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Brownsville: Dawn of the 20th Century

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The city of Brownsville, the largest in the Rio Grande Valley, did not become that way overnight, and one exhibit showcases, in part, how it emerged into the city we see today.

“It goes from 1900 to 1950 and the monumental developments that happened during that period,” said Eugene Fernandez, Historic Brownsville Museum Manager. 

In the first 50 years of the 20th century, Brownsville capitalized on new technology of the era, starting with a railroad line that tied South Texas to markets of the East and Midwest.

“We could ship our cattle, our produce and that was the true first nail that really built the construction of South Texas,” Fernandez said. 

Then, came the first organized commercial airport built south of San Antonio, the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, that brought historic figures to Brownsville.

“We had at the opening of our airport, we had Charles Lindbergh, we had Amelia Earhart, we were on the world stage,” he said. 

Seven years later, the Port of Brownsville was inaugurated, which played a huge role in the production of patrol boats for World War II.

Brownsville also grew in entertainment and leisure time with the opening of a theatre, the start of Charro Days, and the construction of the once luxurious El Jardin Hotel in 1927. 

“They worked hard to develop something that is tangible now, so if you look at that as a case study of how we really built our communities during the first 50 years, that is a good guide as to how we’re going to build the next 50 years,” Fernandez said. 

The Dawn of the 20th Century Exhibit will be on display at the Historic Brownsville Museum until October. 

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