Fort Brown - Brownsville TXFront view of the still standing hospital building
In 1933 a Category 5 hurricane known as the 1933 Cuba destroyed a large part of Brownsville, Texas, and caused massive damages to Fort Brown, U.S. Army fort. During the New Deal, Fort Brown received funding and labor to make improvements to the fort and surrounding land. The Works Project Administration (WPA) authorized a $70,765 improvement program that employed 119 workers to improve landscaping, building river bank revetments, resurfacing roads, and doing a large amount of the work on fort buildings.
The purpose behind the river bank revetments was to stabilize the Rio Grande riverbank in case of storms and to also prevent severe erosion in that area. Major improvements to the hospital building allowed for their use by Army engineers during and after World War II, and WPA also provided an additional $115,000 to build six new barracks, three mass halls, and six stables. Each mess hall and barrack ranged from $6,000 to $10,000 each. Building new plumbing and sewage ranged from $1,000 to $1,500 per building that used a sewage system. Stables were built using concrete pillars, wood roofs, and slanted ceilings to give an open stall effect. Each stable cost over $5,000 to build. The project required an additional $40,000 from the war department for a post-exchange building, new plumbing, and new houses for active-duty members that resided on the base.
The War Department declared official deactivation of the fort in 1945. After being assigned to the Federal Works Agency, in July 1948 over 162 acres of the fort were given to the city of Brownsville and multiple buildings were granted for the use of Texas Southmost Community College. In 1950 most of the fort was demolished to build a levee along the Rio Grande River and the construction of a border wall. The hospital, also known as the “old morgue,” still stands on the campus of Texas Southmost Community College and is said to be a great place to go ghost hunting.
“Work to Begin on 33 Projects” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. April 4, 1940. Page 5, https://www.newspapers.com/image/636386670/?terms=wpa&match=1
“Fort Brown Gets WPA Improvements” The Monitor. April 3, 1940. Page 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/291769847/?terms=Fort%20Brown%20WPA&match=1
“Construction” The Brownsville Herald. December 28, 1940. Page 2-3, https://www.newspapers.com/image/22478565/terms=%22fort%20brown%22%20%22WPA%22&match=1
“Word Spreads On Junior College Here” The Brownsville Herald. August 14, 1949. Page 24 https://www.newspapers.com/image/31111026/?terms=%22Texas%20Southmost%20College%22%20%22Fort%20Brown%22&match=1
Davenport, Elizabeth Pettit. “Fort Brown.” Texas State Historical Association, 1 Jan. 1952, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fort-brown
“A Unique Look at the September 1933 Hurricane” La Feria News. March 10, 2015, https://laferianews.net/?p=4369
“National Register of Historic Places - Digital Assets .” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 15 Oct. 1966, https://npgallery.nps.gov/AssetDetail/NRIS/66000811
Wait, Charles “Fort Brown: Sentinel on the Frontier” University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Archives, 2005 https://utrgv.libguides.com/SCA/walking-tour
Mess Hall - https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/ftbrown/175/
Sewage & Plumbing - https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/ftbrown/285/
Troop Stables - https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/ftbrown/170/
Project originally submitted by Brooklyn Smith on December 30, 2021.
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