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9 of Texas' awe-inspiring man-made wonders

Written by Lois M. Rodriguez.

We asked our readers to tell us their favorite man-made wonders of Texas – those must-see locations that every Texan and visitor should see. The nominations ran the gamut, but the following consistently rose to the top.

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San Antonio Missions - UNESCO World Heritage Site

"In San Antonio our history is still very much alive today. When we look at our missions today, they are living churches with Catholic Masses you can go to every Sunday. That's one of the things the community is so excited about, because now we'll be able to share our history around the world." – Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, on the San Antonio Mission’s UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

From UNESCO: The site encompasses a group of five frontier mission complexes situated along a stretch of the San Antonio River basin in southern Texas, as well as a ranch located 37 kilometres to the south. It includes architectural and archaeological structures, farmlands, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems. The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. The San Antonio Missions are also an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, illustrated by a variety of features, including the decorative elements of churches, which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous designs inspired by nature.

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Caddo Mounds State Historic Site

Caddo Mounds was a ceremonial center for the ancient Mound Builder culture. Visitors can learn about the culture and see three of the earthen mounds that remain.

“Our connection to the site is an old one. We don’t practice the same mound building we used to, but we hold it in our hearts. One thing we’re very sensitive to is a lot of times the mounds were a place of burial, so the Caddos regard the mounds the same way others regard cemeteries. And they were also a place where our ancient ancestors practiced our religion, and so in that sense it’s sacred ground to our members who came before us and today." –  Chase Kahwinhut Earles, a Caddo member from Ada, Oklahoma, who makes pottery using the tribe’s traditional methods.

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McDonald Observatory

Sitting high atop the Davis Mountains, where you’ll find some of the darkest skies in the United States, sits McDonald Observatory. In its ideal location, the observatory is one of the worlds leading centers for astronomical research, teaching and public education.    

“Whether or not you ‘grok’ the science behind the stars, you’re still gonna be dazzled by their spectacle. A McDonald Observatory stargazing program should be at the top of every Texan’s to-do list.” - Writer and photographer E. Dan Klepper,

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Texas State Capitol

“This building fires the heart and excites reflection in the minds of all. It would seem that here glitters a structure that shall stand as a sentinel of eternity. Texas stands peerless amid the mighty and her brow is crowned with bewildering magnificence!” – Temple Houston, Sam Houston’s son, at the Capitol dedication in 1888.

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Astrodome

“The Astrodome is not just an important part of Houston’s cultural history. Architecturally, it is one of the most significant sports and entertainment venues in history, setting the standard for modern facilities around the world.” – Mark Wolfe, Texas Historical Commission executive director.

The Houston Astrodome, completed in 1965, was the first full-enclosed, domed multipurpose sports stadium in the United States. Referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," it was once home base to NFL's Houston Oilers and NBA's Houston Astros. It also hosted events such as Elvis Presley in concert, Muhammed Ali boxing matches, and the notable "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Although it's last big event was hosting Louisiana's Hurricane Katrina evacuees, plans are in the works to bring it back to life as a multipurpose park and event space.

The distinguished building joins the Alamo, State Capitol and other Texas landmarks with a State Antiquities Landmark Designation by the Texas Historical Commission. It's future

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Bishop’s Palace

Bishop’s Palace, also known as the Walter and Josephine Gresham House, is not only one of Galveston's most popular attractions, but it is a National Historic Landmark that is one of the nation's most important late 19th Century Victorian residences. The home, built in the late 1800s for the Gresham family, was designed by noted Texas architecht Nicholas Clayton. Colonel Gresham was an attorney, member of the Texas Legislature and founded the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad. The home changed hands in 1921 when Galvestonians raised money to buy the home for the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese. And in 2013, the Galveston Historical Foundation became its third owner.

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San Jacinto Monument

The San Jacinto Monument stands tall, at 570-feet, to honor the “Heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and all others who contributed to the independence of Texas.” Learn about its significance at the San Jacinto Museum of History and its theater at the monument's base. 

Like the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., San Jacinto Monument towers over a reflecting pool. The Texas monument, however, is 15 feet taller than the D.C. version, making it the tallest stone column memorial structure in the world.

"Although the road leading to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site and the San Jacinto Monument provides spectacular views of the tower, a prime spot to experience its sheer size is from the observation floor at 489 feet—just beneath the 34-foot-tall Texas Lone Star that caps the building’s shaft. It’s here that visitors can peer out and see a 360-degree view of the landscape below, a landscape that—178 years prior—Texian rebels used to their advantage to defeat the Mexican army and secure independence for the Republic of Texas." – Writer Jennifer Nalewicki

“The Battle of San Jacinto not only permanently changed Mexico, Texas, and the United States, it changed history." – Larry Spasic, San Jacinto Museum of History president.

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Big Tex

Big Tex is the official greeter and icon of the State Fair of Texas. Standing tall at 55 feet with his 95-gallon hat, he is the world's tallest cowboy greeting millions of Fair Park guests each year. Big Tex began life as a 49-foot Santa in the town of Kerens. In 1951, State Fair president R.L. Thornton purchased Santa’s components for $750 and hired Dallas artist Jack Bridges to create a giant cowboy out of the material. Big Tex made his debut at the 1952 State Fair of Texas wearing size 70 boots and a 75-gallon hat. Yes. He's grown some since then.

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Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts

From the roofline of Amarillo’s Globe-News Center to the 94 cattle truck panels inside, architect Malcolm Holzman brought the feel of the Texas Panhandle landscape into the sophisticated design of this 70,834-square-foot facility.

One of its key distinctive features is the geometrically appealing orchestra shell, which is moveable for adjusting the acoustics.

The four-level, 1,300-seat performing arts center, is home to the city’s opera company and symphony orchestra, the Lone Star Ballet, and the Texas Country Music Series productions. The intimate setting and topnotch acoustics, combined with the building’s soaring architectural lines, have instantly made the performance hall the showpiece of the Panhandle.

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