Heritage Village Museum and Store is a small local history museum supported by the Tyler County Heritage Society. Located right off US Highway 190 in Woodville, Texas, the museum is just over an hour and a half northeast of Houston. The museum consists of three parts: the indoor museum and store, Heritage Village, and Big Woods Nature Trail. Expect to spend between one and three hours in the museum complex, and another hour if you want to eat at the adjourning restaurant, Pickett House.
The indoor portion of the museum is located inside the store and is free to the public. It features artifacts from different cultures in East Texas, geodes and other rocks, and the unique painted tile art of Clyde Edward Gray. The organization that would become the museum was originally founded by Gray as the “Heritage Garden,” a gallery where he could sell his art. His work is well-known in East Texas, and he was awarded a National Liberty Medal of the Texas Heritage Foundation for “Distinguished Art and Ceramics.”
The largest section of the museum is the Heritage Village. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children. The staff asks that visitors call ahead if for groups with more than five people. There are no guided tours for the village, but visitors receive a walking tour map with plenty of information. Houses in the village have numbers, which correspond to a short paragraph on the map. The majority of the buildings are replicas of turn-of-the-century buildings from East Texas, but a few of the buildings have been moved from other locations.
This portion of the museum is a photographer’s paradise. Reproduction and vintage signs are found throughout the property. A large buggy and wagon barn holds twenty fully restored vehicles donated from the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. For those who prefer nature to history, several flowering bushes and trees are planted around the property. Other items on display include a vintage camera collection, scales, decorated tiles, and “A Memorial to the World’s Only Flying Outhouse.”
One important note is that navigating the buildings could prove difficult for some visitors. Many buildings are accessible only by somewhat rickety, handrail-free staircases and are fairly dark once inside, so people with mobility issues or night blindness cannot enjoy this experience. Additionally, the machinery at the “Chair Factory” is in the open, without a fence or rope barrier used at other village museums. This openness could cause concern for parents of curious children.
On the other side of the parking lot, Big Woods Nature Trail winds through eleven forested acres. Informative signs identify tree species and display maps with the visitor’s location. While it is impossible to get lost, the hot and rainy climate is ideal for wildlife leading to some trails being overgrown and others swarming with insects. Walking on the main trails and wearing insect repellant will prevent these issues.
This little museum is a great stop for anyone looking to learn more about daily life in southeast Texas during the late 19th century, spend a day with family and friends, and enjoy the outdoors. There is plenty to see and explore, and you’ll discover something new every time you visit.
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Abby Epplett has an MA in Museum Education from Tufts University and currently works as a park ranger for the National Park Service at Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas.