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What to Expect from a Visit to the Museum of South Texas History

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One of the most fascinating places you can go to in the southern part of the Lone Star State is the Museum of South Texas History. Located in the city of Edinburg in Hidalgo County, it offers an excellent glimpse into the history of the Rio Grande Valley which connects South Texas with Northeastern Mexico.

Here is a quick overview of what this notable local attraction can offer.

Museum History

The Museum of South Texas History was established in 1967, then known as the Hidalgo County Historical Museum. The museum was built inside and around the former jailhouse of Hidalgo County.

Museum Highlights

The Museum of South Texas History is organized into three main areas:

  • 1910 Jail

Built in a captivating Spanish Mission Revival style with bright, white walls and a red tile roof, the former county jail was among the first buildings to be erected in the former river town of Hidalgo (now the city of Edinburg). The building also served as a community center when a new jailhouse was opened in 1922 and later as city hall.

The 1910 Jail Museum officially opened in 1970, instantly gaining popularity from the local community and prompting more growth for the museum. It is best known for its gallows trap door.

  • Rio Grande Legacy Exhibition

The premier attraction of the Museum of South Texas History, the Rio Grande Legacy presents the valley’s story told in three parts: the River Frontier, River Highway, and River Crossroads.

The exhibits in the upper level include a variety of prehistoric fossils, tools from ancient human civilizations, treasures from the Spanish colonial era, and relics from the wars and battles that the location became witness to. There are also artifacts that illustrate the region’s roles as a productive steamboat route and cattle field.

The lower level depicts the eras that transformed the Rio Grande Valley into what it is today. On display here are artifacts and relics that illustrate the dawn of railways and irrigation systems, the wars of the 20th century, and the period of growth and modernization following these wars.

  • Will Looney Legacy Park

Outside the museum’s main buildings is a park that showcases the 1910 Jail’s architectural beauty. The Will Looney Legacy Park also features various historical artifacts, including a wooden windmill connected to a water tank, a traditional “leña” log fence, a sundial, and a winding path detailed with native animal tracks—all surrounded by lush native plants.

Also worth checking out in the museum is the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives (MHMMA), an extensive collection of thousands of photographs and historical documents relevant to the development of South Texas throughout the generations. You will need an appointment if you want to view these documents and materials.

How to Get There

The Museum of South Texas History is located in downtown Edinburg, TX at 200 North Closner Boulevard. If you are coming from Live Oak County, it is approximately 150 miles south, or a drive of roughly about two-and-a-half hours.

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