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Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm,
Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm
Sundays: TCHCC events and special arrangement only

ABOUT US

History of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center

The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, Inc. incorporated on March 24, 1997 and received 501(c) 3 status in July of the same year. The location for this non-profit corporation was finalized when a lease was signed with the City of LaGrange in November of 1997. Statewide efforts by Czech founded organizations to raise money to develop a Center that would preserve and promote the history, heritage, and culture of the people of Czech ethnicity began as early as December of 1995.

In December of 1995, a meeting of Texans of Czech Ancestry (TOCA), an umbrella organization that serves to improve and facilitate communication among Czech-founded organizations, was called  to hear a proposal offered by the Czech Heritage Society of Texas to build a library for the preservation of books and documents significant to Texas Czechs. Following presentations and discussion among those present, it was determined that a Czech Center that would include more than a library should be considered to promote and preserve the heritage and culture of the Texas Czechs.  TOCA voted to support the project of building a statewide Czech cultural center with a library, museum, and archives.

Member organizations of TOCA were the American SOKOL Organization, Southern District (SOKOL); Bexar County Czech Heritage Society (BCCHS); Catholic Family Fraternal (KJZT); Catholic Union of Texas (KJT) Czech Educational Foundation of Texas (CEFT); Czech Ex Students Association of Texas (CESAT); Czech Heritage Society of Texas (CHS); Czech Heritage Society of Travis/Williamson Counties; Farm Mutual Insurance Company of Texas (RVOS); and the Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas (SPJST). A representative from each organization served as a Board Member.

At this meeting, representatives of the Czech Heritage Society were President Carolyn Meiners, and CHS Trustees Robert Janak, Arnold Pechal, and Eugene Labay. TOCA representatives in attendance expressed the need to preserve artifacts and other aspects of the Czech heritage and culture. The Texans of Czech Ancestry agreed to spearhead the project. Supporting this project was consistent with the mission of TOCA, which is to mutually assist one another in the pursuit to preserve and promote the Czech Culture and Heritage. The member organizations of TOCA pledged and donated seed money to begin the project. At subsequent TOCA meetings, proposals were discussed and planning committees were organized to discuss the type of facility needed to address the various aspects of Texas-Czech heritage and the best type of location needed to accommodate such a facility. Officers of the Texans of Czech Ancestry were elected as follows: President Retta Slavik Chandler, Vice President Elo Goerig, Secretary Carolyn Meiners, and Treasurer Arnold Pechal.

TOCA began monthly meetings at which time committees were formed to determine the scope of the project. Following the development of an overall plan by the committees, a statewide request was sent asking for any communities that were interested in such a facility to present a proposal. Proposals were received from the cities of Caldwell, Ennis, La Grange, and Temple. After a thorough examination of each of the proposals, including a visit to each site and a meeting with city officials, the TOCA Board Members selected the LaGrange proposal.

Fayette County was selected as the site for the Center because of its significance in the history of Texas Czechs. It has the largest Czech population per capita and the most Czech communities of any county in the state. Many Czech-related historical sites and events, as well as prominent Texas Czechs, can be linked to Fayette County, which has the distinction of having had more immigrants from the Czech lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire settle there in the second half of the nineteenth century than any other county in Texas. Other reasons for selecting LaGrange included the location and the amount of land offered and the fact that Fayette County is historically significant in Texas-Czech history. Negotiations began to draw up a Lease Agreement.

On March 24.1997, the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, Inc., was officially incorporated. The Interim Board Members of Texans of Czech Ancestry then became Board Members and founders of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, Inc. Officers were as follows: Retta Slavik Chandler, President, Elo Goerig, Vice President, Carolyn Meiners, Secretary, Arnold Pechal, Treasurer. Board members were Retta Slavik Chandler, Elo J. Goerig, Larry Laznovsky, C. S. (Woody) Smith, Eugene Labay, George Hruby, Dorothy Bohac, Glenn Hutka, and Howard Leshikar.

Governor George Bush signed House Concurrent Resolution Number 265 from the Texas House of Representatives and Senate on July 14, 1997. This Resolution recognized all those associated with the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center to be built in La Grange, Texas. The resolution further recognized the contributions of Texans of Czech ethnicity to the state's history and that Fayette County, which is known as the "Cradle of Czech Immigration," is an appropriate site for the Center.

On November 1, 1997, representatives from the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, Inc., the City of La Grange, Fayette County and the La Grange Chamber of Commerce had the official signing of the land lease between TCHCC and the City of La Grange at the future site of the Cultural Center. At that time, TCHCC and the La Grange Area Chamber of Commerce entered into a yearlong contract for the Chamber to provide administrative support for the Center.

An Economic Development Grant from the City of La Grange funded a Walking Trail with stations, hand hewn by George Hlavinka of Caldwell, Texas. The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, Inc. has evolved from a single desk housed in the La Grange Area Chamber of Commerce Office, to a one-room office in a professional building in La Grange, to an on-site location in the meticulously restored early Texas-Czech Farmhouse, the Kalich House.

