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Brownsville Texas History Trail
Item 8 of 16
This attractive home was once the residence of Brownsville's foremost architect during the late 1800s, Samuel Wallace Brooks (1829-1903). The house, which Brooks designed and built in 1888, is likely the last I-plan wood-frame homes still standing in the city. It features a number of interesting elements including a veranda on the first floor with decorative designs and a small balcony on the second floor above the veranda. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home is now the location of a law office.

The Samuel W. Brooks House was built by its namesake in 1888. It is probably the oldest I-plan wood-frame house in Brownsville.

The Samuel W. Brooks House was built by its namesake in 1888. It is probably the oldest I-plan wood-frame house in Brownsville.

Samuel W. Brooks was born in Pennsylvania but spent much of his childhood in Ohio. In the early 1850s he moved to New Orleans where he opened a lumber business and became a builder and architect. In 1863 he moved to Matamoros, Mexico (just across the Rio Grande River) and lived there before settling in Brownsville in 1878.

Brooks had a significant impact on Brownsville's architectural landscape. He served eight terms as city engineer and designed several buildings including Fort Brown Hospital, the Browne-Wagner House, the first Cameron County Courthouse, and several others that were demolished. Brooks also designed the courthouses in Hidalgo and Starr Counties, and levees along the river in Brownsville at Fort Brown and Hidalgo. His house was significant in that it represented a shift in residential architecture. Up that point, homes in Brownsville tended to be designed following Mexican or outdated American styles. Brook's house, therefore, with its I-plan and use of decorative woodwork, was considered modern for the time.

After he died in 1903, his wife and her son and daughter-in law (she was previously married) continued to live in the house. Family descendants owned the house until 1951 when the Immaculate Conception Church bought the property to build a school. As a result, the house was relocated five blocks away. By the 1970s, that area had declined and the house fell into disrepair. It was moved again to is current location in 1987 and restored.

Fox, Stephen. "Brooks, Samuel W. (1829–1903)." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed October 01, 2020.

Lund, Mark & Maxson, Peter F. "Samuel W. Brooks House." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. November 22, 1988.

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