Stephen F. Austin State University

The Museum of Hardin County (March 2014)

The Museum of Hardin County
By Renée Hart Wells

A new museum, showcasing Hardin County with a collection of historical artifacts and photographs, opened in 2013.. The Museum of Hardin County is located in the historic old brick bank building in Kountze, Texas.

Fire destroyed a wooden building housing a bank in Kountze in 1916, with even the vault sustaining damage from the blaze. A new two-story brick structure was constructed several months later and served as the Hardin County State Bank until 1925 when it failed. After the bank's financial disaster, a number of businesses operated in the structure over the next 80 years, including Robert Hall's real estate office, Slim Englin's land title company and the Robert Richardson family's oil and gas leasing business.

Realizing the potential of the building as one of the few surviving county structures of its era, the Hardin County Genealogical Society purchased the building in November 2009 and began renovations. Most of the work has been done by a group of volunteers with costs funded by proceeds from sales of two pictorial histories of the county and grants from the Kountze City Council and EDC.

The Genealogical Society opened the Museum of Hardin County in the old bank building in May 2013. The first floor glass cabinets showcase artifacts and photographs on loan from individuals interested in historic preservation with captions for these items telling the story of Hardin County through the years. A large frame on one wall features photographs of the thirty-three State Historical Markers located across the county. Also on the first floor is the large old vault used by the bank which now provides archival space for the Museum's growing collection. The second floor is used for offices and meeting room of the Hardin County Historical Commission. The Commission, chaired by J.A. McKim, III, has provided encouragement and support since the beginning of the project.

Just north of the Museum is another building purchased by the Genealogical Society. It was built soon after the end of World War II as the American Legion Hall, that local veterans' chapter now disbanded. While still undergoing renovation, the building already has been used for community events.

The Museum of Hardin County is located at 830 South Maple St. in the Kountze Historic District. Just south is the Masonic Lodge which has a Texas Historical Marker, and one block west is the Kirby Hill Mansion which is on the National Register. The restored building housing the Museum of Hardin County represents another success for local historic preservation.