Over two centuries of Texas borderland heritage surrounds the plaza in the historic river town of Roma. Assigned National Historic Landmark status in 1993, the plaza’s surviving structures as well as surrounding buildings trace Roma’s heritage back to its Spanish Colonial roots, providing a visual reminder of the beautiful border architecture once thriving throughout the region. In particular, the designs of German architect Heinrich Portscheller who established a brickyard in Roma in the late 1800’s ( source for much of the building material he used) include the handsome Manuel Guerra residence and mercantile, a two-story structure with the original ornament wrought-iron balcony intact. The Guerra building is one of several restoration projects that have occurred in the Roma Historic District. The Old Customs House is another, a small brick structure crowning a bluff above the river where steamship trade paid their customs fees and that later served as city hall and jail. Earlier historic structures, such as the John Vale/Noah Cox House, built in 1853, feature carved sandstone details. Roma, founded in 1765, served as the westernmost port for steamers and flatboats transporting trade goods up and down the Rio Grande River. Until recently and despite its two-hundred and fifty-plus year history, Roma’s population has never expanded far above ten thousand people, helping to maintain its unique borderland charm and historic south Texas character
In addition, watch the video below to learn more about an undertold history of Civil Rights Era protests that took place on the international bridge in Roma. To learn even more about the history of the 1966 Starr County Farm Workers Strike, read our recent blog article The Forgotten Civil Rights Leaders of Starr County on the THC blog: http://www.thc.state.tx.us/blog/forgotten-civil-rights-leaders-starr-county
For historic walking tour brochures and other visitor information, make your first stop the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center in the historic district. Call ahead to schedule a Saturday guided tour of downtown and to plan your birding adventure.