The Garrow Victorians are a group of late 19th century folk victorian homes that tell the tale of an ambitious young man by the name of Andrew J. Kuhn. He designed and built these homes in a then-new development named Lubbock Grove in the Second Ward, east of downtown Houston, at the corner of Garrow Street and Saint Charles. Mr. Kuhn built homes in the Second Ward, as well as the Sixth Ward, and the Old Sixth Ward‘s resident Historian, Charles Stava, has done extensive research on the homes of Andrew Kuhn, as he is the owner of just such a home in the Old Sixth Ward today. According to Mr. Stava, this story begins earlier, when Samuel May William established a land grant in 1828.
Lubbock Grove originally was part of the Samuel May William’s 1828 land grant of eleven leagues (60,000 acres). Mr Frances R. Lubbock came to Texas from S.C. in 1837 and purchased twelve acres of land from the S.M. William estate to build his personal residence. Mr Lubbock eventually came to play an incredible role in Texas history where he served as the ninth governor of Texas during the Civil War. However, in 1846, Mr Lubbock chose to move out to his vast ranch in southeast Houston, the site of today’s Glenbrook Valley. There is a marker on Rockhill and Glencrest Rds that denotes the site of the Lubbock Ranch house.
From 1846 until 1891 Lubbock Grove was used as the site for the annual VolksFest where German immigrants held their traditional homeland events such as Saengerbunds, Turnvereins, etc. Mr Lubbock sold portions of the Grove to the Merkel family and the Schrimpf family. The 1869 Wood’s Map shows several homes built along Buffalo Street (later renamed as Saint Charles in the 1930’s) as owning by the Merkels.
When Mr Lubbock retired from public office in 1891, he chose to reside in Austin permanently and put the remainder of his Houston real estate up for sale. The unsold portions of Lubbock Grove was therefore subdivided into blocks and lots. Mr Andrew Kuhn purchased several lots of Block 49 (today’s 200 block of Saint Charles) and portions of Block 47 of the Settegast Third Addition (today’s 2500 block of Garrow) and built spec homes on them. He purchased lumber from Hartman’s Lumberyard on the north banks of Buffalo Bayou on Sabine Street.
The 1907 Sanborn map shows the development at the corner of then-called Congress Place (later Garrow St) and Buffalo Street (later Saint Charles).
LUBBOCK GROVE- I have had surveyed into blocks and lots the above property, say about twelve acres; it is beautifully situated in the Second ward, a short walk from the court house and about six minutes by the electric cars running past the lots; the land is high, well drained, and is without question the most desirable residence property now for sale in the city; I will sell on easy terms to those contemplating immediate improvement. Apply to F.R. Lubbock, Austin, or my sole agent, Robert Lockart, Houston.
Andrew Kuhn must have seen this advertisement, and envisioned building a community of beautiful homes, exercising his burgeoning interest in fine design, as evidenced in Charles Stava’s research.
After graduating from high school in New Orleans, he dabbled in carpentry but, at his father’s urging, agreed to an apprenticeship with Mr. Henry Peat Buckley, one of New Orleans’ finest silversmiths….
Mr. Kuhn, due to his training by Mr. Peat, became known for his designs in silver and exquisite craftsmanship. His craftwork attracted many customers. His boss, Mr. Mitchell, asked Andrew to design and create the finest silver serving set that would be considered his masterpiece for a wealthy customer….
Mr. Kuhn supplemented his income by dabbling in real estate where he would purchase several lots and build homes on them for speculation. Several of his spec homes still stand in the Heights, the Old Sixth Ward, and Lubbock Grove in the Second Ward. These ventures brought him prosperity and he expanded his Sixth Ward house to better accommodate his growing family of four children….
Mr Kuhn loved technology, he owned the 18th automobile ever sold in Houston, a curved-dash 1903 Oldsmobile, and his house had a few unique contraptions. He installed what was considered one of the earliest central air conditioning system in the neighborhood, if not the city. He had a hole cut out in the floor in the center of the house and put a cast iron grate on it, and dug a trench under the house where huge blocks of ice would be placed under it. With certain door transoms and windows open, it created a vacuum which would pull the cooling vapors from the ice and distribute it throughout the house….
While at (a) construction site on Heights Blvd, he accidentally stepped on a rusty nail which resulted in his untimely death on June 6, 1906 from wound botulism. He was only 36 years of age.
And so begins the story of the Garrow Victorians found nearly vacant, nearly lost in an isolated pocket in Houston’s East End.