The new Bexar Heritage Center showcases the county’s 300-year-old history.
The county’s top elected officials gathered at the Main Street entrance of the courthouse — where the center lives — to cut the ribbon on the nearly $3 million project.
The county’s Spanish and Texas Revolutionary periods are featured in some exhibits, while others show the county’s modern day support for infrastructure, the arts and sports venues.
But it’s not all about history or major developments in county history.
“It’s got two purposes. One is to show the history of Bexar County… Then it’s also to explain the role of county government,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “Many times people get confused about that.”
The first thing visitors are likely to see and hear is Wolff on a big-screen T.V. greeting them in a recorded video as they enter. The greeting plays each time it’s triggered by a motion detector.
A mini-theater shows a brief video of the county’s rich history.
What may come as a surprise to visitors to the center is how huge Bexar County was in the Republic of Texas days. Maps show Bexar County made up one-third of it.
“It’s boundaries went all the way up to Wyoming, including Cheyenne and included in Bexar County were parts of Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Betty Buche, the director of heritage and parks for the county.
Bueche, credited by Wolff as one of the geniuses behind the center, said many of the displays are interactive — including a work station that will eventually allow visitors to learn more about the county.
Patrick McMillan of Toxey/McMillan Design Associates LLC, said the group wanted to design exhibits to be understood by non-history buffs too.
“We try to make it as fun as possible so that you don’t have to be a scholar or walking with a scholar to understand a good broad brush of history,” he said.
The center also features the Crime Scene Theater, which shows off the county’s crime-fighting efforts. There’s a crime case video, flashing lights and forensic items.
Another exhibit is dedicated to the county-funded University Health System.
A lot of county treasures are on display, too, including an identical sister of the Lady of Justice that sits atop the county courthouse.
There is also a death mask belonging to Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús, an early missionary to south Texas who founded Mission San José.
Some other items on display include candleholders from the Spanish colonial era and sewing tools and a porcelain pitcher and washbowl used by settlers in the county.
The heritage center is free and open to the public.