Joining the Eastwood Home Tour

This Saturday, October 18, and Sunday October 19, is the 19th Annual Eastwood Home Tour, and the Firestation and grounds were invited to join the tour.  Please join us to get a glimpse into the Firestation still under construction, as well as peek inside the Casita, now completed.  We’ve all gone to great lengths to restore the Casita to it’s original design including hand cutting all the gingerbread modeled after a small scrap that remained.  An antique Eastlake door was found and painted the most vivid blue.  Tour is from 12pm to 5pm both days, and tickets and information can be found at the Eastwood Civic Association site.

Casita trim

 

Casita door

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Firestation texture

Later this week, the Firestation Engine Hall will get a new concrete floor, as the old one is of questionable quality, as well as having a slope down to the main doors for the horse drawn and, later, motorized fire engine. In preparation, some old brick was uncovered as the substrate for small portions of the concrete floor. The brick seems to have been made in Coffeyville, Kansas, a product of the Coffeyville VIT Brick & Tile Company. A little online research indicates that the company manufactured these bricks between 1894 to 1930. That sounds about right….

FS brick floorFS brick detail

Every time we go to the site, we find ourselves in wonder at what the building has to offer in terms of beauty, history, craftsmanship.  As we repair the broken pieces, we intend to maintain that basic integrity the building was born with.

FS windowFS pole hole

 

 

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Colorful Casita

As the Casita progresses through restoration, for a moment, the historic colors still shine through. Once completed, it will still be a lively thing, with a vibrant Fire Engine red at the front door, and a bold blue door to the back yard.  There will be a touch of yellow in the bathroom, and all of the colorful personalities of the folks who get to come visit this guest house.  For now, though, it still has the colors that I’m familiar with having renovated a very similar Victorian in the Old Sixth Ward.  Deep green, turquoise, gold, lots and lots of brown, those rich heart pine and cypress wood colors.

Casita 4Casita 1Casita 3Casita 2

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Ghosts in the walls

In the process of restoration of the Firestation #2, we have to peel back many of the layers in order to move forward with the new design.  The plaster walls are one component of this process, and as we dust off the top surface, some of the ghosts of the past have emerged.  We don’t know what these markings indicate, but they sure are beautiful, and we intend to leave them intact in the finished space.

FS wall ghost 2

 

FS wall ghost 1

 

FS wall ghost 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HFD Pictorial History upcoming book

In 2012, F. Scott Mellott, retired firefighter, and Story Jones Sloane, III, published The Pictorial History of the Houston Fire Department, 1895-1980.  Scott recently announced that pre-sales for a second volume are being taken here.  This volume will cover 1980-2014 and will include images of the Firestation #2.  The book will be released this Fall 2014.

HFD pictorial history book

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Firestation #2 Mascots

We’ve learned of a couple of the Firestation Mascots, dogs who were part of the team, who seem to be still on the site, in spirit.

According to Betty Kanka of Horseshoe Bay, TX, who lived near the Firestation and attended Lubbock Elementary School across the street,

In the early 1950’s the Fire Station had a mascot.  A dog that lived at the station but also rode the trucks.  It was a Dalmatian and his name was SPARKY.  Sometime in about 1953/54 the dog died. He was buried in front of the Station house in one of the grassy areas between the street and sidewalk.  There used to be a chain link fence around the area and a marker.  I don’t know when the fence and marker were removed.

A retired firefighter, Harold Cobb, stopped by the Firestation recently, and told a story that his brother had worked in the Firestation for many years, and during that time they’d had DOMINO, who would chase after the firetrucks if they ever dared to leave the Firestation without him.  When he passed, he was buried on the Sampson side of the building between the two big doors.

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progress on the second floor of the fire station

open floor

open floor plan

freestanding bead board

freestanding bead board

fire pole

the fast way down

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casita progress

all that was left...

all that was left…

view across the site

view across the site

the eave repair is so crisp

the eave repair is so crisp

all buttoned up, waiting for the standing seam roof

all buttoned up, waiting for the standing seam roof

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fresh mortar

The new wainscoting and brick-work around the arched doorways is looking good…

 

 

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Underneath several layers of old paint we found a unique yellow brick with black mortar joints. Gorgeous!

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skillful patchwork to match the existing rusticated base

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new brick and wainscoting was added to return an engine doorway to its original size

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The fascinating history of the Garrow Victorians

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_1907_Sanborn_MapWhat Mr Lubbock saw in this land was beauty and connectivity to downtown Houston, as he described here in a circa 1893 newspaper advertisement for the sale of the land.

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….

SKW_RowHouses_20131107_006

Photo by Peter Muessig

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….

Photo by Joe Meppelink

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.

 

 

 

Photo by Peter Muessig

Photo by Peter Muessig

Photo by Joe Meppelink

Photo by Joe Meppelink

Photo by Peter Muessig

Photo by Peter Muessig

Photo by Joe Meppelink

Photo by Joe Meppelink

Photo by Peter Muessig

Photo by Peter Muessig

 

 

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