The Preservation Man: Arnold Romberg Works to Save Historic Treasures in La Grange, Including a Railroad Wonder
You can see the history for yourself at Texas Heroes Day this Saturday, September 17.
The philanthropic spirit of Central Texas is easy to see on a tour of the beautifully preserved architecture in La Grange. Of note are the historic jail, railroad depot and the N.W. Faison House. These restored treasures add beauty and charm to the area and are the direct result of contributions by resident Arnold Romberg.
I recently sat down with Romberg for a candid chat about his involvement in the community for RoundTop.com‘s new series highlighting some of the philanthropists making a difference in the greater Round Top region.
Arnold Romberg doesn’t view himself as a philanthropist as much as a dedicated problem solver. He determinedly commits his time and resources to several unique and monumental undertakings geared around preserving history. Even in his late eighties, Romberg is currently the president of three organizations including Friends of the Railroad Depot, the Texas Heroes Museum and the Faison Preservation Society.
Romberg humbly credits many others for investing in these projects alongside him. “I am willing to say yes when asked to further worthy causes, but I’m also a very good delegator,” he says.
Romberg goes on to describe how he and his late wife Suzy picked Fayette County as their forever home long before retiring and moving here. In those years of being weekenders, the natural inclination for the couple was to meet their neighbors and participate in community happenings. When they finally settled into their own restored dream home, they had already established themselves as willing contributors to the community.
Suzy Romberg was one of the founders of Second Chance Emporium, the nonprofit resale shop of Fayette County, which started from a community-wide garage sale she organized. Arnold Romberg believes that strong ideas and good communication have been the key to his and Suzy’s success in many of their philanthropic goals.
One of the most fascinating stories Romberg tells is how he became involved in the rich history of the La Grange M-K-T Depot Museum. The railroad stop was rebuilt in 1887 to replace the previous depot which had been destroyed by fire, and changed hands a few times before being put up for auction. Romberg and seven others bought it to prevent the historic structure from being torn down to create a parking lot.
They turned it into a museum which is visited by locals and out-of-town visitors every weekend. Romberg and his counterparts were eventually able to sell the Railroad Depot to the City of La Grange, who now takes care of the building maintenance while Romberg’s group, Friends of the Railroad, handles the rest.
The railroad depot museum provides a rich opportunity for learning about the past, and the beautifully preserved structure gives new and future generations a chance to step back in time. Romberg believes that this part of Central Texas has a lot of civic pride and takes responsibility for remembering and honoring its heritage. He has made himself a delightful part of that sentiment and has left his personal touch on projects that shape the local landscape.
Although Romberg shies away from taking full credit for local preservation projects, he is a testament to what leading the charge and joining together with others to preserve history can do.
Want to see preservation at work for yourself? You can visit the Texas Heroes Museum, another Romberg preservation project, this Saturday, September 17 during Texas Heroes Day. Texas Heroes Day festivities begin at 10 am the Kreische Brewery and Monument Hill State Historic Site. At 2 pm, museum manager Charles Murray will lead a special tour of the Texas Heroes Museum featuring the story of the Mier Expedition and member Samuel Walker who helped create the 1847 Colt Walker Revolver.
Also in celebration of Texas Heroes Day, The N.W. Faison House and Museum (also restored by Romberg and friends) will open at 11:30 am for a special program, “N.W. Faison and Life at Perote Prison” presented by Faison historian, author and popular speaker Marie W. Watts.
For more information on Texas Heroes Day and events, go here.
The Texas Heroes Museum’s regular hours run Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. The Railroad Depot is open Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm, and the Faison House is open Saturdays from noon to 4 pm by appointment.
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