing on our tour.
After the movie, we were joined by some other folks for a tour given by "Rod" Rodriguez, a very personable young man who did an excellent job in explaining the buildings, their former occupants, and in answering our questions.
The first building we went in was the Hill House, the original residence of Lon C. Hill, the founder of Harlingen. Hill moved his wife and eight children to Harlingen in the early 1900's. Unfortunately, before the house could be completed and they could move in, Hill's wife and youngest son died of a Typhoid epidemic that struck the area. However, he finally moved into the house with his remaining children and he and the town prospered.
The second building we went through was the Harlingen Hospital, the first in the city. It dates from the 1920's and depicts early health care in the Valley . It was a seven bed hospital. What was amazing was how much of the equipment resembled the various instruments used in hospitals today. In particular we noted the design of the "always attractive and flattering back-less hospital gowns" and the "ever comfortable" bedpan. You would think with all of our knowledge and technology that we could have come up with something better. They also had a dentist's chair and tools which also eerily resembled those that are in use today. In one of the cases was a display which puzzled me. It was a number of skeins of yarn in different colors. Our guide explained that these were used to test color blindness.
The third building was the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn, which was a much welcomed stopping place for travels going in or out of Harlingen. The lobby contained a post office and we found out that the price for a room for a night was 35¢ a night. However, they did have one room that was a little cheaper. That room had to be gone through to get to the kitchen. So, every morning, bright and early about 4:30-5:00 AM the entire population of the Inn stomped through this person's room. Either he was an exceptionally heavy sleeper or he got a very good room rate. They had some things in the kitchen that were very interesting, one was a special heater that went under the tin coffee pot to keep the coffee hot (MR. Coffee eat your heart out). And the second was a forerunner to the crock pot. It looked like a metal safe. You put hot coals in the bottle of it, and then put your pot on top of it, covering it was the lid. This cooked the food while it was in there. And then at meal time, Voila! warm food. Hmmm, wonder if I can get recipes?
Aside from the main visitors' center the other buildings had all been moved to this yarea from somewhere else. However, that was not the case with the last building. The last building had been a jail and now housed a varied collection of memorabilia. There were civil war relics, along with an extensive collection of shells, and some spectacular paintings. One of the things we saw that were interesting was a small model of Harlingen as it was some time back. We felt that our trip to the museum was certainly worthwhile and entertaining. Be sure if you get by there, stop in and see it. Also, you might want to check out their website for hours, days open, etc. It is: http://www.ci.harlingen.tx.us/museum1.htm.
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