A drive through downtown Mercedes can take you back in time. There are many buildings on S. Texas Ave. and the nearby streets of downtown that still show the architecture from eras past. Some buildings have been restored for newer purposes but have still maintained the historic architecture of their original build.
Take the old First National Bank on S. Texas Ave. for instance. Built in the early 1900s, it was pretty run down before someone decided to buy the piece of property and restore what they could. According to a blog post about the building, the roof and back wall was falling in and it was filled with junk leftover from a previous business. The post goes on to mention, Calixtro Gomez, who rebuilt the building to what it is today. The outside still maintains much of the original architecture, and they kept most of the same architectural design inside as well. They reused bricks from the falling wall to build a courtyard. The bank is now a ballroom, adequately named First National Ballroom.
There are a few other historic buildings just on this street alone, like the old theatre next door. The theatre features murals of movies from its heyday.
Over by the Mercedes Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development office you will find not only the new municipal building, but also the old Mercedes City Hall that was built in 1928. Its historical medallion says the ‘two-story gothic style building’ was constructed of red brick, ‘featuring a copper cupola designed to house the fire alarm, cast stone detailing and a gabled roof.’ The second floor served as a town meeting room and firemen’s dormitory. It housed the town’s municipal offices and fire station. It served as the Mercedes City Hall for nearly 50 years.
The architect, Newell Waters, also designed Mercedes High school and auditorium and the Llano Grande Clubhouse. What he designed in Mercedes only shows a few of his talents. He designed many other buildings throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
When traveling the downtown area, you will see the Christmas decorations and crowns. Mercedes is known as the Queen City of the Valley. Founded in 1907, it is one of the oldest towns in the Rio Grande Valley. There are many theories as to why the town was called the Queen City, but none of them are historically accurate according to websites containing the history of Mercedes. Maybe that is something for all of us to do some history digging on.
While driving around Mercedes, visitors will notice tall boots at many intersections and businesses. Mercedes is a hidden boot capital and they have celebrated that history with an art project of boots throughout the town. One of the boot stores, Rios of Mercedes, can trace its roots to 1853 when the Rios family began to make boots in General Teran, Mexico. This company eventually moved to Mercedes.
According to a blog post recognizing Camargo Boots and Rios of Mercedes, Mercedes uses the boot as a proud symbol ‘of the legacy and tradition of the past, symbolizing the hard-working cowboy spirit.’ Boots are part of the culture and history of the town, so why not have boots as a piece of artwork.
The five-and-a-half foot custom boots are made of aluminum and are painted with logos of local colleges and universities as well as other Texas universities.
Rios of Mercedes and Camargo Boots are well known throughout the world as two of the top boot makers. Their boots can be pieces of art and custom made. Boots have been a part of western lifestyle for generations and the boots you can find in Mercedes are made with that hard-working mentality and pride.
Also, boots are ideal to represent the city known for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo. The livestock show has a history of over 80 years. The show was organized as a project of the Mercedes Chamber of Commerce and has been at its current location since 1949. The show grows each year and serves as a fundraising opportunity for Future Farmers of America and 4-H participants. As we all know, agriculture played an important role in the life and evolution of the Valley – with livestock, citrus, cotton, and more – and the livestock show promotes that history.
The show also promotes agricultural education, leadership development and competition. It is a family affair held in March of each year. What began as a small show held in tents has now grown into an event that houses an exhibition room, several covered pen buildings, an entertainment hall, a museum, and a rodeo arena.
We cannot forget to talk about some nature in Mercedes. Although not quite in Mercedes, Estero Llano Grande State Park is in its neighboring city, Weslaco. The park has a varied landscape of shallow lake, woodlands and thorn forest. These terrains offer a wide variety of birds that visit the area and include it on their migratory pattern.
Not to leave it out, Mercedes also features a top golf course, Llano Grande Country Club. Built in 1925, it is one of the oldest golf courses in the Valley. It is a par-72 18-hole golf course that challenges golfers at any level. Amenities include the historic club house, dining room, driving range, pro shop, club rentals, snack bar and a pro on staff. It features tropical foliage, bunkers, water hazards and Bermuda fairways.
For more about the City of Mercedes, visit their Facebook pages or their websites at www.mercedeschamber.com. The blog mentioned can be found at http://cityofmercedestx.blogspot.com/.