Immigrants' Acculturation as Expressed in Architecture: 19th Century Churches and Courthouses in South Central Texas
MetadataShow full item record
This paper introduces a conceptual framework to analyze identity and assimilation processes in immigrants’ architecture. Specifically, the study examines European immigrants who arrived directly to Texas port cities and settled in South Central Texas during mid-to-late nineteenth century. The architectural choices made in the communities in which these immigrants settled express various aspects of their orientations to maintain identity and tradition while at the same time assimilate to the new land. The theoretical framework theorizes that the manifestation of these two distinct directions in public architecture in these communities is conditioned by community context and building type. This study posits that churches serve as the symbol of cultural heritage and reflect the collective memory of immigrants’ homeland. Courthouses have been considered as the predominant symbol of self-government and of community’s civic pride. Thus, the county courthouse served as the icon of immigrants’ negotiation of new and externally derived civic responsibilities, i.e., assimilation. Consequently the study focused on two building types, churches and courthouses, built in Texas county seats. The locations were chosen so that the sites will represent a variety of immigrant ethnic groups. To test the expectations derived from the framework, this study utilized a small sample comparative analysis. The comparisons of the targeted buildings (courthouses and churches) were conducted along specific criteria, which included site, morphology, and building technology. The findings show that across all criteria, churches exhibited a higher degree of European traditional architecture in correspondence to the cultural identity of each applicable ethnic group. Courthouses generally reflected architectural patterns of that era across Texas and thereby were more similar to one another, in the context that they reflected overall contemporary practice throughout the state of Texas. The courthouses demonstrated the assimilation process of immigrants to their new land. These findings lead to a better comprehension of the influence of immigrants upon public architecture in their new homeland, and to the recognition of the significance of identity, pride, and place in the interpretation of historic architecture.
Morris, Jacob James (2014). Immigrants' Acculturation as Expressed in Architecture: 19th Century Churches and Courthouses in South Central Texas. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from