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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Historic Charm and Grace at the Center of the U.

Anyone who knows us knows that we have a wonderful home in an idyllic neighborhood, just two blocks from downtown and the police station. Three of our closest neighbors are beautiful Victorian period churches. There are only two residences on our whole block. A former Navasota mayor and his wife, both Navasota educators, live across the street, in a handsome two story home known as the Quinn house and next to them, a former Navasota police chief and his wife, who live in one of Navasota’s grandest Victorian residences, built in the late 1800’s by Dr. Harris. A retired and pilot and his wife share the quiet block with us and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, behind us… next to the area I have told you about… the Center of the Universe.

My wife and I have lived here for almost twenty years. We moved here from Plantersville when our daughter was just three. The house is a garden variety but spacious Victorian cottage built in 1881. Four gargantuan Pecan trees, the State tree of Texas, loom over the house. We loved the place before we even knew it was for sale. We got a great buy from a widower who had poured his retirement into the maintenance of the old house, which had originally been constructed by the Stonehams of Stoneham to serve several Grimes County farming families as a “Sunday house.” The house actually predates most of the churches, which were built in the 1890’s, and was built anticipating this area being the church district, on a block which also faced Church Street.

Historically, landed gentry would jump in the buggy and bring their families into town on Saturday and shop all day, before taking in the town’s evening social activities. There was a buggy house facing the alley to keep the horses and wagons and such. Owned by our neighbors, it was moved away when we first came to town. Several families had a room apiece, each with its own fireplace, facing a main hall or “dogtrot,” and they all shared a common kitchen and cistern and bathroom facilities… which were pretty primitive. The family would spend the night at the “Sunday house” and then went to Sunday school and church worship services the next day, before heading home on Sunday afternoon. Before the days of the automobile, this was the way people lived.

Every structure has a unique story to tell. But sadly, those stories and the structures themselves are gradually being lost. Two homes and two cottages have been either moved or destroyed, just on our block. We have seen several more moved or destroyed in our immediate neighborhood. My hope is the current City Council will adopt a strong preservation ordinance that will curb further losses of our historic architecture, which makes Navasota so special.

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