Located in Huntsville, Texas, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and attached grounds are spread across eighteen acres of the original two hundred-plus acres once owned by Sam Houston and family from 1847 to 1858. Preservation of this historic site started in the first decade of the twentieth century, when Bertha Kirkley, a history professor at Sam Houston Normal Institute, worked with her students to revive the property and return the “Woodland Home” and Sam Houston’s law office to their original site. The initial stage of this work was completed in 1911, but a lack of funds and public indifference meant that the property was poorly maintained. Indeed, as journalist Gregory Curtis has pointed out, various “inauthentic embellishments were added” to the Woodland Home during this period, and local “agricultural students were using it as a hay barn.”
In the late 1920s, Joseph Lynn Clark, another history professor at Sam Houston State Teachers College, wrote to every member of the Texas legislature seeking financial assistance to properly preserve the Woodland Home and surrounding buildings. In 1927, the legislature approved a $15,000 appropriation for restoration of the home and the construction and development of a museum at the site. A formal dedication for the museum was held on May 3, 1929. While this appeared to an unmitigated success, Clark soon complained that the Museum’s renovations at the Woodland Home changed the structure “in the interest of attractiveness and permanency,” without due regard to the historic appearance of the building.
In 1936, as Texans prepared to celebrate the centennial of the state’s independence from Mexico, Clark again lobbied officials for funds to commemorate the life and legacy of Sam Houston. This time, the Centennial Commission appropriated $35,000 to construct a new rotunda for the museum and to modernize the building. Between 1936 and 1960, construction occurred in installments, and in 1995 the Katy and E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center was also constructed. The center, resting in the back of the museum grounds, holds a gift shop, auditorium, exhibit gallery, and activity rooms.
The museum is owned and managed by Sam Houston State University, which sits across the street from the museum and grounds. Inside the museum there are three wings holding permanent exhibits detailing the life of Sam Houston, the Texas Revolution, and other collections and exhibits housed year round. Periodic demonstrations, such as blacksmithing, pottery, and hearth cooking, occur during various times of the year including at the annual General Sam Houston Folk Festival every spring. The museum is open from 9 A.M to 4:30 P.M Tuesday thru Saturday and 12 P.M to 4:30 on Sundays.