The Roma Historic District in Roma, Texas preserves an intact example of a border town in the lower Rio Grande valley. The town was an important port and transshipment point on the Rio Grande from 1829 to the 1880s.
The architecture of Roma mirrors its sister city of Ciudad Mier on the Mexican side of the river, as well as Guerrero Viejo upriver. Roma is notable for its buildings of river sandstone, caliche limestone and molded brick, using rejoneado (patterned large and small stones) and sillar (stone laid in an ashlar pattern) masonry techniques. Both methods employ an outer finish of rough lime plaster detailed with bands of smooth colored plaster, characteristic of northern Mexico.
Roma also features innovative use of molded brick, brought to Roma by German immigrant Enrique (Heinrich) Portscheller, who used techniques of flat brick roofing from Monterrey to Mier, then developed a decorative brick used in Roma, Mier, Rio Grande City and Laredo. Portscheller designed buildings with his products and used wrought iron balconies in a manner reminiscent of both New Orleans and Monterrey. Roma preserves the bulk of his extant work.
The historic district includes the 1928 Roma-Ciudad Miguel Alemán International Bridge, a State Antiquities Landmark, as well as the river wharfs and custom house.
The historic center of Roma was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1993. This is the highest designation given by the United States Department of Interior to a historic district. Below is the summary of significance and a link to the nomination describing the district in detail.
"As a rare surviving intact community, Roma's architectural fabric represents the evolution of a key town in the border region during the 19th century. Roma is the only intact U.S. settlement that derives from the mid-18th century colonization and town planning efforts of Jose de Escandon; the Escandon town planning, colonization, and land grant system are of key historic significance in the development of Spanish Empire and in the unfolding of the Mexican Northeast and the American Southwest, 1748-1835. Roma's buildings form a virtual "living catalog" of the different building technologies uses along the lower Rio Grande in the 19th century. The brickwork of a number of residences and commercial structures in the district that were designed by Henrique Portscheller is strikingly elegant, featuring rounded corners and finely carved classical motifs."