Samuel W. Brooks
Samuel W. Brooks (1829–1903) was architect, engineer, and builder in the early development of the RGV and had a significant impact on Brownsville's architectural landscape. Before coming to Brownsville, he worked in New Orleans for many years, which likely influenced his later building designs.
His talents were broad, working not only as an architect, but as a contractor and engineer. He served eight terms as city engineer of Brownsville, was superintending architect for the United States Courthouse, Custom House, and Post Office (1892, demolished), and built levees along the Rio Grande at Fort Brown in Brownsville and at Hidalgo.
Brooks also invented a Paving-Block Machine, which was patented on October 24, 1871. This machine would help others skilled in the art to make paving blocks. His invention consisted of combining certain suitably constructed instrumentalities for cutting paving blocks.
Cameron County Courthouse (1883)
The first Cameron County Courthouse was completed in 1883 on the corner of E. Jefferson and 12th Streets in Brownsville, Texas. In 1881, the county commissioners allocated $28,242 for the construction of the county courthouse and jail. This three-story brick structure served as the county courthouse until 1912, when a new building was erected. In 1914, the building was purchased by the Masons for use as a Masonic Temple.
Fort Brown Post Hospital (1868)
The Post Hospital was known as the most beautiful hospital in the entire army. It housed hospital beds for patients. It was built in 1868 under the supervision of Captain William A. Wainwright, but the architectural features are credited to Samuel W. Brooks.
One example of Brooks brickwork was the post-Civil War reconstruction known as the Fort Brown hospital. This construction is 16.500 square feet and utilized more than one million bricks. At the end of World War II, Fort Brown became the new campus for Texas Southmost College. The post hospital was then named in honor of Dr. William Gorgas known as Gorgas Hall, and it became the TSC administration office.
The Fort Brown hospital was repurposed and named in honor of Dr. William Gorgas, who conducted research on yellow fever. This building known as Gorgas Hall, currently provides administrative services for the Texas Southmost College.
Samuel Wallace Brooks House (1888)
Architect Samuel W. Books designed and built his home in 1888. This home included a veranda on the first floor with decorative designs and a small balcony on the second floor above the veranda. Its original location was on Jefferson St., having been moved twice.
Once moved to its current location on St. Charles in 1987, missing elements such as the ornamental fretwork on the entrance front were carefully reconstructed from historic photos, and other elements approximated to retain the historic character of the building.
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home is now the location of a law office.
Browne-Wagner House (1894)
The residence of Josephine Glaevecke Browne was designed and built by S.W. Brooks in 1893. The house is oriented to utilize the general southeast Gulf breeze. Many of the building materials materials used, including the cast iron fireplaces, were shipped to Brownsville from New Orleans.
The owners of the residence have all been prominent figures in the history of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Josephine Browne was the daughter of German immigrant Adolphus Glaevecke who landed at Point Isabel in 1836. In 1903, Mrs. Browne sold the house to Thomas J. Hooks, a Brownsville City Commissioner, who founded the community of Donna, Texas. The house changed hands again in 1920 when it was purchased by Mrs. Martha Landrum Wagner, wife of R. E. Wagner, a banker, who came to Brownsville in 1910 from Columbus, Texas.
Learn more about these homes and other historic landmarks in Brownsville: University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, "Historical Landmarks of Brownsville Part 1" (2004). History Faculty Publications and Presentations. 82.