|Fountain at Creative Arts Center, Bonham, Texas|
Several years ago, Highway 82 was diverted around Bonham, Texas and I had not been to the downtown area is as many years. On a cold and rainy day, my husband and I decided to explore this old Texas town and were surprised at its offerings. Bonham really is one of the oldest towns in Texas, dating back to 1837 – a time when Indian raids were common and Fannin County covered what is now 37 counties. As that fear subsided, Bonham grew and in 1885 it had eight churches, three colleges (Carlton College, Fannin College, and the Masonic Female Institute), two public schools, three weekly newspapers, a furniture factory, a saw mill, two grist mills, and gins; and a population of 2300. None of those sites remain but there’s history and more to be found.
The Creative Arts Center has become just that – a place for the arts to be enjoyed. Executive Director, Lisa Aviles, led us through the front gallery with its display of fine paintings and pottery into the classroom and out to the garden area that most recently hosted a performance of Peter Pan. Children theater classes, art seminars, lecture series, poetry readings and changing art shows keep this place busy. A very nice discovery was the gift shop with small works by local artists, hand made chocolates, and more. Creative Arts Center
At the registry of National Historic Landmark Sam Rayburn’s House, guests from Maine, New York, Illinois and California had signed in that week, an indication of Rayburn’s continuing fame. When he was first elected to Congress in 1916, Mr. Sam and his brother bought this home and 200 acres for their family. During the 48 years he served in the House of Representatives, he returned on Congressional breaks to visit with constituents. The interior is so perfectly maintained as Mr. Sam left it, you expect him to walk out to greet you. His close relationship with LBJ was obvious. By the phone downstairs is a pop-up phone directory opened to HIJ. Listed are Hotels in Washington and below it, “Lyndon – WO6-7273″. Our guide, supplied small details of Mr. Sam’s life – he admired Robert E. Lee under whom his father served, he smoked filterless Camels, drank bourbon and branch water, was frugal, loved to ride horses, hated TV, and was a passionate Washington Senators fan, listening to games on the radio. With its first renovation in 37 years, the house and grounds are well worth a visit. Sam Rayburn House Museum
|Buffet at Cappy’s Cafe|
Cappy’s Restaurant in downtown Bonham was the first restaurant recommended by all those we asked. Begun eight years ago by a mother/daughter team, its exterior is easy to miss. But locals know it well for the daily buffet. Sandra Lowrance, a retired school counselor, and her daughter, Mandra Caplinger, use old family recipes and selections from their extensive cookbook collection to vary the homemade offerings. “I love Paula Dean”, admits Sandra. Garlic cheese biscuits are always available and desserts often include cobbler and their famous gooey butter cake. For $7.95, it the best deal out there. Cappy’s Restaurant
|Softly lighted interior of Luna Azul Cafe|
Around the corner is Luna Azul, a beautifully restored restaurant that understands mood lighting. With its tin ceilings, plastered and brick walls, and Mexican pottery and tin works, Luna Azul just feels authentic. Add in a bar that can serve Dos Equis and Corona beer with the homemade enchiladas, and it’s a place to be enjoyed. Luna Azul Cafe
|Dennis Sweeney Art Studio|
One more downtown discovery was 3rd Street Gallery, week-end studio of Dallas resident, Dennis Sweeney. The affable artist invited us to view his finished works as well as those in progress. He was particularly proud of the building itself that he restored “to code”. Each piece of furniture has a story, including the pristine motorcycle resting at court center. You’d be lucky to find him in.
Last stop was the Sam Rayburn Library, the closest most North Texans will ever come to real power. As the longest serving speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (17 years), Mr. Sam knew the rules and used them. Yet, he was known for his honesty, often saying that you’ll never get mixed up if you tell the truth and you won’t forget what you said.
House of Representatives
|Bust of Sam Rayburn|
Rayburn’s office there is the real thing – not a replica. The chandelier came from the White House and the 92 year old fireplace from the House of Representatives. If you could stand on the rug, you would join presidents, senators, kings and queens who paid homage to this powerful man. Photos from Mr. Sam’s funeral were most poignant, especially one of President Kennedy, Vice-President Johnson, and former presidents Truman and Eisenhower sitting on the first row of the First Baptist Church of Bonham. Come for the history or the research or just to pound the speaker’s gavel. Sam Rayburn Library Museum
Bonham and environs had more offerings such as the historical museum, Bonham State Park, and two wineries but we’ll wait for the next sunny day to explore those.