Famous Landmarks in Victoria – Our Top Five
When you can drive two hours in any direction and arrive in some of the largest cities in Texas, it’s easy to plan a day trip to visit some of Texas’ great landmarks. Two hours gets you to Austin, the Capitol of Texas, or San Antonio, the home of the Alamo. Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, they’re all right there, just two hours down the road.
With all of these places in such close proximity (relatively speaking), it’s easy to forget that we have some famous landmarks right here in Victoria, Texas. So I’ve put together a list, in no particular order, of some of the historically significant places you might want to visit right here at home.
Victoria County Courthouse:
Located in downtown Victoria, some of us drive by the courthouse on a regular basis. It’s something we take for granted. Some of us have driven by it for years without giving it much of a second thought; it’s just something we take for granted. It’s worth noting, however, that not only is it a beautiful building but there’s also not a person alive today who can say they remember when it was built.
The Victoria County Courthouse was designed by architect J. Riely Gordon and was built in 1892 by Martin, Byrne, and Johnston. Think about that for a second. That building you drive by and take for granted on a semi-regular basis is 119 years old.
If you’ve never had to visit one of its courtrooms for jury duty (or for, ahem, other legal reasons), it can be a bit intimidating when you first walk in. It’s obvious the interior was built with a flair for the dramatic. Voices as low as a whisper can carry across the room and when the judge speaks, the sound of his voice reverberates around you. It’s an impressive effect and worth a visit to see the judicial system at work in the interior of this beautiful structure.
The Nave Museum:
Living in Victoria, we sometimes forget that there is a thriving art community to be enjoyed here. Symphony, theatre, and museums here in Victoria have events almost weekly. Among those choices is the Nave Museum.
Constructed in 1932 by the wife of Royston Nave after he died suddenly the year before, the Nave museum has exhibited the works of many artists, among them such well-known figures as Frieda Kahlo, Andy Warhol, and Joan Mitchell.
The Nave Museum is something of a piece of art itself and the exterior resembles a temple of sorts. Even if you were not inclined to go inside to view some of the artwork within, the exterior is worth the visit.
Presidio La Bahia:
While it’s 30 minutes south of Victoria, the Presidio La Bahia is one of the more historically significant landmarks in our area. Established in 1721 by the Spanish Army, it saw several moves before it was set in stone, no pun intended, in its current location in 1770.
The presidio saw several changes in “management” as the years went by, passing from Spain to Mexico, back to Spain, and back to Mexico. Notably, while Mexico was in possession, in October of 1835, a group of Texas revolutionaries marched on the fort and after a 30-minute battle that saw the surrender of the garrison stationed there, and was renamed Fort Defiance.
James Fannin, commander of the Texas forces occupying the presidio, would see both the fall of the Alamo and his own execution from within the walls of La Bahia.
Presidio La Bahia is known as the best-preserved Spanish presidios in the United States and I’ve had the privilege of attending two weddings at the La Bahia chapel. It’s worth the short drive to see this part of Texas’ history.
Located in Riverside Park, the Texas Zoo was a source of many “edutainment” weekends when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite places and sadly, as an adult, I’ve not visited nearly as much as I’d like.
Interestingly enough, the Texas Zoo found its beginning when James L. Yates donated an African lioness to Mayor W.R. McCright in 1957. It was that donation that set the mayor on the path to establish the Zoo and within a short time, several more animals were donated to the Zoo. By 1968, the Zoo was home for 85 different species of animals, totaling some 200 animals.
The Texas Zoo was designated The National Zoo of Texas in June of 1984 by the 68th Texas Legislature. Hosting weekly events, children have the opportunity to visit the different species and learn about each one through interactive programs.
Known as the oldest deli in Texas and one of the oldest restaurants in the United States, Fossati’s Delicatessen was opened in 1882 by Frashio Napoleon Fossati, an Italian immigrant. The current location has been in operation since 1895 and has remained in the same family during that time.
You can still see the metal rings on the exterior of the building where men tied up their horses when they went in for a drink. Inside, you can go into the Frank Napoleon room where you can see hundreds of cookbooks from the many years the restaurant has been in business.
Aside from the historical value of the building, Fossati’s is one of the best places in town for a quick and tasty lunch. If you haven’t had the opportunity to dine there, I highly recommend the Turkey BLT.
There it is. My top 5 famous landmarks in Victoria and perhaps some things you didn’t know about them. With summer on the way and gas prices going nowhere but up, you might think there’s nothing to do or anywhere to visit. But sometimes, it’s your own backyard that you can have the most interesting time.