Among the many amazing hidden gems of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, certainly the largest is the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.
And it is almost literally hidden. The facility is located on a small farm-to-market road on the outskirts of the town of Liberty, Texas, about 45 miles east of Houston. The Center consists of six structures on a 127-acre parcel of land that was donated to TSLAC by former Texas Governor Price Daniel. The centerpiece of the campus is a library and archives center that houses a collection of historical materials related to the 10-county region of southeast Texas.
Also on the campus of the Sam Houston Center (affectionately known as the “Sam Center” among TSLAC employees), is a replica of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin built by Gov. and Mrs. Daniel in the early 1980s. The Daniels never lived in the home and eventually donated it to the state. The campus also encompasses four other historical structures that were brought to the property over the last 30 years, including a historical church, two houses dating to the mid-19th Century, and a structure that served as a Rotary Club headquarters.
For many years, available funding did not allow for the proper care of the Sam Houston Center. But that changed in 2012 when the Texas Legislature began appropriating $1 million each biennium — or $500,000 per year — to address maintenance and safety issues. The result is that since 2012, under the guidance of State Archivist Jelain Chubb, and with the hard work of Center Manager Alana Inman and her dedicated team, the Sam Houston Center is now a totally renovated, reimagined, and modernized facility, a true jewel in which the state and the region can take great pride.
The changes include ones that a visitor would not notice such as new fire suppression and security systems, drainage systems to keep damaging water flow away from the structures, and many structural repairs and updates to the facilities. But some are much more noticeable such as the addition of a new classroom in the Center, updated furnishings in the reading room, and a revamped lobby display area.
One of the most spectacular changes is the addition of the permanent museum display called “Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas.” The exhibit is a brand new and highly interactive exhibit that explores the history, culture, and economy of the 10-county region. The exhibit offers much to discover from a life-sized mammoth and hundreds of projectile points as much as 13,000 years old to exhibits exploring regional industries such as timber, oil and maritime commerce. The exhibits also explore the extensive participation and contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups in the region.
The Center is open and ready to receive visitors. Classes and individuals are encouraged to visit the excellent museum exhibits and researchers and historians are urged to stop and learn about the unique holdings in the Sam Houston Center.
You will find it well worth the drive.
The Sam Houston Center is at 650 FM 1011, Liberty, Texas, 77575 and is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.