Other Views of Brenham

Other Views from 1881

Where is Brenham?

Above: Augustus Koch (1840–?). Birds Eye View of the City of Brenham, Washington County, Texas, 1881. Lithograph, size unknown. Lithographer unknown. Brenham Heritage Museum.

Brenham in 1881

The Brenham that Koch depicted in 1881 had been rebuilt since the disastrous 1873 fire had destroyed much of the downtown area, and the railroad had enlarged Brenham’s trade area and stimulated its growth, including a significant immigration from Germany. Between June 1878 and June 1879, for example, more than 100 new houses were built within the city limits, and new businesses and churches were established to serve the increased population, which had reached 4,100 by the 1880 census.[1] A visitor to the city in 1882 noted the “improvements that mark the transition from a town to a city,” but concluded that Brenham did “not show the same rush of affairs discoverable in other Texas cities…There is more of an air of an old settled community than will be seen at almost any other point.”[2]

Koch moved his perspective about 90 degrees to the east for this new view, looking toward the northwest. He continued his practice of exaggerating both the height of the surrounding terrain as well as the buildings themselves, and his representation of the various creeks is, for the most part, accurate, although he did seem to enhance their meanders—especially Hog Branch where it crosses Market Street—perhaps for aesthetic reasons. The area surrounding the city was a rolling prairie rather than a wooded area, which Koch correctly showed, and on the fringes of the print—both left and right fringe as well as the horizon in the distance—he suggested that the surrounding area was being cultivated by showing crops and fields among the far-flung houses.

Koch did document some changes that had occurred since his 1873 view, especially in the street names: portions of Goat Row were now called Market Street; Ant Street became Baylor Street; Quitman Street became Commerce Street, etc. He straightened out Church Street as it passes St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and even his placement of small buildings on the outskirts north of the downtown match the depiction in “Gray’s New Map of Brenham,” published in 1884.[3]