Brownsville: Neale House to be Relocated to Mitte Cultural District Linear Park
Feature Photo: View of the Neale House on Neale Drive, looking southeast. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Brownsville (Cameron County) — The City Commission is being asked to take action today to begin the two-mile journey that will relocate the Neale House from the university campus to the Mitte Cultural District Linear Park.
The fate of the Neale House–a historic landmark located at the south end of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley-Brownsville by the by the Fort Brown Resaca–has been a topic of concern for sometime. The federal border fence now runs through its backyard and it is on a dead-end street.
Last November, the Planning Department suggested three alternative sites. The City Commission chose the Mitte linear park, where it could stand near such attractions as the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Museum of Fine Art and the Farmers Market.
The plot in the linear park where the City Commission wants to relocate the historic landmark Neale House. Image: Google Earth/VBX graphic.
This project has two phases, the relocation and the renovation. For Phase One, a structural engineer would be hired to prepare construction plans for a permanent foundation; a contractor would be hired to relocate the house, which for many years was home to the Brownsville Art League.
Phase One does not include utilities, stabilization, roofing or other measures.
The commission must consider whether to proceed at this time. Options include discontinuing the Request for Qualifications process, or proceeding with the relocation of the Neale House and its addition (Ruth McGonigle, 1902-1984, was architect of the addition).
A purchase order was prepared last week for KCI Technologies in the amount of $38,000 for the structural engineering services. Engineering plans could be ready by June 20, according to the Planning Department.
The RFQ for the moving contractor is also active. There is a June 14 deadline for respondents. The City Commission could make a decision on the moving contractor award by July 14.
Phase Two has to do with the preservation and remodel of the Neale House. Staff reports that to do the reconstruction to Secretary of Interior standards for a historic building renovation, the estimated cost would approach $900,000, based on $270 per square foot.
The Neale House is one of the oldest standing structures in Brownsville. Its builder, William A. Neale, was an Englishman who made his way to Matamoros, Mexico in 1820 as a soldier of fortune during Mexico’s fight for independence. In the early 1840s, Neale established a stage line from what is today Port Isabel to the ferry landing in Brownsville.
He took on numerous roles in business and politics over the next few decades. He established a hotel in Brownsville, created his own town north of Brownsville (Nealeville), was mayor of Brownsville (1858-1859), a captain during the Civil War, the inspector of cotton going into Mexico during the Union blockade.
After the 1863 federal occupation, Union troops tore down much of his hotel to rebuild Fort Brown. Neale was able to salvage some of the structure, which as then remodeled as the Neale House. But he maintained his status as an English citizen and neutral during the federal occupation and was living in Matamoros from 1863-1865.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.