South Texas is a mashup of Spanish, Mexican and American history and culture.
The border town of Roma, founded in 1765 by Spanish colonists from Mexico, offers bicultural architecture preserved in a 15-block historic district. In an ongoing effort, the community — so far — has rejuvenated 38 residential, commercial and church buildings in the downtown area.
One of Roma’s primary architects in the late 1800s was Heinrich Portscheller, a German master brick mason. He blended European elegance and rustic design by using local building materials for his signature architectural styles of molded brick columns and flat roofs.
The M. Guerra store, built in 1884, is a prominent restoration in the district. Portscheller’s use of New Orleans-style wrought iron balconies inspired other building designers in Roma to do the same.
In the late 19th century, the town was a bustling port city on the Rio Grande until the railroad made steamboat travel obsolete.
Trade thrives today with the international bridge joining Roma with Ciudad Miguel Alamán in Mexico. Visitors, including bird-watchers, are attracted to Roma’s section of Los Caminos del Rio, a binational corridor of natural, historical and cultural sites along both sides of the Rio Grande.
KERA’s “The Shape of Texas” video series explores how our built environment holds our history, reflects our diverse cultures and projects our ambitions for the future. From the glittery, kitschy Beer Can House in Houston to the soaring Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, architecture helps tell the story of who we are in Texas.