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James Moreau Brown buys future site of Ashton Villa
January 07, 1859

On this day in 1859, businessman James Moreau Brown purchased four lots at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Twenty-fourth Street in Galveston. On the site he built Ashton Villa, reputed to be the first brick house in Galveston. He designed the three-story, Victorian Italianate residence himself and used slave labor and skilled European craftsmen to build it. To protect the house from the damp, Brown made the brick walls thirteen inches thick, with an air space between the exterior and the interior walls. Brown died in 1895; his home withstood the devastation of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, but its basement was filled with sand and silt. El Mina Shrine bought the house in 1927 and used it for the next forty years as business offices. In 1968 the Shriners offered the property for sale. A campaign led by the Galveston Historical Foundation raised $125,000 to purchase Ashton Villa, and funding from both government and private sources helped restore and refurnish the historic home. Ashton Villa was opened to the public in 1974 and is administered by the Galveston Historical Foundation.

Big Brazos bridge opens in Waco
January 07, 1870

On this day in 1870, the Waco Suspension Bridge, a 475-foot structure that crosses the Brazos River in downtown Waco, was opened to traffic. At the time, it was one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Civil engineer Thomas Griffin teamed with John A. Roebling and Son of New York to build it, at a cost estimated between $135,000 and $141,000. Initially, the Waco Bridge Company operated it as a toll bridge. The county purchased it in mid-1889 and in turn sold it to the city for $1. The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in 1971. It is in the National Register of Historic Places and received a state historic marker in 1976.

Nazareth Academy opens
January 07, 1867

On this day in 1867, the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament opened Nazareth Academy in Victoria. Fifty-five students attended during the first year, when the convent was known as Monastery of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament. Mother St. Claire Valentine, who had arrived in Texas from France in 1852 and was the former superior of the Brownsville convent, had traveled to Europe to recruit nuns for the Victoria school. As enrollment increased, additional buildings were constructed, and the institute was renamed Academy of Nazareth in 1880. An 1883 report from the federal Bureau of Education lauded the academy as one of six Texas schools acknowledged for their “superior instruction of women.” Today Nazareth Academy operates as a coeducational institution and offers grades from prekindergarten though eighth.