Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Nacogdoches

By Peter Simek 6.3.19

For a small town hidden at the far eastern edge of the state, Nacogdoches is well known for a great number of things. It’s one of the oldest towns in Texas. It is one of the few places in the state that can claim to have had nine, not six, flags flown over it throughout its history. And it’s the Garden Capital of Texas.

Best of all, the town is a gateway to the beautiful Pineywoods region, an area that blends historic charm with natural beauty.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Deep Texas Roots

Archaeological digs have established that Native Americans made their home in the area around modern Nacogdoches since around the year 1250. Then came the Spanish, French, and Mexicans. After Anglo settlers arrived, it became the setting of a number of early rebellions that predated the Texas Revolution.

To explore Nacogdoches history, head to the old Stone Fort Museum, which sits on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University. A replica of the original 1779 structure (which was more a big house than a fort), the Stone Fort Museum tells the story of Antonio Gil Y’Barbo, the son of Spanish colonists, who built the fort and used it as a trading post. In 1826, the building was seized by settlers as part of the Fredonian Rebellion, the very first attempt at a Texas Revolution.

Photo by Natalie Goff

From Frontier Outpost to Eclectic Town

As Nacogdoches grew in the 19th century, new settlers from Europe arrived and left their mark on the town. Much of downtown Nacogdoches owes its architectural style to a single German architect named Dietrich Rulfs, who emigrated to Texas in 1879 and, over the next 40 years, designed buildings throughout the state. His arrival coincided with the town’s transition from a frontier outpost to an important trading center. The Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a self-guided walking tour that allows visitors to explore 15 of the historic buildings that owe their style to this influential architect.

Photo by Natalie Goff

The Garden Capital of Texas

Located deep in the woods of East Texas, Nacogdoches is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the state. Explore it by visiting the Blueberry Festival, the Deep East Texas Foliage Trail, or the Holiday in the Pines Celebration. The town is also home to many public gardens. One of the most beautiful gardens is the Mast Arboretum, which is located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University. The 10-acre botanical garden and arboretum, which contains more than 3,000 plant species, is free and open to the public. In the spring, the Nacogdoches Azalea Trail blooms with more than 7,000 azaleas. The tour will lead visitors through the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden — the largest azalea garden in Texas.

Exploring East Texas? Drive the East Texas music highway and drift through Caddo Lake.

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