Jackson Street-Harlingen, Texas
Harlingen, Texas' Tallest Building
Day three begins at 9:00 a.m. at the Java Café located at 204 Jackson for a Free, one hour first-come, first-served basis tour of downtown Harlingen. Dress for the weather and wear your walking shoes. Our tour guide was Cheryl LaBerge, Downtown Manager, for downtown Harlingen. It was a rare treat to have her for a guide, she took time out of her busy schedule to guide this tour. This tour was loaded with loads of fun information. I will write about how Harlingen got it name, some of the buildings, some the murals, concrete posts, and MTH (Mike’s Train House). If you want more information check out www.visitharlingentexas.com The tour is every Saturday except the first Saturday of the month. After the walking tour I headed to Harlingen Art and Heritage Museum. Then I head back downtown to the weekly Farmer’s Market from 3-4:30 p.m. between Jackson and Monroe. The Farmers Market is a larger affair the first Saturday of each month called Jackson Street Market Day. For more information about Jackson Street Market Day at www.downtownharlingen.com.
Harlingen has had several nicknames over the years such as; Rattlesnake Junction (this name is self explanatory), Six Shooters Station (this name was attributed to the Texas Rangers), Howl in Gin (this name because of the Continental Cotton Gin Industry.) The name Harlingen is a Dutch name, but Harlingen was not founded by the Dutch. One story I heard was that Mr. Lon C. Hill, founder, took a friends suggestion and named the town Harlingen. The other story was a letter (Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum) by Mr. Lon C. Hill. He believed that this city would be a great canal. He knew Holland had great canals. He looked to Holland’s canals and cities for names. He came across Van Harlingen decided this was a good choice, dropped the Van and named the city Harlingen.
Downtown Harlingen Buildings
There is a building across the street from Java Café that has had two big name grocery stores in it at one time. One was the Piggly Wiggly, first self service grocery store and later a H.E.B (Howard Edward Butt) grocery store that is still going strong in Texas and Northern Mexico.
The next building is one of the oldest businesses in Harlingen. It was founded in 1909 one year prior to the 1910 date of the city being founded. It is the Grimsell’s Seed Company at 213 W. Monroe Avenue. They have some beautiful roses, softly flowing fountains, bright red macaws, and soft brown cockatiels. I heard the macaws and cockatiels over the wall before I entered the building. Their gardens have taken over the grounds of what was left of the largest of five movie theatre’s from 1928 to 1950. The Arcadia Movie Theatre.
Blaschka Tower is the tallest building in Harlingen it is soon to be remodeled and reopened. It was built in 1927. It is nine (9) stories it is a high and skinny building, it has two elevators and word has it an awesome view. It is located at A and Jackson Streets. The walls are 15” thick, the building is 100% concrete and it has been said, that it “is built like a tank.” It has survived three hurricanes, hurricanes only happen every 30 to 35 years, and it has been used as a fallout shelter. It towers over downtown Harlingen, but I am sure it gives great shade when shade is needed.
Tribute to Bill Haley and His Comets
At the Texas Visitor’s Center I was given a brochure Unveiling The Murals and Artistry of Harlingen. On the cover was a mural of a guy who made you think of Elvis Presley, but the signs around him were saying, Bill Haley. I did not know the name or even the picture, but the song for which he is famous. That I did know and you will too. “Rock Around the Clock” by the Haley and the Comets. Mr. Haley and his wife retired to Harlingen. He passed in 1981 at 55 years old in Harlingen, Texas.
I did not have opportunity to visit all the murals in Harlingen and there are many great ones to view. The two following pictures are two of my favorites, of the ones I had opportunity to view. The first one I like because Lon C. Hill is up on the right looking over the city he founded. The second mural I like the architecture of the building.
Downtown Harlingen's Cement Posts
This next item I think would be fun to check out. As we passed a cement post our guide said, “we did not know what those were until recently.” I am always curious about those unidentifiable items. I would say these concrete posts are about four (4) foot high and about 4x4 inches at the base. Apparently one downtown land owner was wanting to remove one of the posts. The possibility of it being something historical they contacted Downtown Harlingen offices. They began the search to find out what these posts were used for and found three other posts. They discovered that they were used to hold mailboxes and some, at corners, were used as street signs.
I only found one of them, but the guide gave me the locations of the other posts. Maybe you would like to search them out when you visit. They are located at the corners of Madison and Eye, Monroe and A, Harrison and D, and 13th and Tyler.
Concrete Sign Posts
For the Toy Train Lovers
As we were ending our downtown tour we entered a building called MTH (Mike’s Train House). Owner: Ron Rutkowski www.mthtrains.com or on Facebook at MTHRRC. For the toy train lovers this is a “must see.” They make their money doing private parties $4.00 per person, parties are about 32 people. The children and adults get to run these O Scale Pittsburg Trains. They are in the process of adding HO Scale train tracks. They have a room full of tracks, buildings, lights, and it seems like a place for hours of fun. They do not have regular business hours. You would need to call ahead and see if someone is there or plan a party at 410-381-2580.
Mike's Train House
Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum
The Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum has no admission charge is open Tues. - Sat. 10-4, Sunday 1-4, Closed Mondays and major holidays. It is located at 2425 Boxwood, 956-216-4901. They were hosting a quilting show called “Carolina Lily,” New Quilts from an Old Favorite. It was at this museum I found the letter by Lon C. Hill and a map of Holland stating how Harlingen got its name. The oldest building of Harlingen is at this museum the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn from the 1850’s. The 1923 Harlingen Hospital with it’s creaking boards and smelly copper tub restroom has been moved to this museum. Lon C. Hill's, the founder of Harlingen, home is also located here. There is a wonderful courtyard with loads of shade. It is place you could definitely park a while.
This day was full of information and lots of outside activities. I really enjoyed each of the days activities. I got some edamame hummus and home made chips from “The Chefman” Petros Jaferis and some Mango Raspberry Jam from Wicked Good at the Farmer’s Market which I have really enjoyed consuming. If I had been there on the right days I could have ridden a Segway around the downtown area. If you are interested in doing this it is on Fri. and Sat. for two hours, www.Segwayofsouthtexas.com, You call and make reservations. It cost around $45.00 to $85.00 per person. You could make this one day into two days of fun activities if you have the time.
Harlingen Market Days
- Harlingen Market Days - YouTube
Photos of Harlingen Market Days