A History Lesson.
America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976 sparked a nationwide interest in preservation. In Georgetown, a small group of citizens who had worked diligently on Georgetown’s Bicentennial celebration events also had a heightened awareness of historic resources at the local level. It was the vision of this group that led to the formation of the Georgetown Heritage Society in 1977.
On 26 January 1977 the first organizational meeting was held with four persons in attendance, Lynn Storm Burnette, Clare Easley Mashburn, Clara Scarbrough, and Joanne Morse. The organizational committee was immediately expanded to 16 persons for their second organizational meeting on 7 February. The first official meeting of the Georgetown Heritage Society was held on 14 April 1977. Lynn Burnett was elected the first president of the organization.
The initial goals and purposes of the Georgetown Heritage Society (GHS) were established at the 7 February meeting. “In order to preserve and enhance the quality of life in the Georgetown Area, the Corporation is formed for the following purposes: to assist in the preservation of buildings, markers, historical sites, works of art, documents, papers, pictures, records and writings of historical, traditional or cultural value; to perpetuate those customs of the people and traditions and folklore which seem to beautify and enrich the community life of the Georgetown Area; to discover and work toward areas of natural beauty and charm as well as those places of special natural history interests; to disseminate knowledge, promote interest, encourage study and research and act in an advisory capacity to interested groups of persons and organizations regarding those things already enumerated; and to cooperate with other persons, groups, organizations and agencies in effectuating these objectives.”
Meeting venues were initially varied including the Georgetown Public Library, several churches, and the Library, Mood Hall, and Union Building at Southwestern University. In 1991, the congregation of Grace Episcopal Church had outgrown their small church building constructed in 1881. The Diocese donated the building to the citizens of Georgetown and the building was moved to its current location at 817 Main Street. The church building was rehabilitated through a unique partnership between the City of Georgetown and the Heritage Society and it now serves as the location of the Heritage Society. Most meetings of the Society have been held at this Grace Center since 1991, although the Society has held a popular annual members picnic each year at various locations.
Informative programs over a wide range of historic and preservation topics have been a hallmark of GHS. In recent years some popular programs include an antiques appraisal fair, a bus tour of the LBJ ranch hosted by Luci Baines Johnson, programs on such diverse topics as restoring old wooden windows, gardening with antiques roses, and the Gault Archaeological site near Florence and local authors speaking about their books on Texas Rangers, Georgetown history in photographs, and Georgetown Sheriff John Olive.
One of the most visible events staged by PG is the Historic Home Tour. The tour is designed to showcase historic homes and buildings with varying architectural styles in Georgetown. The first Home Tour was in 1978 and GHS has sponsored a tour most years since then, a number of the earlier tours being in the spring. There have been two Historic Church Tours and several garden tours sponsored by PG. For 10 years, starting in 1982, PG sponsored an antique show in Georgetown with dealers from around the state. During several of these years PG also sponsored a quilt show which showcased the work of both local and visiting quilters.
Among the Society’s lasting achievements that all Georgetown citizens still enjoy today are organizing the first Christmas Stroll, reviving the old traditional May Fair (now the Red Poppy Festival), starting the Georgetown History and Visitor Information Center (now run by the city) and, collecting a substantial repository of historic photographs and documents (now in the custody of the Georgetown Public Library). The Georgetown Heritage Society was instrumental in working with the City of Georgetown to obtain our first Main Street Designation and the Society has maintained an active role in preservation activities around the historic square.
Now, in 2017, the Georgetown Heritage Society is looking forward to a new focus on preservation of Georgetown's historical character and structures. Now known as Preservation Georgetown (PG), the organization moves ahead to fulfill its mission to "Preserve and promote Georgetown's heritage through preservation advocacy, education, and community engagement."