Best Places to Live

Victoria, TX

Population: 68,799
J. Kyle Keener

Community leaders have recently taken a big step toward restoring and revitalizing Victoria, TX's historic downtown. The city created a Main Street Program, which focuses on beautifying portions of downtown and restoring some of its most historic buildings.

The museums, art galleries and theaters in Victoria are strongly supported. Many historians believe Victoria is the starting point Texas history. The city has more than 100 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Victoria County Courthouse, which faced demolition in 1994. The original courthouse was built in 1892. Throughout the years additions were made, but in 1994 it had fallen into disrepair. The city held a vote to see if citizens were in favor of spending more than $4 million to restore the courthouse. That measure passed with a majority of voters in favor of the restoration.

Victoria Preservation Inc. is leading the call for protection of the city's historic properties. The group has focused its efforts on educating citizens about the benefits of saving old structures and retaining the character of the city, which was founded in 1839.

"This is a very strong property rights state," Dunnam says. "People don't like to be told what they can and can't do with their property, but there are a lot of people who do support historic preservation. We had 83 percent of voters vote for the restoration of the courthouse."

The Junior League of Victoria restored its building, which was constructed in 1895, and Fossati's Delicatessen, located in a structure that dates to 1895, is the oldest deli in the state and one of the oldest restaurants in the country.

Number of Properties on the National Register of Historic Places (including districts): 113

Historic Landmarks: De Leon Plaza (1890), St. Mary's Catholic Church (1904), Fossati's Deli (1895)