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A gracious welcome awaits visitors to historic Wharton, nestled on the banks of the Colorado River. Wharton is the perfect stop for an hour, a day, or a lifetime. It is a paradise for birdwatchers and sportsmen. From antiques to fashion, our shops will delight you.
Historic courthouse, downtown
You can visit our newly restored Wharton County Courthouse, built in 1889, an Victorian/Italianate-style building designed by Eugene T. Heiner. The courthouse is the heart of our historic district, a mecca for the antique hunter. You can walk from shop to shop and when you are done you can enjoy a great lunch or dinner from one of the fine downtown restaurants. Also gracing our downtown is the Historic Plaza Theater with a live entertainment experience.
Wharton even has a life-size dinosaur sculpture at what the locals call Dinosaur Park, on the west end of Riverfront Park, which runs alongside downtown and the Colorado River. Wharton is truly a ‘green’ city.
Wharton boasts eleven parks through the city. Riverfront Park, located under the 1930 Hwy. 59 bridge, is a relaxing atmosphere for picnic and day use with barbecue pits, tables, and restrooms. Come stroll along the banks of the Colorado River. You can fish from a pier, bicycle on nature trails, or picnic.
Wharton also is the hometown of Horton Foote, the dramatist who won Oscars for his screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies and a Pulitzer Prize for his stage play The Young Man from Atlanta. The home in which he grew up and lived in during his adult years is still owned and maintained by his family in Wharton.
Wharton County Historical Museum
Newsman Dan Rather is also a Wharton native, and the home in which he was born is now located at the Wharton County Historical Museum. The museum also many exhibits that depict the settling of Wharton and its rich history. There also is a wild game trophy room and an historic doll collection. The The museum is located at 3615 N. Richmond Road. You can contact them by phone at 979-532-2600. whartoncountyhistoricalmuseum.com/
20th Century Technology Museum
The 20th Century Technology Museum has received wide publicity for documenting the innovations of the last century. The Museum collects, preserves, and displays everyday objects of historical technology and serves as a unique educational and cultural center for better understanding the progressive timeline of the products that we enjoy using today. Many items on display are in working condition and may be demonstrated or operated by visitors. While objects from the 20th Century may seem too recent for a historical museum, with the rapid pace of technological change, items from the early part of the century are truly worthy of museum preservation, and items from the latter part of the century help to show how the earlier items relate to current technology. The museum has proven to be a major site of interest to all ages — for the adults it is a “trip down memory lane,” and for children it is a chance to observe obsolete items they have never seen before. The museum houses an experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan, once-trend-setting computers and radios, and once-popular household items from wash machines to phonographs. The museum is located at 3615 N. Richmond Rd., in Wharton. You can contact them at 979-282-8810.See a really great video that captures the essence of the 20th Century Technology Museum and a newscaster’s image of Wharton HERE.
The historic Plaza Theatre graces our downtown square with a live entertainment experience. The Plaza Hotel began circa 1904 as a two story brick structure. The hotel was partially gutted and a movie theater built within a portion in 1941, and a gala grand opening was held in March 1942. The Plaza puts on both serious and not-so-serious productions throughout the year. The intimate auditorium’s excellent acoustics and sightlines make it the perfect place to enjoy music, stand-up comedy or drama in smoke-free comfort. Before or after the show, enjoy fine dining, antiquing and other shopping around Wharton’s beautiful downtown square. The restored theater is located at 120 S. Houston St., in downtown Wharton. You can contact the theatre at 979-282-2226. whartonplaza theatre.org. Wharton County Junior College also produces stage plays and concerts throughout the year at the Horton Foote Theatre. You can contact the college by phone at 532-4560. The main campus is located at 911 E. Boling Highway (FM 1301), Wharton. wcjc.cc.tx.us.
The Wharton area is known for the unique Brahman breed of cattle, originally imported from India and known for their humps on their backs. Our Brahman ranches do business worldwide and are top award winners at the Houston Livestock Show and other prestigious shows across the nation. You can see them on Texas 60, north of Hungerford, and on FM 1161, east of Hungerford. Hungerford is located six miles north of Wharton on Business 59. If you are coming from Wharton, turn right on FM 1161, or follow the sign to Texas 60 to the left. Local ranches include: J.D. Hudgins, V8 Ranch, and Heritage Cattle Co.
You’ll find our residents friendly and helpful. But you won’t find smog or traffic jams along our tree-lined streets. If you need help with directions, don’t hesitate to call the chamber office at 532-1862. Or stop by our office, 225 N. Richmond Road, for maps, brochures, hotels, restaurants or other information to make your stay enjoyable.
The town of Wharton, with a population of about 10,000, also is literally at the doorstep of some of the best hunting and birdwatching found anywhere, truly an outdoorsman’s paradise. We also are just an hour away from the beaches and excellent fishing along the Gulf of Mexico.Among the great places for trail rides and hunting is Pierce Ranch, 979-532-4250.
Restored Southern Pacific Railroad Depot
Located at 100 S. Sunset St., the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot has been fully restored to how it appeared a century ago, when it served a hub for transportation, news and social life of Wharton. It is open for tours from 1-3 p.m. each Saturday.
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 on 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. Provisions Bistro & Market, located in the restored 1897 R T Ervin bank building offers breakfast and lunch featuring local from scratch cooking and house baked breads. 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.
The historic home tour guide was written by Burlon Parsons for the Wharton Journal-Spectator. Rest in peace, Burlon.