First of all, if you aren’t interested in history or houses you might as well stop reading now. Just Joking! You must read this (I am placing you under my spell…can you hear my evil laugh?) Fun aside, you might find my condensed version easy to read if you want to check it out.
Sunday afternoon found my friend Annette and I attending the Historic Homes Tour of our town of Victoria, Texas. A few years back we both discovered we enjoyed attending the tours and have made a point to attend it together ever since. (But It’s been an annual event for the city since the 80’s.) I always enjoy looking at the beautiful old homes with their exquisite architecture – back when carpenters took pride in their work and things were built to last. I like learning the history as well.
Here is my Top 5 List of things I learned yesterday:
1. Two of the homes on the tour were actually built in Indianola (the coastal Texas town that pretty much died after being hit by 2 devastating hurricanes in 1875 and 1886. Interesting side fact: after the 1st hurricane hit the town (and both houses survived it) people thought the town would be revived and another such storm would never happen. But it did in 1886. After that the owners of the homes had them dismantled – board by board – numbering the pieces so that they could put the house back together in Victoria – farther from the coast. My point of all this is – those houses were built so well that they survived 2 hurricanes, being dismantled and moved to another town – and they are still standing strong and beautiful. Wow. (also noted in the history of the ‘Huck-Welder House’ was that ‘Huck’ was a German immigrant and built the house in the 1850’s framing it with cypress 4×4’s and 4x6s with mortise and tenon joints which made it strong enough to withstand both hurricanes. I wonder why they don’t require all coastal homes be made this way to save on the destruction and insurance costs to coastal cities commonly hit by hurricanes. ?)
2. One of the homes was actually set up as a funeral home at one point in time. We only were allowed to see part of the bottom story of it that is being used as offices while the rest of the house was rented out. It’s supposedly haunted (no surprise there!) with random noises and as one of the tour guides mentioned that a lady that works in the home said she often hears the toilet lid opening and closing repeatedly on it’s own. Guess the ghost was taught well, LOL. It looked like there was still a lot of work to refurbish this home and it seemed quite large so hopefully when it is finished they will open the house up for the tour in its entirety.
3. An Italian immigrant ‘Guiseppe Bianchi’ built the house at 409 S. William Street around 1905. Everyone called him Joe and he operated his own blacksmithing business out of this house for 58 years. The fence surrounding the house still today was hand forged by him. He was famous for his hand-made spurs which were on the boots of almost all the ranchers of South Texas. One of the tour guides actually had one of these famous spurs in her possession as it was passed down in her family and showed us – it even had a little piece on it that was used to open bottles! The other unique thing about this house is that it is used as the local Chic-filet owners corporate offices. (Two huge, very cute black and white chic-filet cows graced the back yard fence and chic-filet articles filled the rooms, lol) But I thought it a very cool idea to make your offices in a historical home instead of a generic office building.
4. The last place we saw had the most stories to tell as the former owner donated it to three organizations so the house could always remain a Texas Historic Landmark. It was given to the Victoria Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of Confederacy and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. They hold their meetings on the first floor where they keep their historical items we learned the stories of. The 2nd floor we didn’t get to see because it was rented out – they use the rent money to do repairs and upkeep on the house and hope to continue it’s refurbishing.
5. All of the homes we saw were in the part of old Victoria called ‘Diamond Hill’ and the home lots were chosen because it was a high ground with a good view overlooking the pecan and cypress trees bordering the Guadalupe River and summer breezes coming from there helped cool the homes. (I think they all were built with transoms over the doors for additional air flow, oh the dreadful days before Air Conditioning. I noticed that some of the homes we looked at had the European style A/C’s up on the walls because the homes had no air ducts. (another question – I wonder how economical these are in Texas?)
My favorite thing about the old homes is the details in the woodwork – from the trim, stair banisters to the outdoor Victorian designs. Learning about how some people had to work so hard to remove the paint to reveal some of this beautiful work makes one question who in their right mind would do such a horror as to paint over lovely wood? It should be a sin!