A TRIP TO WHARTON Day 1
9:30a.m. – Downtown Wharton
Visit Monterey Square, with its antique shops, coffee house, gift stores and the exquisite, historically-restored Wharton County Courthouse. Built in 1889, the courthouse was designed by noted architect Eugene Heiner and was brought back to its original glory in 2007 at a cost of $7.4 million.
The east side of the square is called the Burger Block, and includes the Burger Robertson Building, constructed in 1909, and the W. Roberts Building, constructed in 1919.
Don’t miss the murals. Completed by Texas artist Dayton Wodrich, they detail the county’s rich agricultural, religious and medicinal history.
Noon – Lunch Time
There’s a host of restaurants in the city, including some in the downtown area. For those craving some Tex-Mex, try Cuevos Mexican Restaurant, Los Cucos Mexican Restaurant, or Larry’s Mexican Restaurant, all located in the downtown area or nearby. There’s others, too — see our visitor’s guide. You can get one at the coffee shop or the chamber office, 225 N. Richmond Road.
1:30 p.m. – Morris Ranch Carriage House Museum
Among the meticulously restored and maintained carriages is the one that carried Vivien Leigh in the movie “Gone With the Wind.” Call ahead to make an appointment: 979-532-1862. The museum is located at 2110 CR 117, east of the city. There may be a fee.
3:00 p.m. – Back to town
For a late afternoon pick-me-up, try a specialty frappe or an iced tea at Milam Street Coffee (the kids might enjoy a scoop of Blue Bell Ice Cream). There’s plenty of benches around Monterey Square to enjoy the scenery; or, if the weather is uncooperative, stay inside at the coffee house and visit with friends and strangers alike while enjoying their flat screen TV or using their WiFi to get online.
9:30 a.m. – Southern Pacific Railroad Depot
Located at Sunset and Milam streets, the depot was restored at a cost of more than $1 million. Originally built in 1912, it served as a social and transportation center for Wharton. The depot sits on the “Macaroni Line,” named in honor of the 1,200 Italians who helped build the track for the New York, Texas & Mexican Railroad in 1882.
While in the area, check out Moses Gin and a mural entitled “Cotton – From Pickin to Ginnin.” To arrange a tour of the still operational gin, call 979-532-3522.
Noon – Lunch Time
Take your pick. If you’re in the mood for Texas Barbeque, try Hinze’s located at 1917 N. Richmond or Taste Woods off FM 102, near the hospital. For seafood, there’s Wharton Seafood of Richmond Road. For a little of everything (including delicious homestyle hamburgers), give 9er’s restaurant a try at the corner of Boling Highway and Fulton Street. There’s much more, see our visitor’s guide.
1:30 p.m. – Wharton County Historical Museum/20th Century Technology Museum
Recently combined, these two museums display a treasure trove of artifacts detailing not only the county’s history but the development of technology over the last century. At the Historical Museum, check out exhibits on Pulitzer Prize winning play-wright Horton Foote, newsman Dan Rather, and Medal of Honor recipient and El campo native Roy Benavidez. Don’t forget to check out the trophy game room, which displays a dazzling array of mounted animals from across the globe, and an elaborate doll display.
At the Technology Museum check out the aviation displays as well as exhibits on radios, computers, toys, cameras, and a host of other items. The museum is the creation of Wharton residents Art and Sharon Schulze.
3:00 p.m. – Rest Stop
While at the museum, venture outdoors for a relaxing stroll around the facility’s grounds, including a look at the cactus garden.
9:30 a.m. – Cattle Country
Check out the countryside and the unique Brahman cattle that graze in these parts by taking a drive on Texas 60 north of Hungerford, or FM 1161 east of Hungerford. The trip on Texas 60 will bring you to East Bernard, which has shops and sites of its own.
11:00 a.m. – Glen Flora
Visit the antique shops on the main drag, off FM 102, north of Wharton. A few more miles down FM 102 brings you to Egypt, home of the Northington Plantation.
Noon – Lunch Time
Take U.S. 59 and drive 20 minutes south to El Campo. Lots of restaurants there and plenty of new sites to see.
1:30 p.m. – El Campo Area Museums
There’s the El Campo Museum of Natural History (located in the El Campo Civic Center, 2350 N. Mechanic) and the Danevang Cultural Center, Texas 71 at CR 426.
3:00 p.m. – Rest Period
There are several parks in El Campo in which to kick up your feet, sit back and watch the clouds pass by overhead.
Find out more at this website and at the chamber office. That includes our new Wharton County Antique Trail, as well as the historic home tour.
HISTORIC HOME TOUR
Begin tour at Larry’s restaurant near the Colorado River Bridge at the corner of Richmond Road and Burleson Street.
Larry’s Mexican Food restaurant is actually built by the uncle and aunt of Horton Foote at the turn of the 20th Century as a residence. They out grew the home and built the home being restored behind it at 415 W. Burleson. The former home has been used for various businesses including a dentist office.
415 W. Burleson — This home, built by the Foote relatives, is now being restored as the residence of Wharton native Van Broughton Ramsey. He is a two-time Emmy Award winner. Most noted for costuming all of the Sarah, Plain and Tall series and Lonesome Dove.
Head back around the Square and find the restored Plaza Theatre at 128 S. Houston Street This is now home of the Community Theatre of Wharton.
Continue around the square to Burleson and turn left on Resident Street Near the corner sit the first Wharton County Jail which is now a private residence. It has a central fireplace to heat the different rooms.
The Wharton County Courthouse, built in 1889, is the most extensively restored courthouse in the history of Texas.
At and back to left again on Milam.
The Croom house is located at 200 E. Milam. It was designed by the same architect who designed the courthouse, Eugene Heiner.
Travel down Milam Street to the intersection of N. Polk Street and see what was the Queen Theater. It is now a furniture business facility. At one time Wharton was home to the Rio, Plaza and Queen theaters at the same time.
Turn right on Polk Street and turn right again on Caney Street and drive to Resident Street. Turn left and at 212 N. Resident is the English Tutor home of Bill Cline. Cline, while a young lawyer in the U.S. Army. had a client by the name of Jackie Robinson. Robinson would later become a baseball great. A movie was made of the event.
At 309 N. Resident is the Hawes house. Built in 1896 the residence was later the home of Edwin Hawes, a Wharton County judge.
Turn right on Alabama Street and at 401 E. Alabama Street is the Garrett Home. It was built in 1897 and has a strong Victorian Queen Anne influence.
Continue east on Alabama Street and see the Wharton City Cemetery at the corner of Alabama Street and East Avene. Pulitzer and Academy Award winner Horton Foote, a native of Wharton, is buried there.
Make the block and get back on Alabama Street heading west. Turn right on Houston Street. At 505 N. Houston is the home of the late award-winning playwright Horton Foote.
Turn left on Linn Street and head south, left, on Richmond Road. The Brooks and Foote homes sit facing each other at 517 and 516 N. Richmond Road.
Continue around the curve and at 325 North Richmond is the Hamilton house. It was built by a Union Army Civil War veteran in 1885. It was enlarged in 1907. At 225 N. Richmond is the Chamber of Commerce, which is the former Neal home. It was built in 1912 and was deeded for chamber use in 1962.
You can travel north on Richmond Road and visit the Wharton County Historical Museum. On its grounds sit the first home of newsman Dan Rather. He was born here and lived the first six months of his life in this home.
More about the city and county may be discovered with a visit to the museum, which is a story unto itself.
This guide was written by Burlon Parsons for the Wharton Journal-Spectator. Rest in peace, Burlon.