The Kana Brothers, Inc. House Leveling & Moving moved the Kalich House, donated to the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center by Peggy and Jonathan Kalich in memory of their family, onto the site. Volunteers from throughout the state lovingly restored it. It served as the official TCHCC Visitors’ Center from November 2001 until September 1, 2009 when the new Library and Museum was completed.

Ground breaking for the new building designed by Roger Kolar, architect, was held in June of 2008. Gaeke Construction was awarded the bid for the 10,000 square foot building. Serving on the Board were the following:  Retta Slavik Chandler, President, Johnnie Polasek, First Vice President, Marvin Marek, Second Vice President, Joseph Bartosh, Third Vice President, Barbara Hruby, Secretary, Dennis Vanek, Treasurer, Ben Bohuslav, Richard Cernosek, Paul T. Hlavinka, Ed Krivacka, Larry Laznovsky, Sandra Matthijetz, William Melnar, Rudy Patek, William H. Schovajsa, Raymond Snokhous, and Pavla Van Bibber. Honorary Board Members are Dan Marek and Elo Goerig.

Another major component of the TCHCC, now on the site, is the large Sanford Schmid Amphitheater that overlooks the Colorado River Valley with stadium type seating for 400. In July of 2003, a Wallachian Bell and Belfry, from the Roznov region of Moravia and on exhibit in Washington, D. C. in 1995, were donated to the TCHCC by the Czech Heritage Society of Texas and were moved onto the TCHCC site.

An additional farmhouse, donated to the TCHCC by the Migl family, was moved to the site and restored by the Migl family. The Bucek Building (originally a fur trading company) donated by Mr. Roy Bucek was moved to TCHCC on May 11, 2005. The Hoelscher Haus donated to TCHCC by Henry and Esther Hoelscher was moved to the site on October 19, 2005. It houses the Polka Lovers Club of Texas Museum. A twin log barn restored by Ed Vasek with the help of his brothers, Ernest, David and Robert was added to the Texas Czech Village. TCHCC will continue to develop the Village.

Members who have served on the Board to promote the goals of TCHCC are the following:  Dorothy Bohac (deceased), Glenn Hutka (deceased), George Hruby, Vice President (deceased), Jerry Elzner (deceased), Elo Goerig, Eugene Labay, Woody Smith, Mildred Bohlmann, Ernest Bezdek, Carolyn Meiners Heinsohn, Pat Parma, and Dan Marek.

In June of 2007, the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center was recognized and honored with the Masaryk Gratias Agit. This prestigious award is presented by the Czech Foreign Ministry for work in promoting Czech heritage and culture. Accepting the award in Prague at the Cernan Palace were President Retta Chandler and Vice President Johnnie Polasek.

The development of TCHCC was made possible through many generous monetary contributions countless volunteer hours, and numerous in-kind donations from people living in all parts of Texas, some from other states as well as grants from the Czech Foreign Ministry. All of these contributors can feel pride in building a Czech Center for future generations to enjoy.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
  • Retta Slavik Chandler, President and Chairman of the Board
    De Soto, TX
  • Joseph Bartosh, 3rd Vice President
    Taylor, TX
  • Richard G. Cernosek
    LaGrange, TX
  • Paul T. Hlavinka
    Houston, TX
  • Barbara Stratton Hruby, Secretary
    San Antonio, TX
  • William H Schovajsa
    LaGrange, TX
  • Raymond Snokhous, Honorary Czech Consul General
    West, TX
  • Dennis Vanek, Treasurer
    Victoria, TX

Honorary Board Members

  • Elo Goerig
    Bryan, TX
  • Daniel Marek
    El Campo, TX
  • William Melnar
    Georgetown, TX
Larry Laznovsky: The TCHCC Board of Directors is deeply saddened at the loss of Larry. He one of the founders of TCHCC and served as a Director until his death on March 26, 2011. We are grateful to him for his help in promoting the progress that we realize to this date. Obituary

MISSION & GOALS:

The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, a multi-functional facility, will preserve and promote the history, language, culture, and heritage of Texans of Czech ethnicity who trace their ancestry to the Czechs who immigrated from the present-day Czech Republic or the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (including Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Slovakia.

 Located in La Grange, Texas, in historic Fayette County, the “Cradle of Czech Immigration, the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center will operate exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes and to honor those immigrants by striving to fulfill the following goals:

To educate the public about the past and present contributions and status of persons of Czech descent;

To encourage the study and preservation of the Czech language, fine arts, music, and dance;

To provide for the preservation and exhibitions of artifacts historically significant to the Czech people of Texas;

To provide a library and archives for the collection and preservation of books, newspapers, periodicals, family histories, research material, photographs, and all printed data of historical significance to the Czech people of Texas;

To provide adequate space for gatherings, meetings, and educational activities for the benefit of the Czech people of Texas.

To encourage and promote a cultural exchange program between the Czech people of Texas and the citizens of the Czech Republic; and

To provide the public with updated information regarding Czech related activities and historical sites in Texas, the United States, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Fayette County has the largest Czech population per capita and the most Czech communities of any county in the state.  Many historical sites, prominent persons and events that are significant to Texas Czechs can be linked to Fayette County.

Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center
P.O. Box 6 - 250 West Fairgrounds Road, La Grange, Texas 78945

(888) 785-4500  or (979) 968-9399

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