A public historian is anyone interested in and committed to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere, said Britin Bostick, local planner, designer and owner of Texas Stewards.
Bostick encouraged everyone to become public historians during her June 12 presentation at the Georgetown Public Library.
“I don’t consider myself a traditional preservationist because my work is not to preserve buildings; rather it is to understand how I can help bring buildings forward into now,” she said. “Especially buildings that have been vacant and disintegrating for a long time—how can we bring a property ahead with us so we can retain it?”
Much of Bostick’s job involves unearthing details about daily life inside and outside of the structures on which she works.
“Georgetown was founded at the same time as Williamson County in 1848,” she said during the presentation. “This was the Wild West. Our beautiful tree-lined streets were not here; our downtown buildings were not here; this town was carved out of the prairie.”
The buildings that now house the Georgetown Winery and Mikey V’s Hot Sauce Shop have stood since the 1800s. A large sign reading “Saloon” stretched across the facade in one of Bostick’s black-and-white photographs.
When Georgetown recruited Southwestern University, the Methodists were not supportive of drinking establishments and campaigned heavily for Williamson to become a dry county, Bostick said.
“They finally won, and the saloons disappeared,” she said. “For about 100 years it was difficult to get a drink in this town. That has since changed.”
The fundamentals of some favorite Georgetown pastimes go unchanged, though. Soon after the Civil War ended, the city began celebrating “first Monday” each month and continued the tradition well past the turn of the century, Bostick said.
Cattlemen and farmers from across Williamson and adjoining counties would gather to sell and trade livestock and other commodities and celebrate a festive day in town, she said. The activities centered in the streets surrounding the courthouse, and people lounged on the lawn, enjoying packed picnics and purchased food.
“Society and connection was important,” Bostick said. “We have always been a social group here.”
It is essential to understand how the community got to where it is—to know the way a place has developed and changed over time, Bostick said.
“These aren’t just the stories of buildings,” she said. “They’re the stories of us.”
Editor’s note: Image captions have been edited for accuracy.