Public invited to visit the Riviera Historical Museum

The Riviera Historical Museum opens to the public.

The Riviera Historical Museum, located just inside the town of Riviera, is open for the public and members of a beautification organization are inviting the public to enjoy the contents of the three-part museum.

A group of Riviera citizens have united to re-form the Riviera Beautification Association, an organization that was formed decades ago but has since waned. Now, the current members of the group aim to teach a new generation of Riviera citizens about the history of the rural South Texas town.

Members of the RBA have worked for quite some time to clean and restore the Riviera Historical Museum and its surrounding annexes to be a place for people to learn and appreciate the history of the area.

As one of the oldest buildings in the town, the Riviera Historical Museum, located at the corner of Seventh and East North Streets, served several different purposes throughout the years, said Julia Strubhart, a member of the association.

"The building has served as a bank, a residence, a grocery store and a United States Post Office," Strubhart said.

The building, which Strubhart said was built by volunteers in the Riviera community

at the turn of the 20th century, first served as the Riviera Bank in 1910 for nearly 20 years.

In 1927, a woman purchased the building and it was turned into a United States Postal Office. After the woman married and had a family, additional bedrooms and a bathroom were added to the building, Strubhart said.

However, in 1945 the family moved out of Riviera, and the post office was moved to another location, leaving the building empty.

"For many years, the building was vacant," Strubhart said. "It started to deteriorate from neglect and vandalism."

In the early 1970s, a group of citizens formed the Riviera Beautification Association to help bring the building back to its original condition.

"The association worked for years to raise money for the restoration project," Strubhart said.

In 1982, the association was able to receive a grant from the Brookshire Foundation to complete the restoration of the building, Strubhart said. The next year, the Riviera Historical Museum was opened to the public.

Strubhart said her mother, Idella, was the caretaker of the museum in those years. Idella eventually became the lone caretaker of the museum, due to members of the association moving or passing away.

However, there came a point where Idella could no longer take care of the museum, Strubhart.

"The building sat here for almost 6 years with nobody coming in to take care of it," Sturb-hart said. "Bees had gotten into the top corners of the building, and the windows were blocked with plywood."

In an effort to restore the building to its former glory, Strubhart re-formed the Riviera Beautification Association and applied for a grant from the Kenedy Foundation, she said.

"We refurbished the building and got it back into working condition," Strubhart said.

The museum includes historical artifacts that defined the Riviera community, such as laminated newspaper articles of The Cackler, the earliest newspaper in Riviera, clothing items from the early 1920s, early photos of Baffin Bay, and various shells from the bay.

The Riviera Historical Museum also houses an abundance of ancestral information for those whose families have lived in Riviera, Strubhart said.

"This is a historical museum of the community of Riviera," Strubhart said.

Strubhart added that people may donate items to the museum as well.

"We welcome any items that people may want to donate that signified a certain time, whether culturally or concerning the town," she said.

The museum also includes two more buildings, located behind the former bank

The G.A. Riskin Home holds many historical artifacts, such as the tools used to make the King's Inn restaurant, sewing machines from the 19th century, and early kitchen appliances. In the house is also a room replica of the store that was once housed in the museum building.

The Fireman's Museum is a work in progress, Strubhart said.

So far, the Fireman's Museum has a building and a restored 1940s fire truck, but much more is needed, Strubhart said.

"We have had fundraisers for the Fireman's Museum, but we are still in need of contributions," Strubhart said.

Jerry Martinez, another member of the Riviera Beautification Association, said they are ready to showcase the Riviera Historical Museum.

"We welcome anyone to come in and learn the history of Riviera, especially schools in the area," Martinez said. "We also welcome anyone in the community to become a part of the Riviera Beautification Association."

The museum is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m., but Strubhart and Martinez said any school organization or groups of interested people can call and make an appointment to see the museum on any other day.

Those who are interested in joining the Riviera Beautification Association or who would like to tour the museum may contact Julia Strubhart at (361) 488-8719 or Jerry Martinez at (210) 849-2060. Donations for the museum can be sent to the Riviera Beautification Association, P.O. Box 86, Riviera, TX 78379.

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