3. The Gem/La Joya (c.1848)


400 E. 13th Street
The building, also known as Roser Custom Service, is an example of Spanish Colonial style architecture, and is one of the oldest commercial brick buildings in Brownsville. It was originally built for John Garey who was the contract builder of the lighthouse at Port Isabel and who also serves as Brownsville alderman. It was also the residence or "librería." Union forces temporarily occupying Fort Brown during the war erected a tent on the roof of the building to better monitor activities across the river in Matamoros. The Gem served as a location for social events and more than one speech was given from the balcony. The building has served multiple functions in its long history including a saloon or "house of spirits," a brothel, a boutique, and customs services. The building was restored in 1987. Details such as the French doors and corbelled brickwork were restored using historic photographs.