Brooks, Samuel W. (1829–1903)

By: Stephen Fox

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Samuel W. Brooks, architect, engineer, and builder, was born in Pennsylvania in 1829. At the age of seven his family took him to Ohio. About 1850 he moved to New Orleans, where he established a lumber business in 1853 and worked as a builder and architect. Brooks left New Orleans in 1863 and moved to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where he remained until 1878, when he moved across the Rio Grande to Brownsville. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, he was the foremost architect, engineer, and builder in the Brownsville area. He served eight terms as city engineer of Brownsville, was superintending architect for the United States Courthouse, Custom House, and Post Office (1892, demolished), and built levees along the Rio Grande at Fort Brown in Brownsville and at Hidalgo. Brooks built the post hospital at Fort Brown (1869), a set of buildings at Fort Ringgold at Rio Grande City, the Church of the Advent in Brownsville (1877, demolished), and the first Cameron County Courthouse in Brownsville (1883). He was the architect of the superintendent's lodge at the National Cemetery at Fort Brown (demolished); the First Presbyterian Church, Brownsville (1870, demolished); the Melitonio H. Cross house, Matamoros (1885); the first Hidalgo County Courthouse, Hidalgo (1886); the Vivier Opera House, Brownsville (1891, demolished); the Louis Kowalski house, Brownsville (1893); the Josephine G. Browne house, Brownsville (1894); the Frank B. Armstrong house, Brownsville (1896, demolished); and the Starr County Courthouse, Rio Grande City. Brooks's own house survives in Brownsville, although it has been moved from its original location. Reflecting the cultural isolation of South Texas during the late nineteenth century, the buildings Brooks designed were stylistically conservative. He often adapted a simplified rendition of mid-nineteenth-century picturesque eclectic architectural detail to prevailing Creole typologies and construction techniques.

Brooks married twice. After the death of his first wife, he married a widow, Inez Falgot. He had two children by his first marriage, both of whom he outlived. Brooks was a parishioner of the Church of the Advent. He died in Brownsville on February 15, 1903.

Betty Bay, Historic Brownsville: Original Townsite Guide (Brownsville, Texas: Brownsville Historical Association, 1980). W. H. Chatfield, The Twin Cities of the Border and the Country of the Lower Rio Grande (New Orleans: Brandao, 1893; rpt., Brownsville: Brownsville Historical Association, 1959).
  • Architecture
  • Architects

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stephen Fox, “Brooks, Samuel W.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994